A Sesame Street and Electric Company Writer

When I was younger we only had 3 channels. The CBS channel was fuzzy so we had ABC, NBC and PBS.

As a kid, the closest I got to see cartoons on a weekday was watching the educational show that were on the PBS channel. So I watched Sesame Street because it was funny. Much of it was well below me but still it was animated. The Big Bird and Mr. Hooper bickering back and forth was fun. This was also before we thought anything about Burt and Ernie’s relationship. I bought Erine’s Rubber Duckie single when it came out on 45.

But the one show that really floored me was one called The Electric Company.

I will still sing songs from that show. “Yeah we would all be in a mess, if we didn’t have “S” to put at the end of a word..” or “I like fish food; you do, too, Don’t look now, your hair is blue” or even “ Your rich Uncle died and left you all his M—–“ Comedy was the way to educate on the show as you had Jennifer of the Jungle, the Six dollar and thirty-nine cent man, or the adventure of Letterman. They even had Spider-man and the Blue Beetle on the show ( Not the DC comic hero) .

The original cast included Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno (it was Moreno who screamed “Hey, you guyyyyys!!” to open the show) Bill Cosby, Judy Graubart, Lee Chamberlin, and Skip Hinnant. Most of the cast had done stage, repertory, and improv work, with Cosby and Moreno already well-known from film and television at that time.
Can you believe Morgan Freeman as a character called Easy Reader?

The reason I am remembering that show is because the writer for “The Electric Company and “Sesame Street “ has taken his Final Taxi .

Jim Thurman was an Emmy-award winning children’s television writer. He was one of a team of writers for Children’s Television Workshop during the early years.

Besides “Sesame Street,” & “The Electric Company,” Thurman wrote for “321 Contact.” He also wrote sketches for Jim Henson’s “The Muppet Show,” and performed voices such as “Sesame Street’s” Teeny Little Super Guy.

Thurman helped kids have fun with math as co-creator of “Square One TV.” As senior producer and head writer, he helped create the Mathnet segments, a parody of “Dragnet” featuring calculator-toting detectives.

Joan Ganz Cooney, founder and former president of Children’s Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop) said, “Jim was a stalwart spirit within the Workshop. He was important not only for what he produced but for the positive spirit he had as he did it. He was an utter joy to work with, and was truly funny.”

Jim Thurman began his career in advertising in Los Angeles where he and writing partner, the late Gene Moss, formed a boutique ad agency, Creative Advertising Stuff. His comedy writing ability soon led him to television comedy, where he wrote for Bob Hope, Dean Martin, Carol Burnett, Bill Cosby and Bob Newhart.

With Moss he also wrote and provided voices for “Shrimpenstein,” a satirical children’s television program that aired in Los Angeles during the late 1960s. The two also wrote all 156 episodes and provided voices for the syndicated cartoon, “Roger Ramjet.”

If you have never seen a episode of Roger Ramjet go to YouTube and find one. If you are a fan of the comedy of the carton show Rocky and Bullwinkle and the like this is a must watch!

I found a VHS of it years back and loved it. I bought the DVD when it came out. It’s fantastic. I think Cartoon Network aired it at on point.

If you don’t think Jim Thurman touch people lives, your wrong. One thing he wrote that is still being used today in comedy bits is the “Soft Shoe Silhouettes.”

Two cast members of the Electric Company would appeared in silhouette, one giving the prefix of the word, the other the suffix, to form a new word (e.g., “th-” and “-ing” to form “thing”). Done twice through, sometimes with the viewer trying to read the word the second time through. The song usually ended with the two saying a soft “yeah!”

On MadTV they depicted Big Bird catching and spreading avian flu (Bird Flu) on the street. The silhouetted characters sounded out the words “flu,” “fever,” and “fatal.”

And in a recent Family Guy, Peter was one of the silhouetted characters reading the words. He quickly became frustrated at his inability to keep up with the other character, and attacked him.

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2 Responses

  1. Nice web site:D Hope to definitely come back again soon..

  2. Hey!

    I still remember “Your rich uncle died,” and sing it to my kids. The tune is crystal clear in my head. I was hoping to find a video of it on YouTube — no such luck. But thanks for validating my reality!

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