One of the most notable characters in children’s TV has is set to be literally passed on to new hands, as Kevin Clash, the puppeteer and voice of Sesame Street‘s fuzzy red monster ‘Elmo’, has quit the show after numerous allegations surrounding his personal life.
52-year-old Clash, who has performed as Elmo ever since he gave the character its current identity in 1985, denies growing rumours that he was involved in sexual relationships with underaged men, but is believed to have faced no choice but to depart the show in order to avoid further negative attention for the PBS series.
Production studio Sesame Workshop released a statement on Tuesday (20 November), thanking the performer, who was an executive producer on Sesame Street and earned the title of the show’s ‘Muppet Captain’, as the release read: “Sesame Workshop’s mission is to harness the educational power of media to help all children the world over reach their highest potential. Kevin Clash has helped us achieve that mission for 28 years, and none of us, especially Kevin, want anything to divert our attention from our focus on serving as a leading educational organisation. Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin’s personal life has become a distraction that none of us want, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from Sesame Street. This is a sad day for Sesame Street.”
Clash himself noted of his choice to resign: “Personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work Sesame Street is doing, and I cannot allow it to go on any longer. I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately.”
Sesame Workshop added that the character of Elmo would not be going anywhere, as the puppet will now be ‘handed down’ to understudies on the show that have been personally trained by Clash. It will be a relief for Sesame Street‘s executives looking to maintain the status of their most marketable character, but will the subtle changes to Elmo’s voice be noticeable ones, or does the nature of children’s TV permit some ‘creative leeway’ to ignore any possible differences on the show?