Sesame Street is on TikTok now. What do you think of that? I think it’s fine, and I hope they take advantage of it to post a bunch of videos that don’t teach anybody anything.
Before I go any further, I’ll say that when I first heard about TikTok, a massively popular social short-form video app, I was completely baffled – and I remain moderately baffled. When it first caught on, most of what I heard about it seemed to fall into a few categories of video, including:
- Somebody does a dance, and then a bunch of other people do that same dance
- Somebody lip-synchs to a popular song or recorded audio by a famous person, and they’re widely hailed as a hilarious comedian
- Young people participate in “challenges,” in which they encourage each other to do things that are usually really, really stupid
It all seemed pretty ridiculous to me. However, in the past year or so, my wife and Tough Pigs contributor Staci has gotten really into TikTok, and she often sends me videos she’s discovered. It turns out TikTok is like any corner of the internet universe: It can be used for really pointless or unpleasant things, but it’s also used in ways that genuinely enhance people’s days. For example, there are several movie nerds on TikTok who share recommendations of little-known films, thus getting the word out about movies that would otherwise go unnoticed. And lots of smart people giving advice on ways to save time, money, or effort in your daily life. Some of this advice might even be true!
Anyway, Sesame Street is on TikTok now too. Their first video was delightful: It was the “yip-yip” Martians calling out the name of the app in their instantly recognizable style.
@sesamestreet Yip, you read that right. #SesameStreet ? Yip Yip TikTok – sesamestreet
So that’s pretty fun. As I write these words, Sesame Street has posted seven TikToks, and they fall into three categories:
- Old clips from the show, seemingly calculated to punch viewers’ nostalgia buttons (Oscar singing “I Love Trash” and an excerpt of the “Pinball Number Count” animation)
- Clips from the current version of the show (Bert rhapsodizing about riding his bike, Ji-Young singing about taking pride in her cultural heritage)
- New, original videos (the Martians, Elmo suspiciously eyeing Rocco, Cookie Monster philosophizing about cookies)
That’s a good start! If they continue to more-or-less alternate between these three categories, they’ll be in good shape. The classic clips are sure to get tons of likes and shares from us old-school oldsters, and there are hundreds (thousands?) of sketches, songs, and scenes to choose from. The current TV show clips are pleasant and colorful for today’s parents and their little ones. But it’s the third category I’m most interested in.
We curmudgeonly old Sesame Street fans like to complain that the Sesame Street TV show isn’t what it used to be. And that’s an accurate complaint. It’s still a high-quality children’s television program with great production values, but over the past several years (decades?) it’s become a show that’s much more strictly for preschoolers. There’s more focus on the “smarter, stronger, kinder” curriculum of life lessons, and less focus on making Sesame Street one of television’s funniest comedy shows for all ages, like it used to be.
But online platforms should allow the Sesame people a little more freedom than the show does. They’ve already been making entertaining videos and posts for YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter that are not so beholden to the almighty curriculum, and I’d love to see them use their TikTok account to keep pushing things in that direction.
Here’s what I want: I want Sesame Street to use their TikTok account to make weird, funny stuff that we wouldn’t see on the TV show these days.
In the old days, Sesame Street excelled at short, funny sketches. TikTok videos are short by nature, so it’s a really good medium for the writers and the Muppet performers. They don’t even have to spend a lot of time on this stuff. In fact, on TikTok, it’s probably better if they don’t spend too much time on it.
The debut video with the Martians was a great start – quick, silly, entertaining, and with no greater purpose than to make us smile. The Elmo video is also a good idea. Since casual Sesame fans learned about the Elmo/Rocco feud, they can’t get enough of it, and judging by the comments, folks are loving this newest reference to it. The possibilities for similarly smile-worthy short videos are endless.
Let’s see a few seconds of improvised comic banter between Bert and Ernie. Let’s see Elmo hosting a 30-second talk show from that area on the roof of the community center that they hardly ever use. Let’s see the return of Don Music as he attempts to write a new song that we recognize as a current pop hit. Let’s see Oscar reacting to the viral hit TikTok of the moment. Let’s see Guy Smiley asking a celebrity guest star a trivia question. Let’s see the Two-Headed Monster arguing over the latest stupid social media debate.
There are so many things the Sesame Street Muppets could do when freed from the restraints of teaching something, and when given just enough time for a setup and a punchline. I’m sure the Sesame people can come up with better ideas than mine, and I look forward to seeing what they do come up with. But mostly, I look forward to none of it being educational.
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by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com