The Paula Gordon Show
Life Rhymes

Jeff Moss

Jeff Moss was co-creator of "Sesame Street."With Jim Henson, he served both as head writer and composer/lyricist. The characters Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch and the song "Rubber Duckie" are all his off-spring, though he stresses the collaborative efforts required to create and sustain the children's television sensation for more than 25 years. Six of Jeff's children's books are currently in print, including his newest, Bone Poems, created with the assistance of the American Museum of Natural History, illustrated by Tom Leigh, and published by Workman Publishing, New York.

Jeff lives in New York City with his wife Annie, their six year old son and Rubber Duckie.

Excerpts3:42 secs

New York - Jeff Moss, one of the co-creators of "Sesame Street," believes 10 out of 10 kids will always choose a parent, grandparent, sibling or teacher over a television set. If the youngster can latch onto that chosen one, they may very well share one of Jeff's story books, song books or poetry books.

New York Newsday calls Jeff Moss the children's poet laureate. He served with Jim Henson as both head writer and composer/lyricist on "Sesame Street." Today, Jeff continues to contribute to "Sesame Street" and other MuppetĘ projects, while his best-selling children's stories and poems stand shoulder to shoulder with the Emmys, Grammys and his Academy Award nomination on his overflowing shelves.

Everything Jeff writes is meant for kids and adults alike -- kids are the "bull's eye" on his target, but teachers, librarian, parents and grandparent, college students and even his orthopedist are also welcome in Jeff Moss' universe.

Jeff's keenly aware that today's kids are awash in sensory inputs, subject to all kinds of stimuli which ought to give us all pause, including a lot that's on television. And he's mindful that our future is directly linked to the kinds of kids we're growing. So he writes about families and love and hate and sadness and delight, offering glimpses into the experience of being human.

In the end, it is the mark of Jeff's considerable art that all his creations seem inevitable. Like Cookie and Oscar. And Jeff holds tight to the notion that it's the simple things -- like the passion of a small green frog for his rubber duckie -- that make life sweet.

Now Jeff's walked down the street from his Manhattan apartment into the American Museum of Natural History. He's turned his respect, his wit and his discerning eye to the dinosaurs. What's their attraction? Maybe that we have a safe 65 million years separating us from their great size and their 150 million year reign on earth. (We've only just begun.) Whatever the inspiration, Jeff makes his poems about Stegosaurus look as effortless as "I Love Trash" sounds coming from Oscar the Grouch, as inevitable as the Muppets taking over Manhattan.

Why do Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch, Tyrannosaurus Rex and the yak's Jack have such power over young and old alike? Jeff Moss is confident we all share the same emotions -- joy, sadness, love and quirks -- no matter what our age. It's all in what we choose to obsess about!

Conversation 1

Jeff Moss tells Paula Gordon and Bill Russell stories from the days when he helped co-create "Sesame Street." Jeff recalls the excitement of working with the talented group of young people -- most of whom did not have children, with the notable exception of the "Muppets'" Jim Henson -- who came together with curriculum experts to create something brand new. Moss describes what he and Henson had in common.


Conversation 2

Jeff talks about the explosion of inputs to which our children are exposed, using his own 6 year old son as an example. He describes the obstacles "Sesame Street" did NOT have at the beginning and draws parallels to his own considerable success writing songs and books and theater that appeals to everyone, including children. He describes his work in the context of what he thinks of as having the freedom to fail. He describes the responsibilities many people had for the creation and success of "Sesame Street," talks about his own roots in "Captain Kangaroo," and brings us up into the present and the challenges of "licensing."


Conversation 3

Jeff describes the birth of Rubber Duckie, whom he thinks of as the Mick Jagger of children's television. He describes the three elements key to creating the now-famous Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Bert, Grover, Oscar, Miss Piggy and Fozzy Bear. Jeff makes the comparison between his own "obsessed" characters and those Joe Esterhaus creates.

Jeff is convinced children would always rather be with their parents, grandparents, siblings or a good teacher than with television. He assigns responsibility for our children's ever-shrinking attention spans. ╩He relates what he tells his son about television in general and commercials featuring his songs in particular.


Conversation 4

Jeff describes his whole audience, which he thinks of as having kids in the center of the target. He uses his newest book of poems about dinosaurs as an example of his wide appeal, including parents, librarians and teachers and orthopedists! He talks about the appeal of rhyme and how classical forms of poetry find their way into his work. He reads from Bone Poems, which was created with the cooperation of the American Museum of Natural History. He tells stories and reads poems from other children's classics he's written, six of which are currently in print. He tells what he's learned in writing them and why he has been so successful.


Conversation 5

Dinosaurs are the topic of conversation, safe at a distance of 65,000,000 years. Jeff tells about the impact dinosaurs have had on him and what we might all learn from the 150,000,000 years they ruled the earth. He reads us more dinosaur poems.

Jeff tells about his love of, adventures in and sadness about today's theater, suggesting that sporting events have replaced much of the communal experience once found in the theater. He talks about the economics of books, the theater, movies and sports.


Conversation 6

Jeff demonstrates how vastly different poems and the lyrics of songs are. He tells us about how the characters he helped create on "Sesame Street" make visible life's fundamentals. Characters like Oscar the Grouch and Cookie Monster take on lives totally independent of their creators, in part because they embody emotions shared by adults and children of all ages. Jeff reiterates his great respect for our children, who will carry us into the future.


Acknowledgements

Jeff greeted us at the door of his New York City apartment with charm and enthusiasm undiminished by the flurry of activity. Balancing the rest of his life with the demands of the latest book tour, we set up in Jeff's studio while he and his sister-in-law polished a demo of the song he had written for Celene Dion to perform on "Sesame Street." His son relinquished time and space to us, and Jeff's wife Annie arrived with cookies and iced coffee! We thank them all for their enthusiastic welcome.



Additional Links:
American Museum of Natural History


A Bone Poem
Excerpts
:52 secs

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