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Rec Room: William Brewer: Jim Henson’s “Monsterpiece Theater”

August 20, 2010

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By **William Brewer**

In a brief bout of nostalgia, I recently began to re-watch episodes of Jim Henson’s sorely underrated, hippy-dippy 80’s children’s show Fraggle Rock. Realizing that this year marks the 20th anniversary of Jim’s death, I am reminded of his many contributions to American popular culture, including some of the most hilarious literary satire I’ve ever encountered, in Sesame Street’s “Monsterpiece Theatre.” “Monsterpiece Theater” was a long-running segment that included a Cookie Monster version of retro PBS host Alistair Cooke (or Alistair Cookie) as he re-imagines literary classics for children. One segment in particular is especially amusing to me—a parody of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot re-named “Waiting for Elmo.”

This sketch wonderfully cuts through the pretension of Beckett’s existential masterpiece as only a Sesame Street episode could possibly do. A part that made me laugh out loud comes when Alistair Cookie introduces the play as “so modern and so brilliant that it makes absolutely no sense… to anybody!”

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This odd, idiosyncratic series of sketches is extraordinarily funny, and the artistic references range from Shakespeare to David Lynch. At the risk of sounding like an old curmudgeon, I feel that this segment is especially relevant in addressing a new generation of waning interest in literature by serving as an introduction to some lovely and timeless works! It remains a prime example of Henson’s unique ability to bridge sophistication with elementary education, and he will always remain a symbol of profound benevolence for me. If you can spare the time, I also recommend “The 400 Blows” and “The Old Man & The C.”

William Brewer is an editorial intern at Guernica. Read his last post “here”:https://www.guernicamag.com/blog/1911/rec_room_william_brewer_abner/.

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