Over the years, I’ve learned that there are exactly four things in life that are certain:
- The coffee & bagel place down the street will always get exactly one thing wrong in my order
- Social media posts that require five minutes of effort or fewer are the ones that always get the biggest reactions
This happened recently – by which I mean #4 – with an item I posted on the Tough Pigs Facebook page. It was about Mr. Snuffleupagus. You know — Snuffy. As of this writing, the post has over 23,000 likes and 1,000 comments. Here it is:
It all started when I was sitting at my desk, drinking a Dr Pepper and thinking about the history of Mr. Snuffleupagus. That’s a very normal thing to do. I got to thinking about the fact that, every time a clip featuring Snuffy goes viral-ish among casual fans, there are invariably several people who seem surprised that the human characters on Sesame Street can see him.
A similar thing happens when somebody writes a “Did you know…?” post on social media explaining the primary factor in the Sesame Street producers’ decision to allow Snuffy to meet the grown-ups. That factor being the concern that children should feel confident that adults will believe them when they have something important to say. Some comments will say “Oh, so that’s why they did it,” but there are always comments that say “Wait, what?! SNUFFY ISN’T IMAGINARY ANYMORE?”
So I looked at the numbers, determined how long Snuffy was unseen by the grown-ups vs. how long it’s been since he was first seen, and dashed off that Facebook post before I’d even finished that Dr Pepper. And it wasn’t even a 20-ounce bottle! It was just a 12-ounce can! That’s how little time I spent on it!
Somehow, it caught on in the wider spheres of Facebook. And because I couldn’t help myself, I read the majority of those 1,010 snuffleupacomments. But I’m glad I did, because I learned a few snuffleupathings! For snuffleupexample:
A LOT of Sesame Street fans over a certain age still don’t know Snuffy has been seen by Big Bird’s human friends
When I wrote the post, I had no idea how far it would go beyond our little community of Muppet super-nerds. It went pretty far, and it was read by a bunch of people who grew up watching Sesame Street in the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s. Many of them reacted to the post with surprise — not because it’s been so long since Snuffy first met Big Bird’s grown-up friends, but because they had no idea he had ever met them at all!
How have they managed to miss this after all this time? Have they never tuned in to Sesame Street since late 1985? Or, by sheer coincidence, have they seen hundreds of episodes in that time period, but only the ones Snuffy didn’t appear in? I’m especially curious about the ’70s kids who have children of their own. I’m sure there have been millions of former Sesame Street viewers who stopped thinking about the show somewhere around their 5th birthday. (Those people are not as cool as we are.)
But some of those former viewers must have had kids, right? Did they just park their kids in front of the TV to watch the show without ever paying attention to it themselves? Or… could it be… and I shudder to even consider this… could it be that they grew up, had kids, and DIDN’T encourage their kids to watch Sesame Street? Or encouraged them to watch some other, far inferior, Snuffleupagus-free show INSTEAD?
Ugh, what a terrible thought. I have to go lie down.
Oh, wait. I still have to finish writing this article. Okay, I’m standing up again. What else?
A lot of Sesame Street fans have no idea Snuffy was ever not seen by Big Bird’s human friends
When a TV series has been running for more than 50 years, multiple generations of fans separated by decades are bound to have very different perceptions of the show. So it’s not surprising that many Sesame kids who grew up watching the show in the late ’80s, the ’90s, the ’00s, the ’10s, or the ’20s don’t realize there was ever a question as to whether Snuffy was real or imaginary.
Also, I’m very impressed by anyone who grew up in the 2020s who is actively using Facebook and commenting on posts using complete sentences.
But anyway, there were several comments expressing surprise about the formerly enigmatic nature of Snuffy. If you ask me, that’s a good category to be in! I’m just old enough to remember when the “Snuffy revealed” episode aired on TV, and I have vague memories of the many, many, many, many, many times Big Bird almost introduced Snuffy to his friends, only to be foiled by Snuffy’s shyness or some external force.
I’ve also watched several episodes and clips from before my time, and I’ve reached the same conclusion over and over again: What started as a funny running gag became downright infuriating by the end of the 14 years. But not everyone feels this way! Which brings me to the next thing I learned.
There’s a surprisingly sizable portion of fans who preferred it when Snuffy was unseen
Believe it or not! While scrolling through the comments on the Facebook post, I hastily counted the ones that explicitly expressed a preference for the post-1985 status quo of Snuffy being seen, and compared the total to the number of comments that specifically expressed a preference for the pre-1985 reality when the grown-ups hadn’t seen Snuffy.
The pro-“seen Snuffy” comments significantly outweighed the pro-“unseen Snuffy” comments, 62 to 23… but still! That’s twenty-three out of eighty-five people who would rather live in a world where the grown-ups NEVER met Snuffy! That’s not nothing!
Those comments included sentiments like these (I’ve removed the names in case these people don’t feel like being quoted on a Muppet fan website):
- “I liked that he was imaginary. Sure it was a little frustrating that no one else could see him, but I never felt deceived or traumatized. I always just thought it was to connect with kids that it was okay to use your imagination.”
- “Thought it was sweet that Snuffleupagus was a special friend for Big Bird. I always thought Big Bird seemed lonely.”
- “I remember when ‘only me and big bird’ could see Snuffy. It seems silly now but it really made me feel special somehow.”
- “I had an imaginary friend and snuffy helped me feel ok to have an imaginary friend.”
- “I did not find it frustrating. I liked feeling I was in on something with Big Bird.”
- “I loved that the adults couldn’t see him. My imagination was always active. It was nice to share it.”
- “It was great. It was fun as a child to be ‘in the know'”
As you can see, rather than being frustrated by the ongoing near misses, these Snuffy fans got a thrill out of knowing they, as children, were privy to information that the adults on the street didn’t have. I can understand that. It’s always fun to know stuff that other people don’t know. For example, I know what I had for lunch yesterday, and you don’t, and that is incredibly exciting for me.
And yet, I could never get onboard with the pro-“unseen Snuffy” stance, for a very simple reason: Big Bird desperately wanted his friends to meet Snuffy, and it drove him absolutely crackers that they kept missing each other! To say that you preferred it when the running gag was still active is to say that you preferred when Big Bird was constantly vexed by the sadistic specter of disappointment.
Now, come on. Do you want Big Bird to be constantly vexed by the sadistic specter of disappointment? Big Bird, your pal?
No, it was a good choice to end the running gag, and everyone who says otherwise is interesting but wrong.
A handful of people are astonished when you tell them it’s “Snuffleupagus” and not “Snuffleufagus” or “Snuffaluffagus”
When you’re three years old and you don’t know how to read or write yet, and a TV show has a character with a fanciful name, and Muppet Wiki hasn’t been invented yet so your parents can’t check the spelling for you… well, it’s pretty likely that you’re going to mishear the name of that character.
And once a childhood misconception engraves itself in your brain, it’s pretty hard to shake it off. Just ask the Berenstain Bears.
But yes, it is “SnuffleuPagus,” with a p. Not “Snuffleufagus” with a third f. That would just be silly.
Also, a few commenters were quite confident that Snuffy is a woolly mammoth, an elephant, or an anteater.
Snuffy has a lot of fans
The least surprising lesson of all! Dozens of comments on the Facebook post consisted of folks simply declaring their love. “He was always my favorite!” or “My fav!” or “My favorite Sesame Street character!” they said.
I’ll confess I haven’t kept up closely with the last several seasons of Sesame Street, but I’ve been hearing that Snuffy doesn’t appear on the show with anything resembling the frequency that he used to. It’s too bad. He’s a lovable guy, an impressive puppet, and a character cherished by generations of Sesame Street fans. Judging by the reactions to this Facebook post, it would make a lot of people happy if he showed up more often.
Click here to snuffle off to the Tough Pigs forum!
by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com