Schmoozing with the Original Sweater

 As the golden-throated, sweater-clad nice guy of Sesame Street's original human Fab Four— along with Gordon, Susan and Mr. Hooper— Bob McGrath has spent more than 30 years on public TV. He was a workhorse in the early days, when they taped 130 shows a season. He survived year 25, when they doubled the cast, and was spared five years later when half the Muppets were fired. He will be singing his songs at the John Drew Theater at Guild Hall on Aug. 25 and recently spent some playtime with Bill Jensen:

I've noticed that Maria and Gordon have been getting a lot more screen time than you lately. What gives?

I think we are attempting to reach our target audience, who from day one were minority children. And Maria is a fantastically good actress, and she's the only cast member who writes for the show.

So is she just writing herself into all the storylines?

Well, yes. But I think she does a really good job of doing it, so certainly don't interpret this in your paper that it sounds like spoiled beans here or something. I would like to have more air time, but, you know, life isn't always what you want it to be. The show has also changed cause it's a 45-minute show and 15 minutes of Elmo's World.

Are you jealous of Elmo at all for getting his own segment?

Not at all. No way you can get jealous of that little guy.

Has there ever been a Muppet thought to be the next big thing who just totally flopped?

One that didn't work out a long, long time ago was Sam the Robot. He was a robot when R2-D2 was pretty big. They've tried a lot of scenes. For instance, they tried to do a divorce scene between Snuffy's mother and father. They test marketed the segments and it was just devastating for kids watching it.

They picked Snuffy out of all the characters to go through a divorce? For a while, he was the one Muppet that no one would even believe existed.

That was revealed many years ago, and one of the reasons was because of child abuse. They determined because Big Bird was such a strong, credible Muppet on the show, and we were not believing Big Bird of this extraordinary thing, they were afraid that if kids were abused, it was such an extraordinary thing in their life they might be reluctant to tell a parent or a teacher based on the fact that we didn't believe Big Bird.


BOB MCGRATH 3 and 5pm. Aug. 25 at Guild Hall, 158 Main St, East Hampton, 516-324-4050. $12 for adults, $8 for children.

 
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