Fatherly once ran a terrific interview with Sesame Street Head Writer (and the man behind Murray the Monster) Joey Mazzarino. The main topic of conversation revolved around observations Mazzarino has made during his career about parenting and interacting with children in general. One of the key takeaways is how important and amazing it is for parents to play with their children in a way that corrals them within the realm of the kid's imagination.
Mazzarino sees it all the time on set when child actors unconsciously suspend their disbelief and begin interacting with his character as if he's real:
"I remember I was talking to a girl once, she was probably 11, and before we started the interview with Murray she said, 'Don't worry, I won't tell anyone you're the one who holds Murray.' She knew I was under there and after 5 minutes she was asking Murray if he'd come to her house for a play date. She just lost that knowledge that he wasn't real. As a dad, I love getting into that space where I'm a kid with my kid, that place where you just imagine and have fun and don't think about work."
The real magic behind the Muppets -- and really, the key in theory to all puppetry -- is the manifestation of empathy for things your logical brain knows are nothing more than manipulated cloth and yarn. As educational tools, the characters on Sesame Street promote oral communication skills, instill important life lessons, and engage children's sense of wonder. Mazzarino stresses that these interactions need not end when Sesame Street isn't on television. His best advice to parents is to get their own puppet:
"Don't be afraid to get silly, to make something talk. Be a kid with your kids and get into their world."
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Below, Brian Henson discusses his father's legacy in a Big Think clip from several years ago: