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Before Cookie Monster Ate Cookies, He Munched on Frito Lays and Coffee Machines

Photo Credit: Georg Wendt / picture alliance via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Georg Wendt / picture alliance via Getty Images

“What does C stand for?” For those of us who grew up watching Sesame Street, the answer is obvious: Cookie!

Cookie Monster made his first appearance on Sesame Street on November 9, 1969. However, he had already starred in commercials in various other guises, from devouring coffee machines to eating Frito-Lays.

The Wheel-Steeler

Jim Henson sitting in a theater chair
Portrait of American puppeteer Jim Henson sitting in a theater chair in front of a painting of his creation, The Muppets. (Photo Credit: Nancy R. Schiff/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Before Jim Henson was given the go-ahead for ground-breaking shows like The Muppets and Sesame Street, he started out by making puppets for commercials.

According to the book Jim Henson’s Designs and Doodles: “In 1966, Henson drew three monsters that ate cookies and appeared in a General Foods commercial that featured three crunchy snack foods: Wheels, Crowns, and Flutes. Each snack was represented by a different monster. The Wheel-Stealer was a short, fuzzy monster with wonky eyes and sharply pointed teeth. The Flute-Snatcher was a speed demon with a long, sharp nose and windblown hair. The Crown-Grabber was a hulk of a monster with a Boris Karloff accent and teeth that resembled giant knitting needles.”

Unfortunately, the adverts featuring these creations never aired (although they are available to watch on YouTube), and so Henson repurposed his designs for other uses. The Crown-Grabber appeared in a sketch on The Ed Sullivan Show while the Flute-Snatcher became Snake Frackle, appearing in the background of The Great Santa Claus Switch and The Muppet Show.

However, it was the Wheel-Stealer that would go on to entertain millions of children as the Cookie Monster.

“Me like coffee machines!”

However, before the Wheel-Stealer became Cookie Monster, he had another couple of incarnations to go. His next gig was in an IBM training film entitled Coffee Break Machine. The sketch also went on to be performed on The Ed Sullivan Show in October 1967.

While the coffee machine talks to Cookie Monster through its different features, Cookie Monster proceeds to eat each feature in turn.

As Cookie Monster chows down on the final elements, the machine says: “Your computerized coffee machine is equipped to ward off vandals. If this machine is damaged in any way, the unit has a hair-trigger boobytrap mechanism filled with the most powerful explosive known to man.” The machine – and the monster – then explode.

When it appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, the run-time of this skit had doubled from around two minutes to four minutes, but the explosive ending remained the same.

Arnold the Munching Monster

His final incarnation before becoming Cookie Monster was as Arnold the Munching Monster, advertising Munchos by Frito-Lay.

Henson had a contract to do three commercials for Frito-Lay, and so he brought out his munching monster once again. In this latest installment, the monster has lost his teeth and seems far more like the Cookie Monster we know and love.

Although Henson was given the option to renew his contract with Frito-Lay, by this time he was working on Sesame Street and he wanted to concentrate on that instead (lucky for children everywhere that he did).

Cookie Monster finally hits our screens

Frank Oz manning the Cookie Monster puppet
The cookie Monster and his companion; Frank Oz. (Photo Credit: Jeff Goode / Toronto Star via Getty Images)

According to Frank Oz, this monster earned his name because, on a quiz show sketch, he won a choice of prizes: $10,000 cash, a new car, a trip to Hawaii, or a cookie. We all know how this ends…

Cookie Monster is responsible for one of the best-known songs from Sesame Street: “C is for Cookie,” which aired in the early 1970s. It was one of the few sketches to be directed by Jim Henson himself, with Frank Oz voicing the Cookie Monster while Joe Raposo was responsible for the music and lyrics.

He eats rice cakes rather than cookies

A Puppet 'Cookie Monster' character
A Puppet ‘Cookie Monster’ character of the famous TV series Sesame Street is displayed during an exhibition in memory of American puppeteer and movie director Jim Henson at the Museum of Moving Images at the Astoria district of New York, United States on July 31, 2017.
(Photo by Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Over the years, we’ve learned a lot about one of our favorite monsters. In 2007, it was revealed that his real name was actually “Sidney Monster” and that Cookie Monster was just a nickname that stuck.

The cookies he’s so crazy about are, alas, not cookies – they’re rice cakes. According to the National Museum of American History, this is because the oils used in the cookies would damage the puppet. He is able to “eat” the cookies because there is a hole in his mouth that allows the cookies to run down the performer’s sleeve.

Cookie Monster has an extensive family

More than 20 puppets and props donated from the Jim Henson Family including Miss Piggy, Elmo, Ernie, Bert, Cookie Monster, Count Von Count, and Prairie Dawn during a ceremony at National Museum Of American History on September 24, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo Credit: Kris Connor/Getty Images)
More than 20 puppets and props donated from the Jim Henson Family including Miss Piggy, Elmo, Ernie, Bert, Cookie Monster, Count Von Count, and Prairie Dawn during a ceremony at National Museum Of American History on September 24, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo Credit: Kris Connor/Getty Images)

Other members of his family have been introduced so that he has a mother, father, a younger sister, and various cousins. However, several of them are not as keen on cookies as he is.

When his baby cousin was introduced in an episode of Sesame Street, it appeared that she did not like cookies at all. Instead, she preferred what Ernie brought her: a carrot, an apple, and some celery.

When another cousin came to visit, Cookie Monster tried to encourage them to fetch something wonderful beginning with C from the kitchen. His cousin brought him a carrot, a cucumber, a cauliflower, some corn, and then “Cousin Monster.”

Finally, in 2016, the CBeebies show The Furchester Hotel introduced the newest member of the family: Cookie Monster’s British cousin named Biscuit Monster, who seemed to share Cookie Monster’s love of snacks.

Cookies as a “sometimes food”

With concerns about childhood obesity on the minds of many, some questioned how relevant Cookie Monster might be today.

But Cookie Monster put such fears to rest when he appeared on Martha Stewart’s show in 2007 where he explained that “Cookies are a sometimes food.”

More from us: Kermit The Frog Addressed Congress And Other Amazing Muppet Facts

Cookie Monster staunchly remains a beloved children’s character, and his popularity means that he’s appeared alongside some great names over the years. Perhaps the most memorable appearance was his segment with the veteran star of stage and screen Sir Ian McKellen where the two of them talk about what the word “resist” means.

Charlotte Bond

Charlotte Bond is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News