Waltham native Caroll Spinney retires after 50 years playing two “Sesame Street” characters
Waltham native Caroll Spinney has retired from the children’s program “Sesame Street,” where he portrayed Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, according to an Oct. 17 New York Times article.
Thursday was the last time Spinney drove to Astoria, Queens, to produce and record voices for his two alter egos, according to the article. Spinney joined the show nearly 50 years ago in 1969 and is retiring at age 84.
The Waltham native began his career in puppetry while attending Acton-Boxborough Regional High School in Acton, Massachusetts. He used his performance earnings to pay for his college tuition at the Art Institute of Boston’s College of Art & Design, according to a Waltham Patch article.
The Patch article quoted Spinney saying, “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’s job on Sesame Street not only gave him purpose but also garnered him a Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award, six other Emmys, two Gold Records and two Grammy honors, per the Patch article.
According to the Patch article, Spinney said, “Even as I step down from my roles, I feel I will always be Big Bird. And even Oscar, once in a while!”
The role of Big Bird will be taken over by Matt Vogel, Spinney’s apprentice who currently voices Count von Count and Kermit the Frog, according to the Patch article. Eric Jacobson, currently the voice for Grover, Bert, Fozzie Bear, Animal and Miss Piggy, will now perform the role of Oscar the Grouch.
Although Spinney will no longer bring to life the compassionate Big Bird, he holds on to some of the loveable character’s spirit. An Oct. 17 New York Times article quotes Spinney saying, “I’ve been playing a 6-year-old for 50 years. And the children bought it.”
According to Patch, Spinney plans to enjoy his retirement in Connecticut with his wife, Debra.