Jerry Nelson, famed puppeteer who delighted generations of tykes and young people for decades, and was best known for his work with Jim Henson’s Muppets, died yesterday from complications of various types of cancers he had been stricken with. He was 78.
Nelson may well be best remembered by the children of the baby boomers for his portrayal of the memorable Muppet characters on Sesame Street. A short list of some of them include the sleuth Sherlock Hemlock, the alchemic magical Amazing Mumford, the gentle giant Herry Monster, and above all, one of the A-list Muppets on the show, the numerologistic Count Von Count, who in essence, helped teach scores of children how to count from one to ten during his tenure on the program. That character had debuted 40 years ago on the show and quickly became a fan favorite.
Nelson also performed as the hulking, sensitive, shy, and endearing Snuffleupagus, a massive puppet that in essence, required Nelson to physically get himself into the entire costume and do the performance. He was the first incarnation of the character, performing it from 1971 – 1978.
When Jim Henson spun-off some of the Muppets and the entire Muppet franchise to the extremely popular syndicated Muppet Show in 1976, Nelson also created many well-known characters as well on that program, the bassist from the Electric Mayhem band, one Sgt. Floyd Pepper, the star of the futuristically campy Pigs in Space segments, Dr. Julius Strangepork, and Kermit the Frog’s nephew Robin the Frog. Nelson also performed some characters on Fraggle Rock, the main character Gobo among others. He even performed as the voice of the announcer in last years theatrical rebirth of the Muppet film series franchise (entitled The Muppets) and his final role was performing said announcer in a Carnegie Hall performance of Jim Henson’s Musical World.
Above all, the work and wondrous talents of Jerry Nelson will always be remembered and revered by the millions of fans who grew up delighting and dazzling at his many memorable characters. In his death, a chapter of the delightful, wonderful, and incredible early era of Sesame Street now comes to a close. But his work will live on in the minds of his many fans and the videos which will never forget and always showcase the great puppeteer and artist, that was Jerry Nelson. RIP Jerry. Thanks for all the memories and laughs and education.
RIP – Jerry Nelson
July 10, 1934 – August 23, 2012