Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey

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The Muppet Elmo is one of the most beloved characters among children across the globe. Meet the unlikely man behind the puppet – the heart and soul of Elmo – Kevin Clash.



When we are kids, we really dream, we really imagine that we can live in another place, another world. And luckily, in our time, we are given incredible outlets that take us to such places: books, movies and television, already created worlds from other people’s imaginations that we can jump into for a short time and live a new, exciting and fun life. One man, Jim Henson, was able to bring his dream to the screen, and that dream was puppets. Puppets are something different than cartoons, but not quite real life. They are wacky and imaginative characters that are tactile and interact with other people. It is something really unique. From his own personal icon, Kermit the frog, to entire casts of The Muppets and Sesame Street on television, to feature length films The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. I don’t know if any other form of entertainment can be drawn to one sole entity like puppets to Jim Henson. He was an incredible person, responsible for one of the longest running, most popular, most beloved children’s shows ever.

One such kid who fell in love with these creations was Kevin Clash.

After seeing these puppets come to life when he was a kid, he longed to create one of his own. So, he went into his parents closet, took his mother’s fur coat, and cut it to shreds, resulting in his first puppet. When his parents found out, they called him into the room. Scared of what was to come, Kevin entered, only to be told, “Next time, ask.”

Being Elmo takes you on a journey through Kevin’s whole career, from a silly kid who played with dolls, to the most popular puppet to the world today. From getting a job on his local TV station to being sandwiched between Jim Henson and Frank Oz. From learning so much about the puppets and things like love and friendship, to teaching the same things to millions of children.

The most surprising thing you learn from this film is the amount of talent and work needed to be the man behind these simple looking puppets. The creation of the puppet alone is difficult and takes much time, but the replication of the human body and human movement and the range of different voices is something incredibly rare, and you can see this when Kevin is teaching other puppeteers what needs to be done for the French version of Sesame Street. It is quite remarkable.

The movie could have been much stronger, as we don’t really get to learn much about Kevin’s personal life after some glimpses into his childhood. We learn that he has a daughter, but we know nothing of the mother or his life with either of them. It also would have been a better story if Kevin had had to overcome some sort of obstacle or hardship, which he really didn’t see much of other than the untimely death of Jim Henson. Kevin has had an incredibly blessed life.

My Rating

 3/4 – ‘Being Elmo’ shows us not only the world behind puppets, a much more intricate and delicate job than most would think, but into the dream of a young boy captivated by these characters who would come to be one of the most beloved characters of all time.


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