Kevin Clash

Clash & Elmo.

Kevin Clash Elmo Emmy

Clash & Elmo appearing at the Emmy awards.

Kevin Clash & his characters

Clash & some of his primary Muppet characters.

Kevin Jeffrey Clash (b. September 17th, 1960) is an accomplished Muppeteer whose characters include Elmo, Clifford, & Hoots the Owl. He currently serves as Sesame Street Muppet Captain & co-executive producer. He was promoted to "senior creative advisor" at Sesame Workshop in May 2007. He has also voiced a few Grouch related characters.


Clash was born & raised in Turner's Station, a predominantly black suburb of Baltimore, Maryland.

Clash grew up with parents George & Gladys, older siblings George Jr. ("Georgie") & Anita ("NeNe"), & little sister Pam. His father works as a flash welder operator at Raymond Metals & a neighborhood handyman, & his mother ran a daycare.

Clash began building puppets at age 10. Clash's parents were supportive of his interest in puppetry, driving him to puppet shows, allowing for his love of TV & craft, & not urging him to attend college when he announced he was pursuing puppetry professionally. Among his TV viewing were such series as Shari Lewis & Lamb Chop, Kukla, Fran, & Ollie, & H.R. Pufnstuf. Clash has admitted he watched TV inches away from the screen, with no permanent eye damage. His parents were supposedly more amused than angered when he cut his father's good overcoat apart to create a monkey puppet with the fuzzy black lining. As a tribute, Elmo's parents were named George & Gladys in an Elmo's World segment; their names have since been changed.

He performed on Baltimore's Harbor Front as a teenager. In high school, he was voted "Most Likely to be a Millionaire."

Coming to the Muppets

Kevin Clash first met Kermit Love in the 1970s, who occasionally arranged for the fledgling puppeteer to visit the set of Sesame Street. In 1979, the main Muppet performers were performing in a Muppet Movie float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, & extra puppeteers were needed for the Sesame Street float. Clash was brought in to perform Cookie Monster for the event.

Later, in 1983, he was officially hired to perform in 10 episodes of Sesame Street. However, at the time he was performing full-time on 2 other shows, & the producers of both refused to work around his schedule. Thus, Clash was forced to tear up his contract to appear on Sesame Street.

Kevin Clash was also given the opportunity to perform in The Dark Crystal, but Kermit Love dissuaded him, urging Clash to concentrate on his other series work.

Kevin Clash officially became a Sesame Street Muppeteer in 1984. Some of his earliest characters included Hoots the Owl & Dr. Nobel Prize, later supplemented by the likes of Baby Natasha & Kingston Livingston III. However, it was Elmo who became his main character, once Clash assumed the part from previous Muppeteers Brian Muehl & Richard Hunt, & placed his own imprint on the red monster. Clash has also sung in voice-over in a variety of film & cartoon inserts on the series, including "In My Animal Book" & "Take Care of That Smile."

Clash served as an additional Muppet performer on Follow That Bird, where he performed the voice of 1 of the feathered friends as well as that of Hoots the Owl, & he reprised Elmo, along with other characters, in the feature film The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland & innumerable specials, appearances & videos.

More Muppets

During the late 1980s, Clash was involved with a variety of Henson productions. He performed P.J. in the Play-Along videos, & Father Bunny & Be-Bop in Tale of the Bunny Picnic. He would also perform Eliot Shag on Dog City, various characters in Muppet Time insertions. He also performed the title character, Billy Bunny in the Muppet Sing-Along video Billy Bunny's Animal Songs.

Clash became 1 of the main Muppeteers on The Jim Henson Hour. His 2 main characters on the series were the lizard-like Leon & Clifford, the bass player. Out of these 2, only Clifford has remained a major character, subsequently appearing in The Muppets at Walt Disney World, The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson, a guest spot on The Arsenio Hall Show, the albums Muppet Beach Party & Kermit Unpigged, & the feature films Muppets from Space & The Muppets Wizard of Oz. However, Clifford became a star when he hosted the short-lived Muppets Tonight, for which Clash had also performed Mulch & Craniac (as well as Waldorf in episodes 1 & 10).

Clash performed in many of the recent Muppet films, including Muppet Treasure Island, Muppets from Space, It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, & The Muppets Wizard of Oz. In Muppet Treasure Island, he performed 1 of the main villains, Polly Lobster, as well as Spa'am & Black Dog. He also performed the puppetry of many of Frank Oz's characters in many scenes, & Frank Oz performed the voices later. Although he performed the Sam the Eagle puppet but not the voice in Muppet Treasure Island, he later performed the character's voice, but not the puppetry, in It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie following the retirement of Frank Oz from the Muppets (John Kennedy did the actual puppetry), as well as in the video game Muppet Party Cruise.

Creature Shop Work

Clash's worked on 1 of Jim Henson's fantasy films, Labyrinth. He puppeteered & voiced the lead Fiery, while also operating Ambrosius & 1 of The Four Guards. Clash also worked on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, & Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, supplying the face & voice of Master Splinter.

On Dinosaurs, Clash starred as Baby Sinclair & also played Howard Handupme & various episodic mammals.

Reflecting on his decades as a Muppeteer, in the fall of 2006, Kevin Clash released an autobiography titled My Life as a Furry Red Monster.

Muppeteer Credits

Awards & honors

  • Clash won Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series for his work as Elmo & Hoots the Owl on Sesame Street in 1990, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, & 2007.

See also

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