An Ode to Oscar

If you’re ever stuck making small talk at a party, just start waxing nostalgic about shows you watched as a kid. Chances are fair that you will attract the attention of at least half the other partygoers if not all of them. By the end of the night you could all be watching He-Man or toasting Cookie Monster. Why, at Virginia Tech our college radio station hosted a nostalgia hour every Saturday morning where they’d play whatever childhood songs listeners requested.

Sesame Street is one of the first shows I ever watched, if not the first ever. There were two monsters I particularly adored right off the bat. Cookie Monster was one, and a shaggy green grump living in a trashcan was the other.

When Oscar made his debut (over a decade before my time) he was orange! Here’s his very first appearance. Poor Oscar; he was trying to mind his own business when Gordon had to come harass him. Right off the bat Oscar serves up some of his delightful snark.

Here’s the original version of his classic “I Love Trash” song! Watch for the slight goof-up moment when Gordon tries to pull the umbrella out of the trashcan; it gets stuck and he almost starts laughing as he has to keep yanking on it!

After the first season, Oscar became the Oscar I would know: a green grouch. I really felt bad for him. People would always come banging and rattling on his trashcan, bugging him, then acting surprised at his less-than-welcoming response! I wondered why they didn’t just let him alone! Sometimes people just don’t want to be social! But the right type of knocker could win Oscar over. Here’s a classic example with Johnny Cash enthralling Oscar with a rendition of “Nasty Dan.”

Although Oscar usually preferred to be left alone, he could be seen walking around inside his trashcan on occasion. He even ice skated in it at least once!

The song below from Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (1978) delights me. He is so mean! Oscar spends the majority of the special slyly convincing Big Bird that Santa Claus will never be able to fit down the city chimneys and therefore no one will get any presents.

I didn’t make this obvious connection for a long time, but when I grew older and began working with a variety of challenging people, I found the ones who were grumpy yet good-hearted endearing. Co-workers would get annoyed and cop an attitude but I would just smile. One of my very first bosses was a really cantankerous person who wanted everything done just so. Everyone else would get irked and complain and whine while I would grin and do as I was told. It didn’t bother me a bit. Today this person and I are good friends. So thank you Oscar. I haven’t watched any modern day Sesame Street in a long time, but I hear it’s Elmo-dominated. I do not approve.

As a side note, my boyfriend’s mother learned some English from watching Sesame Street with her children in the early 1980s. Pretty cool, huh?

Read more about Oscar at his official Sesame Street bio.

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