I love Muppets. I love Sesame Street. That said, Being Elmo is a documentary that really tells a story that I have always wanted to hear. Being Elmo is the story of Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who has performed the signature red Muppet since 1985. The documentary follows his early years in Baltimore performing for kids at schools and local events through his time with Captain Kangaroo into his event leap into the “Henson World” working on Labyrinth, the Jim Henson Hour and onto Sesame Street. What really took me about Being Elmo was how much the film is also about Jim Henson, without taking away from Kevin Clash. Featuring archival footage of Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Richard Hunt and other puppeteers, Being Elmo is a history of the Muppets and puppets on television as well as how the generally quiet Clash became the outspoken and lovable Elmo.
My wife, Melissa, enjoys the Muppets and finds them funny but they are never her first pick when it comes time to watch something. The other day she came home from work as I was finishing watching Being Elmo and I was surprised that she sat down and watched it with me, asking questions to catch herself up, wanting to know who was who and what was going on. The very next day we were going through our Netflix Instant queue to pick something and I was surprised to hear her say “Being Elmo.” In fact when she first said it, I didn’t believe she was serious. She wanted to see the beginning and told me she teared up at the end. Being Elmo while being mostly about Kevin’s journey as a puppeteer also focuses on his life as a father and how it hasn’t been easy since he spends so much time (for lack of a better description) being Elmo.
The film is a great piece for fans of the Muppets and Sesame Street, even a great film for fans of documentary filmmaking. It’s easily something you can watch over and over and be humbled by Kevin’s life and modesty, as well as feel touched by the little red monster who loves you for being you. Currently available on Netflix Instant as well as DVD, Being Elmo is something that will cheer you up when you are feeling down and make you realize that hard work and following your dreams really will pay off.
I’ll leave you with a great Elmo bit featuring Ricky Gervais from Sesame Street.