Sesame Saturday: Wild About Herry

The official Sesame Street Twitter account retweeted the following videos as part of a larger thread:

I cannot tell you how delighted I am to see Herry Monster back on the Street again. Of all the Sesame Street monsters, Herry is probably my favorite.

I mean, I love Grover and Cookie Monster, of COURSE I do, and I also have a great deal of affection for the Two-Headed Monster and for Telly…but Herry is something really special to me.

I actually seem to remember being a little scared of Herry when I was quite young. It’s understandable, of course; he had that gruff voice and that gigantic eyebrow, and in the early days, Jim Henson et al. purposely invoked his intimidation factor, only to subvert in the punchline of some of the first inserts to feature Herry. Perhaps some of those early inserts were still in circulation in the early ’80s when I was watching as a very small child.

But no one could ever watch Herry’s interactions with John-John and remain afraid of him. I don’t specifically remember the first time I saw a Herry and John-John insert, but Herry has had a special place in my heart ever since.

Whenever I think of Herry now, I always remember a bizarre incident from my high school days. We had an assembly, and there was a speaker there who asked us to name Sesame Street characters. If he (the speaker) called on you and you gave him the name of a Sesame Street character, he would make a comment or observation about the character and then invite you up on stage. When he was finished, he explained the point of his little exercise (which I don’t remember) and then I seem to remember everyone singing a Sesame Street song together, but I don’t remember specifically which one.

What I do remember is that a guy in my class was called upon to name a Sesame Street character, and he said “Herry Monster.” The speaker didn’t know what he was talking about and laughed at him. “‘Harry Monster’?” the speaker said incredulously. (He was speaking out loud, so I don’t know how he imagined it was spelled, but since “Harry” is a common spelling of a real name, I imagine that was probably where his mind went.) “What are you talking about? Did you just make that up?”

The speaker was an adult, but he didn’t seem much older than us. Herry was on Sesame Street a lot in the ’70s, so he would have had ample time to see and remember Herry if he was paying attention. 

(Although, to be fair, this was in the mid-to-late ’90s, prior to the advent of YouTube, so you couldn’t just call up old Sesame clips to watch online at will the way you can now.)

Even though the speaker was skeptical about the existence of Herry Monster, he still let the student come up on stage and participate, but I was incensed that the speaker had chastised and ridiculed him in front of the entire school when it was the speaker himself who was in the wrong. It was a small injustice, true, but it was nevertheless one that rankled me, both on behalf of the student and on behalf of Herry Monster.

All of us students were ’80s Sesame kids, and I seem to remember us all sort of looking askance at each other and whispering, “I remember Herry, don’t you?” “Yeah, Herry’s a real character.” “I thought so. This guy clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

I believed then, and I believe now, that Herry Monster deserves better.

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