Caroll Spinney death: Sesame Street puppeteer behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch dies at 84

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Adam White
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Sesame Street puppeteer Caroll Spinney, with Oscar the Grouch, in 2014: Robin Marchant/Getty Images for SiriusXM
Sesame Street puppeteer Caroll Spinney, with Oscar the Grouch, in 2014: Robin Marchant/Getty Images for SiriusXM

Puppeteer Caroll Spinney, who portrayed Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on the children’s programme Sesame Street, has died at the age of 84.

Spinney died on Sunday (8 December) at his home in Connecticut after suffering from Dystonia for some time, the Sesame Workshop confirmed.

Before retiring in 2018, Spinney was awarded five Daytime Emmys for his contributions to Sesame Street, along with a Lifetime Achievement award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2006.

Spinney worked on thousands of episodes of Sesame Street, operating and voicing characters from its beginning in 1969. He worked on episodes more than any other cast member, while his life story formed the basis of the 2015 documentary I Am Big Bird.

In a statement, Sesame Street co-founder Joan Ganz Cooney said that Spinney’s contributions to the series were “countless”.

He not only gave us Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, he gave so much of himself as well,” she wrote. “We at Sesame Workshop mourn his passing and feel an immense gratitude for all he has given to Sesame Street and to children around the world.”

Spinney is survived by his wife Debra, who he met in 1972 when she worked for the Children’s Television Workshop, and their three children.