Meet the man behind the Muppet: David Rudman and Cookie Monster

By MARIAH HENRY
neighborhoods@ColumbiaMissourian.com

Ever met a Muppet? The chances of it aren’t very high, but if you are 40 or younger, it’s pretty likely that at some point in your childhood you really, really wanted to. Even if you never had that particular desire, the Muppets and the shows they made famous are still household names. Their faces are as recognizable as any A-list celebrities, but it really isn’t possible, unfortunately, to have a random celebrity spotting of Oscar the Grouch.

At Ragtag Cinema on April 8, however, a small crowd did get to legitimately meet the Cookie Monster, and David Rudman, who has been the man behind the Muppet for 10 years.Cookie took the opportunity to dispel the vicious rumors about his supposed replacement, Veggie Monster, who apparently has never, and will never exist. In an effort to set a better example for America’s youth, he did attempt — and fail — to eat a Brussels sprout before gobbling down his cookie, eliciting cheers and applause from the Ragtag audience.

But although Cookie Monster was a big hit, David Rudman wasn’t lacking in “it” factor. Originally, Cookie was puppeteered by Frank Oz, and Rudman stared off as Oz’s right hand man — literally. Most of the Muppets need two people to work them, the head puppeteer as the left hand, head and voice, and the apprentice as the right hand.

As the audience sat watching the clips from Sam and Friends, Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, lot of questions were being formulated about the actual orchestration of the Muppets. Rudman answered most of them and shared a few secrets, too.

Things about the Muppets that only a Muppet master could tell you:

  • Cookie Monster’s cookies are real — sort of. They are made of flour and water and everything that is not delicious about a cookie: They have no sugar, eggs, or chocolate because they would damage Cookie. Adam Sandler found this out the hard way. In this video, he shares a cookie with the Monster. When the scene ended, Sandler had to spit out the bites he took, dismayed that Cookie Monster’s cookies taste horrible.
  • Kermit the Frog is the only Muppet that transcended the boundary between Sesame Street and the racier Muppet Show. This was only because Jim Henson said that he didn’t think he was comfortable enough with any of the other Muppets to let them be the host of the new show.
  • Sesame Street got the first part of its name from the term “open sesame,” because the goal of the creators was to open children’s minds to learning through fun.
  • The set of Sesame Street is built at head-height, and the puppeteers hold their puppets about seven feet in the air the entire time.
  • The illusion of self-awareness is created for the Muppets by monitors below the set that the puppeteers watch throughout the act. The puppeteers never look up; they watch a live feed that shows them where the other puppets, props and actors are.
  • Cookie Monster has something on his insides that is responsible for attracting the suspicions of airport security, who then feel ridiculous (and awed) for publicly holding up a Sesame Street character who has a flight to catch. 

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