Original Big Bird puppeteer leaves Sesame Street after nearly 50 years

For the first time in nearly 49 years, Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch just won't be the same: Lifelong puppeteer Caroll Spinney has announced his retirement.

"I plan to be an ambassador for Sesame Workshop for many years to come. After all, we're a family!" the 84-year-old said Wednesday in an announcement from the workshop, the nonprofit behind Sesame Street.

"But now it's time for two performers that I have worked with and respected – and actually hand-picked for the guardianship of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch – to take my alter-egos into their hands and continue to give them life," he continued.

Spinney's been the guy in the big yellow suit since Sesame Street premiered in 1969, notching seven Emmys, including a Lifetime Achievement Award, two gold records and two Grammys along the way. He also met wife Debra on the show, and they've been married for 45 years.

The two men stepping into Spinney's yellow and green shoes are Matt Vogel as Big Bird and Eric Jacobson as Oscar. Vogel is the show's 'Puppet Captain' and also performs Count von Count. Jacobson does Grover, Bert and Guy Smiley for Sesame Street and Fozzie Bear and Miss Piggy for Disney's Muppets.

Carroll Spinney, Sesame Street's original Big Bird, has announced his retirement after 49 years.

Carroll Spinney, Sesame Street’s original Big Bird, has announced his retirement after 49 years.Credit:AP

"Before I came to Sesame Street, I didn't feel like what I was doing was very important. Big Bird helped me find my purpose," Spinney said in the release.

"Even as I step down from my roles, I feel I will always be Big Bird. And even Oscar, once in a while! They have given me great joy, led me to my true calling – and my wonderful wife! – and created a lifetime of memories that I will cherish forever."

Los Angeles Times

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