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.
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.
- Sesame Street: Elmo (1984-present), Baby Fats Domino, Baby Tooth, a beet from "Grow High Grow Low", Benny Rabbit, The Big Bad Wolf (several '80s Sesame Street News Flash skits), Billy Idle, Chad, Chef John, Chip Cat, Clementine (1985-1988), Cloud, Cookie Monster's Mommy ("The First Time Me Eat Cookie"), Dexter (head), The Duck, Dr. Nobel Prize (1984-1988), Eel, Ernie's Lavender Anything Muppet friend from "Don't Throw That Trash on the Ground", Female Sun, Ferlinghetti Donizetti, 1 of the 4 Grouches Named Moe, The Grand High Triangle Lover, Gus, Honkers, Hoots the Owl, J. P., Kermit the Frog's Doctor, Kingston Livingston III, Left, "Let's Go Driving" son, Luba Merquick, Mel, Mike the Ladybug, Natasha, Pablo Paint Palette, Patti Paintbrush, Paul Pencil, Peter Piper, Pizzeria Dos Lavender worker, Preposterous, Professor D. Rabbit, Sad, Sam (pianist), Selma Worm, Shark (in "I Get a Kick Out of U"), The Sun (in "Where Do I Belong?"), The Super Foods broccoli, Timmy, Watson, Wolfgang the Seal, Yip Yip Martian
- Follow That Bird: Additional Muppet Performer
- The Alphabet Game: Dimples the Dog
- Getting Ready to Read: Sam
- Free to Be... a Family: Unemployed Bear
- Labyrinth: Firey 1, Ambrosius, 1 of The 4 Guards (both Muppetry only)
- The Tale of the Bunny Picnic: Be-Bop, Father
- Jim Henson's Play-Along Video series: P.J.
- Wow, You're a Cartoonist!: Artie
- Neat Stuff To Know & To Do: Dwayne, Vinny Brontosaurus
- The Jim Henson Hour: Clifford, Leon, Ace Yu ("Dog City"), Caiman ("The Song of the Cloud Forest"), Nick ("The Song of the Cloud Forest"), Blue Extreme, Doglion, Frackles, Bob
- The Cosby Show: The Hippocritic Oaf, Beautiful Day Monster, Luncheon Counter Monster, Pineapple
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Splinter
- The Muppets at Walt Disney World: Clifford
- The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson: Clifford
- Dinosaurs: Baby Sinclair, Howard Handupme, Howlin' Jay, Female Grapdelite, Dinosaur Chief (face), Ethyl Phillips (sometimes, Muppetry only), Mr. Ashland (Muppetry), Pterodactyl (Muppetry)
- Dog City: Eliot Shag
- Billy Bunny's Animal Songs: Billy Bunny
- Sesame Street Stays Up Late!: Elmo, Cousin Pepe, Elmo-noske
- Muppet Time: Do Re Mi Monster
- Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree: Father Mouse
- Muppet Treasure Island: Bad Polly, Spa'am, Black Dog, Real Old Tom; Muppeteer for Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Sam the Eagle (some scenes), Mr. Bimbo
- The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss: Little Cat Fleep
- Muppets Tonight: Carter, Clifford, Composta Heap, Craniac, Galahad, Moo-Ing's henchman, Mulch, Lester Tomwater, Arthur Modell
- Muppets from Space: Clifford
- The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland: Elmo, Grouch Cab Driver, Grouch Jailer, Pestie
- Muppet RaceMania: Clifford & Spa'am
- Bert & Ernie's Word Play: The Frosty Four
- It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie: Sam the Eagle & Clifford
- The Muppets' Wizard of Oz: Clifford
- Sesame Beginnings: Baby Elmo
- Elmo's Christmas Countdown: The Mouse King
- Panwapa: Azibo the Monster
- The Muppets: Clifford
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.