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I think that the best things that came out of it were the chance to do Blanche and also I did a Sesame Street Big Bird video that was very satisfying to me. And I don't think I would have been asked to do that if I hadn't reached a little bit higher profile in the 'industry.' That was really rewarding.
—Frances McDormand discusses some perks of winning an Academy Award
What well-known bands or actors acquire when they appear as themselves, or doing their instantly-recognizable acts, on a television program aimed at young children.
Like many things about modern kids' TV, the concept was pioneered on Sesame Street and subsequently became a staple of the many programs inspired by it. The basic idea is to make it easy and fun for parents/guardians to get involved in their kids' educational process; however, over the years, it has spun itself off into a unique celebrity cachet. An appearance on the Street -- or nearby programming suburbs -- has become almost as potent a sign of stardom as an appearance on Leno's or Letterman's couches.
May involve a certain amount of Bowdlerization to keep things kid-friendly and/or educational.
Mostly occurs in live-action shows, but an actor or band with a distinctive voice can provide the same effect in animation.
Note: When adding examples, please remember that not all animated series are aimed at young children. Rule of thumb: the closer the age of the show's target audience is to the age of the guest star, the less likely it is to be this trope.
- Zatanna tried to star in an episode of Sesame Street within her series, but her crippling phobia of puppets meant that she did not even get through her act before she wound up throwing up in Oscar's garbage can. This actually leads her to seek therapy to try and deal with her fear of puppets and instigates the third arc of the series.
- In an episode of Murphy Brown, Murphy gets a guest appearance on a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Sesame Street. It... doesn't go well.
- The West Wing had a plot involving the First Lady filming a Sesame Street-based PSA, with Elmo and Big Bird appearing as themselves (the show goes to admirably great lengths to keep Muppet Kayfabe in case any kids are watching). A resulting sight gag comparing the statuesque Allison Janney with her nicknamesake, Big Bird, is funny and notable as this show rarely did gags like this.
Examples in real life:
- Inverted in Night at the Museum 2, with an appearance by Oscar the Grouch.
- As noted above, Sesame Street is the Trope Namer. Performers would sing a "kid friendly" version of one of their songs.
- R.E.M. performed "Shiny Happy People" as "Furry Happy Monsters".
- Ray Charles made multiple appearances, the most notable being a performance of the Alphabet Song with a number of other famous people singing various letters.
- The B-52s.
- James Taylor sang "Whenever I See Your Grouchy Face" to Oscar the Grouch.
- Carol Channing sang about Sammy the Snake.
- John Munch. Yes, you read right...a fictional character has Sesame Street Cred.
- Which wouldn't be the first time. In 1976, Margaret Hamilton appeared on the show as The Wicked Witch of the West.
- The 'kid-friendly' bit was totally subverted by Stevie Wonder, who performed Superstition not only straight (save for a Name Drop in the second verse), but as a balls-to-the-wall six-minute jam session.
- Paul Simon tactfully left the last stanza -- the one about how 'the radical priest come to get me released' -- off "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" when performing it on the Street. This still left the bits about Mama spitting on the ground and Papa threatening 'the house of detention' intact, however.
- Stephen Colbert starred in a Sesame Street straight-to-video special in 2005. Unfortunately, Sesame Street Cred is not legal tender at the Daily Show.
- Jon already beat Stephen to this cred; he hosted and sang at Elmopalooza in 1998.
- Robin Williams.
- Jim Carrey
- Ricky Gervais. He's said it was the coolest moment of his career.
- The actual segment is also hilarious.
- Herbie Hancock during the 80s. He played an electro-jazz version of the theme song and showed what electronic sound equipment can do.
- Patrick Stewart shows his Shakespearean roots in this clip from Sesame Street.
- And appears again here.
- Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor also made numerous appearances (Pryor while obviously coked out of his ever-loving mind), but in Cosby's case he was practically a recurring guest host.
- Indie rock band Tilly and the Wall is one of the most recent examples.
- Neil Patrick Harris as the Sesame Street Shoe Fairy.
- Jack Black shows children what an octagon is.
- The Goo Goo Dolls turning a hit song about teen pregnancy into an encouragement to feel proud of yourself. Worth watching for the bassist's reactions to Elmo.
- Siskel and Ebert do their critic exercises and argue about thumbs.
- Perhaps the earliest Sesame example, Buffy Sainte-Marie was a regular on the show's first decade. This was after her ability to get gigs and radio play in the US was compromised due to her protest music.
- Johnny Cash sang "Nasty Dan" to Oscar the Grouch. And it was awesome.
Oscar: *as Cash leaves* That was my kind of guy!
- Cab Calloway likewise appeared way back in the 70's, singing "Hi De Ho Man".
- Smokey Robinson sang "You Really Got a Hold on Me".
- Billy Joel sang "Just The Way You Are" to Oscar the Grouch.
- Destiny's Child performed a remake of "A New Way to Walk" in 2001.
- Even minimalist composer Philip Glass has Sesame Street Cred, as he composed a piece of music for Sesame Street back in 1979. Behold, the geometry of circles.
- Conan O'Brien did a short segment from the comfort of his Late Night studio.
- Michelle Obama as appeared on this show, too, though her appearance makes more sense. Big Bird joked about her height, asking her if she was also a bird because she, like himself, was "really tall."
- Katy Perry was set to appear singing a cleaned-up version of her song "Hot 'N' Cold" with Elmo, but it eventually wasn't shown because some parents complained about her cleavage.
- Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin, in "Cookie Monster Thinks the Moon is a Cookie"
- R2D2 (a mechanical prop) and C3PO (Anthony Daniels)
- Idina Menzel and her husband, Taye Diggs have appeared to teach children about allergies.
- Violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman (who gave us the violin solo from John Williams' theme to Schindler's List) appears in this segment that is a real Tear Jerker and qualifies as a bona fide Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
- Good Eats host Alton Brown appears to show the meaning of the word recipe. His segment even does several Shout Outs to his own show, most notably Alton being handed things from off-camera by "Thing" (taken over here by various muppets).
- There's also the variation where the performer doesn't appear, but you know you've made it when Sesame Street parodies you:
- Sesame Street agrees with Huey Lewis and The News: It's Hip To Be A Square.
- Look at Grover. Look at me. Back to Grover. Back to me. Grover may not be me, but he could smell like me.
- Spider Man Turn Off the Dark somehow managed to get negative Sesame Street Cred.
- The 2010 Shalom Sesame miniseries features stars such as Anneliese van der Pol, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Christina Applegate.
- The German version of Sesame Street (Sesamstraße), did have Lena Meyer-Landrut, winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 2010. Here she sings the song Bert, oh Bert!, which is actually her winning song Satellite, but with completely different (and German instead of English) lyrics.
- James Blunt singing "A Triangle" to the tune of "You're Beautiful".
- In the page quote, Frances McDormand refers to a video in which Big Bird gets lost at the department store, but finds Maria again with help from an employee portrayed by McDormand.
- Parodied on Avenue Q, where Gary Coleman is one of the characters (the superintendent), but is usually played by a different actor/actress.
- Jim Parsons learns about the word arachnid.
- The Spin Doctors performed a kid-centric version of their hit "Two Princes" once. That nobody has mentioned it yet is a sad reminder of just how far the band fell after 1993...
- Will Arnett plays a magician in one episode Yes, it's as awesome as it sounds.
- Here's a Tear Jerker: Christopher Reeve talking about his wheelchair.
- Victor Borge appeared on both Sesame Street and The Electric Company, where he illustrated punctuation marks with his "Phonetic Punctuation" routine.
- Andrea Bocelli sang Elmo a lullaby and its as beautiful as it sounds.
- Inversion: Cookie Monster appeared on The Colbert Report to hang a lampshade on the whole cookies-are-a-sometimes-food thing. ("Me have craaaazy times in '70s and '80s.")
- "ME like the Robert Downey Jr of COOKIES!!"
- Then there's The Daily Show's own personal Muppet, 'Michael Steele', which started as a stock footage running gag and evolved into an actual Muppet (and a perpetual CMOF whenever he appears).Meanwhile, the original Muppets have made plenty of other in-character talk show appearances. Not to mention the Scrubs episode with Elmo, Oscar, Telly, and Grover.
- They also used Guy Smiley for Mitt Romney.
- Cookie Monster also appeared on Martha Stewart's show Martha Stewart Living. Hilarity really did ensue.
- The various artists and musicians who appeared on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
- In an interesting crossover, Big Bird himself appeared in one episode of Neighborhood, but only after considerable negotiation. Word of God is that Carroll Spinney turned down an initial script that had him taking off the Bird head and demonstrating how he performed the character. As the line between 'make-believe' and reality was likewise important to Fred Rogers (who saw any overlap as deceiving his young audience), Big Bird appeared in character, but only in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. In a later episode of Sesame Street, Rogers would appear to act as referee for a race between Big Bird and Snuffy in Central Park.
- In another crossover, Captain Kangaroo appeared on Mister Rogers' show, followed by Rogers appearing on the Captain's show. A young Tony Hawk also had an Early-Bird Cameo on the latter.
- Yo Gabba Gabba:
- The Shins
- Mark Mothersbaugh
- Shiny Toy Guns, made even better because of the fact that they were shown as "The Shinys".
- Similarly, The Killers were introduced as "Brandon, Dave, Ronnie, and Mark."
- Elijah Wood
- Tony Hawk
- Jack Black. Gets special mention for having most of an episode dedicated to his appearance, as well as the chance to wear orange spandex despite having a slight beer gut.
- Andy Samberg
- Dave Grohl (of the Foo Fighters) appeared at one of the live shows (he was attending it with his daughter) and did the Peanut Butter Stomp.
- The band My Chemical Romance is trying to guest star on the show to sing a song about Lemonade.
- They actually did appear on the show recently, telling the kids how every snowflake is different, just like you!
- Of Montreal
- Mos Def
- Anthony Bourdain
- The Aquabats (not surprising since the lead singer is the show's creator)
- Jimmy Eat World
- Basement Jaxx
- The Flaming Lips appeared recently
- The cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation on Reading Rainbow. Which is fitting, because LeVar Burton hosts Reading Rainbow. Along with the various story narrators -- Bill Cosby, Michael Ansara, Hulk Hogan, etc.
- This also happened in The Sarah Jane Adventures with the Blue Peter presenters in "Invasion of the Bane".
- MI High featured an appearance by Konnie Huq, one of the Blue Peter presenters, in one episode.
- Billy Corgan appeared on the last episode filmed of WGN's Bozo, the 40th anniversary show.
- Jon Stewart made an appearance on Jack's Big Music Show as a reporter doing a story on Groundhog Day; Jack's Big Music Show is one of his son's favorite shows.
- Cheryl Hines appeared on this show as well.
- Square One TV featured, among other things, a bunch of music videos by well-known artists about math. Featured bands include the Jets, the Judds, the Fat Boys, Kid 'n' Play, Bobby McFerrin, Gregory Hines and "Weird Al" Yankovic.
- Inversion: Dustin the Turkey often appears unexpectedly on various Irish TV shows to insult the presenters (this is entirely in character for him). The most bizarre example would probably be the time he entered the Eurovision Song Contest.
- Tom Lehrer returned to songwriting in the 70's to pen a few tunes for PBS's The Electric Company.
- Not really surprising given that his longtime friend and fellow composer, Joe Raposo, worked on the show for the first three seasons as musical director.
- On the same show, radio comics Bob & Ray voiced a couple animated versions of their 'interview' schtick.
- Bill Cosby, Rita Moreno, and Morgan Freeman were part of the cast (although Freeman wasn't legendary at the time, unlike the others). Joan Rivers narrated "The Adventures of Letterman", while Gene Wilder voiced the character.
- Vicki Lawrence, Dolly Parton, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Christine Taylor, Jesse McCartney, Iyaz, Rob Reiner, Edie McClurg, John Cena, Jon Cryer, Heather Locklear, Brooke Shields, Robin Roberts, Dr. Phil, Sheryl Crow and Ray Liotta are among the guest stars who performed on Hannah Montana.
- Wizards of Waverly Place also featured guest appearances by Dwayne Johnson and Rob Reiner, along with Shakira, Wilmer Valderama, Taylor Negron, Curtis "Booger" Armstrong, Jeff Garlin, Julia Duffy, Julie Brown, Lee Meriweather, Adam Carolla, Fred Willard, Cindy Crawford, Misty-May Trainor, Rachel Dratch, Joanne Worley, Ted McGinley and John O' Hurley.
- 3-2-1 Contact had a few, including Robert Guillaume, Linus Pauling, Suzanne Ciani, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Jessica Parker, and even Big Bird (Caroll Spinney) himself.
- Kylie Minogue is an honorary Wiggle.
- Regis Philbin appeared in an episode of Lilo and Stitch: The Series.
- An episode of Dennis the Menace UK featured the then-presenters of Blue Peter.
- Arthur has always had an interesting variety of guest stars, including cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Matt Damon, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and even 3 then-current Boston Red Sox baseball players. Also blues singer Koko Taylor, Art Garfunkel, Joshua Redman, Michelle Kwan, Alex Trebek, Neil Gaiman, and -- weirdly -- architect Frank Gehry. Not to mention the time the characters did an interview with a live-action Larry King.
- SpongeBob SquarePants has featured the likes of Pantera, Ween, David Bowie and Johnny Depp.
- Thomas the Tank Engine has had many celebrity narrators, among them, Ringo Starr (the original narrator), George freaking Carlin, Alec Baldwin, and Pierce Brosnan.
- Veggie Tales had quite a bit of crossover with the Christian Rock scene, most likely due to the show's significant teenage Periphery Demographic.
- In "Larry-Boy and the Rumor Weed", a ska-swing cover of "The Rumor Weed Song" by The W's plays over the end credits.
- In Jonah: A WesternAnimation/VeggieTales Movie, an original song by the Newsboys, "In the Belly of a Whale", plays over the end credits.
- Relient K did a split EP, with RK covering Larry the Cucumber's "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything", and Larry covering RK's "Breakdown".
- They released an entire album of Christian rock artists covering Veggie Tales songs, entitled Veggie Rocks.
- The story segments in Adventures from the Book of Virtues have so many big names to voice the story characters, such as Malcolm McDowell, Ed Begley, Jr., Tim Curry, Shelley Duvall, Elijah Wood, Mark Hamill, etc.
- Wonder Pets has had various guest stars such as Eartha Kitt, Steven Tyler and Ziggy Marley.
- Smash Mouth appeared as themselves in an episode of Kim Possible.
- This trope was inverted in Korn's guest appearance on South Park.