For many of us born in the latter half of the 20th century, Sesame Street provided our first introduction to the alphabet, numbers and other need-to-know stuff. Through the years, the show has hosted a number of high-profile guests to help Elmo and the gang in their mission, and some of these special appearances actually turn out to be more interesting for parents than their children. Here are five classic guest star appearances from the show’s 42-year history.
5. Katy Perry
This one made headlines, and not in the way Sesame Street producers would have wanted, either, as critics panned Perry’s clothing selection for an appearance on a children’s show. The astounding number of views for this video on YouTube alone, more than 31 million, should be the first clue not everyone watched this to see Elmo dance around.
4. Richard Pryor
There is something a little bit scary about Pryor’s performance here. He’s just a little too intense, and given his later misfortunes with illicit substances, you can’t help but wonder if … let’s just say this is the most intense alphabet recitation in Sesame Street history.
3. Stevie Wonder
This looks like it should be a clip from the classic rock show Midnight Special, not Sesame Street. But no, Stevie Wonder really did perform his hit single Superstition live on an April 1973 Sesame Street episode. More than that, this is arguably the finest live performance of this song currently available on YouTube, with a crisp sound mix.
2. Robin Williams
The comedic genius probably hit his peak in the 1970s and ’80s, but he was still in fine form for this 1992 guest appearance.
1. James Earl Jones
Hard to believe this is the iconic voice behind Darth Vader in Star Wars. Jones actually played a pivotal role in helping launch Sesame Street. According to liner notes released with the DVD, Sesame Street: Old School 1969-1974, in 1969 the show produced several shorts such as this one and showed them to a target audience of young children to get their feedback. This clip of Jones reciting the alphabet drew the most favorable response. The clip later aired when the show debuted in 1969.
One More: Jackie Robinson
More than 20 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947, he turned his attention to breaking the alphabet barrier for preschoolers on Sesame Street.