Ten Years of Chris on Sesame Street

Published: September 1, 2017
Categories: Commentary, Feature

Just about ten years ago, the world was introduced to Chris – Sesame Street‘s resident “big kid” and newest human.

Dang, ten years.  Before we get started talking about that, can I just point out how old I feel knowing that Chris Knowings has been in our lives for a whole decade???  It’s one thing to think about the fact that I’ve been hanging out with Big Bird and Elmo for my entire life, but I met Chris as an adult.  So what does that make me now?  Some sort of super-adult?  Old????

Although we’ve got ten years’ worth of Chris episodes to discuss and dissect, I’m gonna start at the beginning.  Chris Robinson (and his performer, Chris Knowings) debuted in Sesame Street episode 4136 in August, 2007.  Many characters have had their own intros both before and after, but this one sticks out as a particularly great introduction.  The episode doesn’t pretend that Chris has always been a resident of the Street, nor does it make a big deal about the new neighbor coming to town.  Chris moves into 123 Sesame Street without fanfare, all while giving us a rare outsider’s view of how weird and amazing the neighborhood is.

Although not required viewing to understand this article, feel free to give the episode a watch below:

The first time we see Chris, he’s coming through the big green door of the brownstone, accompanied by his Uncle Gordon and Aunt Susan.  Although their cameos are brief, it establishes a few important things.  Chris has a direct connection to the neighborhood, and he has a link to the legacy of the show.  In his quick interaction with his aunt and uncle, you can almost see the baton being passed directly into Chris’s hand.

Chris lets the viewers know that he’s new to Sesame Street, but he needs a job.  We see him interview for jobs with The Count (as an exerciser, so the Count can count jumping jacks and pull-ups), Cookie Monster (as a cookie seller), and Horatio the Elephant (as a dance partner), all of which crumble in hilarious ways.  But let’s look at these character choices: They’re all classics (albeit, two are more long-term classics than the other), they all represent the chaos Sesame Street can bring, and none of them are so rooted in the neighborhood that they feel it necessary to actually welcome Chris.  Instead, they’re able to amp up their bizarre behaviors as a sort-of Sesame initiation.  Yeah, Chris got hazed, Sesame-style.

Just think, if Chris had met Elmo instead of The Count, he’d probably get a big welcome, an opportunity to talk about his past and purpose, and maybe a hug at the end.  Instead, he’s subjected to exhausting exercise, cruel mind games, and insulting forms of payment.  Now, which scenario would you rather watch?

Feeling dejected, Chris finds himself asking for a job at Hooper’s Store.  Alan, who pretty much served as the main human on Sesame Street at the time, is happy to hire Chris on the spot.  And ever since, Chris and Alan have shared both the Hooper’s Store counter as well as duties as the requisite Sesame humans.

Also interesting: It’s apparently just as easy to get a job at Hooper’s as it is to buy something there without actually exchanging any money.

So, to recap: Chris got the nod of approval from some of the first Sesame Street humans as well as the current regime.  He got to play in the chaotic sandbox of odd Sesame characters.  He gave us a re-introduction to the Street without unnecessary fanfare.  And he did it all while singing and dancing, and no eye-rolling or talking-down.  It’s an ideal intro to a new neighbor who we should’ve known would stay in our lives for years after meeting him for the first time.

The episode ends as Chris opines to the audience, “Let’s see.  Counts who count, monsters who eat cookies, elephants that dance, and a new job.  Yeah, I think I’m going to like it here on Sesame Street.”  His statement echos the first words spoken on the street by his Uncle Gordon, “You’ve never seen a street like Sesame Street.  Everything happens here.  You’re gonna love it.”  Chris brought us around full circle, and has successfully continued an important legacy for ten years and counting.  Well done, Chris!  And thanks for being our neighbor for a whole decade!

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by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com

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