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January 29, 2016

Make America HATE Again: Ronald Grump on Sesame Street

Filed under: Feature,Fun Stuff — Tags: , — Louie Pearlman @ 12:00 pm

After what feels like endless news-cycles, the first Republican primary is this week! Whoo-hoo! The grand state of Iowa will be voting for our next Republican Presidential candidate on February first. We’ve had our share of interesting Republicans candidates this time around (who can forget Jeb Bush? Everyone? Yep. Everyone.), but there’s one that’s been hogging the spotlight. I’m not even going to try to make a joke here. I’m obviously talking about Donald Trump.

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Trump’s wack-o political views, terrifying hair and even-more-terrifyingly simple and dangerous rhetoric has made him the perfect resource for our ADD election news-cycles and a great-choice-candidate for people who don’t want to be thinking when they are making important decisions… like who they are voting for for President.

For a long time, Trump has been considered an entertaining part of our media/TV landscape and for even longer we’ve had an awareness of him as a really rich guy who owns a lot of high-rises and casinos.

However, there is one source that has always recognized Trump for being the absolute villain that he obviously is and that’s Sesame Street. Sesame Street has been touting the dangers of a Trump Presidency since the late eighties!

In fact, Sesame Street has parodied Trump three different time during the show’s history, as a way of forewarning us of this country’s upcoming political lunacy.

It all started with 1988’s episode 2399: In this episode “Ronald Grump” (see what Sesame Street’s writers did there? Brilliant.) is a greedy Grouch land developer who builds a mega-complex of trashcans around Oscar’s home. He promises Oscar an incredible Grouch living situation and instead lies and screws him over in his deal.

When the episode opens, Ronald breezes into Sesame Street to introduce himself to Oscar. Oscar is thrilled to meet Grump and says “You’re the Grouch who built the swamp in a day!” If the actual Donald Trump was creating much needed swampland in this great country of ours, I might like him more.

What’s interesting about Ronald Grump is how much he immediately screams “bad guy”. He’s got a mean-sounding voice and loud clothing including a bowtie that would make Fozzie Bear blush. It’s obvious to the audience right away that this is a bad, sleazy guy. Ronald Grump is written with a clarity for kids to understand and they immediately know we’re not supposed to be rooting for him. Maybe if Trump’s out-of-touch voter-base had paid more attention to their Sesame Street, they would have realized from the get-go that Trump is bad news for them, but alas!

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Ronald promises to build Oscar “Grump Towers” – a big trashcan multi-plex on Oscar’s lot, offering him a lot more room to live in and Grouch neighbors. Maria immediately figures out it’s a bad deal! It’s no surprise that one of Sesame Street’s diverse community members would figure out that Ronald is bad news right away. But Oscar doesn’t heed Maria’s advice, like always, and signs a contract with Grump.

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After our act break, Grump Tower is built! Oscar is at first having a blast, much to Maria and Luis’ shock and concern, living with other Grouches and having more room for his elephant Fluffy and Slimey the worm, until Ronald Grump reveals that there are no pets allowed in Grump Towers. When Oscar wants to break his contract, Ronald demands forty bags of trash, as per the contract. That’s what you get when you sign-on with someone promising things too-good-to-be true, Oscar! LET THAT BE A LESSON FOR US ALL.

Oscar can’t afford forty bags of trash and freaks out. Trash is apparently a Grouch currency? How does the Grouch economy work? And what’s the exchange-rate on, say, sludge or shmutz? Doesn’t everyone want to know this? Only me?

Feeling bad for Oscar’s predicament, the gang all pitch their garbage into the cause, effectively buying out Ronald Grump’s contract. In a beautiful moment of empowerment, Maria, the symbol for a sane and responsible America, crumples the contract and throws it in a bag, creating the final bag of trash needed to seal the deal. Sesame Street is free from Ronald Grump… for now.

But wait! A character named Ronald Grump shows up again on Sesame Street, in human form no less, in 1994’s 25th anniversary special Sesame Street All-Star 25th Birthday: Stars and Street Forever!

This special is the most nineties TV special that ever nineties in the nineties. The all-star credits sequence features stills with Saved by the Bell-esque animated squiggles around the cast members including Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Susan Sarandon! What follows is a loosely-strung together series of montages and recaps from the first twenty-five years of the show, all bookended with Louis-Dreyfus playing a newscaster Kathy Lee Kathy, which is not as funny a parody name as Baa Baa Waa Waa, but will do fine. Speaking of which, Barbara Walters is in this special too. Because if there’s anything kids and their parents will like, it’s news-themed segments on a Sesame Street special!

The major plot-point beyond all the clips compilations (this is an anniversary special, after all) is that land-developer Ronald Grump, played this time by the yellingly delightful Joe Pesci, wants to build a giant condo on Sesame Street and name it… you guessed it… Grump Towers. On the hair front, Pesci’s hair is high, but not as high as the Don’s and certainly not as high as Peci’s own hair in Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker.

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Eeek.

The first time we see Ronald Grump in the special he’s hanging out on Sesame Street promising the people that live there “The finer things.” But when the members of Sesame street show their skepticism, Ronald immediately gets angry and demands everyone out of Sesame Street in two weeks!

It seems like everyone on the Street is hip to Grump’s ways and gets immediately understandably incensed, except for Benny Rabbit. I don’t know if you remember Benny, but he was a sour little Muppet that used to be the doorman at Sesame Street’s Furry Arms Hotel. Imagine Bean Bunny from Jim Henson Hour and Tales of The Bunny Picnic dropped into a vat of acid and you’ve got Benny.

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Benny tries to suck up to Ronald to get a job as doorman of Grump Towers, but when Ronald reveals that he’s only using automated doormen (“No overtime! No wages!”), Benny gets just as pissed as everyone else. Oh, poor downtrodden Benny Rabbit: thinking that Grump will be good for him when supporting him is actually the worst possible thing he could do! Hrm…

Next up Susan Sarandon and Charles Grodin show up to play one-percenters who are looking at Grump Towers as a possible new spot for an apartment, but they are scared away by Slimey, Oscar’s worm, and demand to go home. Who would be scared by cute little Slimey?

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It’s at this point that it’s revealed that Oscar isn’t going to let Grump build, because he is not moving from his trashcan, which is on city property.

What follows are some charming cameos from John Goodman, a dude from LA Law… I think? and Rosie O’Donnell in a giant bubble-gum flavored bubble playing a parody of Glinda the Good from The Wizard of Oz. It’s a shame that Rosie doesn’t share any screen-time with Ronald Grump and in order to parody their famous feud. There’s also a terrifying hyperactive segment with Rhea Perlman and Danny Devito playing worms hosting their own MTV-style channel for worms? The less said about this part the better. Once I’m done my current epileptic seizure, I’ll continue this recap.

I’m ready.

Finally, everyone in Sesame Street decides to exercise their right to protest, and holds a rally to save Sesame Street. Ronald tries a last-ditch attempt to achieve his schemes by offering Oscar a nicer trashcan somewhere else, but Oscar won’t move! This means that Grump can’t build his Grump towers and Sesame Street is saved! Hoorah! If only there was a simple way for us to keep Donald Trump from getting elected President. Oh wait, there is: don’t vote for him in these Primaries.

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The whole long and emotionally draining special ends with an overly-busy arrangement of the classic Sesame Street song “Sing”. Although Grump claims to “hate sentiment”, by the end of the song, he is won over and sings along. Let’s all try singing “Sing” to Donald at one of his upcoming rallies and see what happens. Just get ready for some thuggish security guards to either sing along… or rough us up.

A Donald Trump-like character appeared one more time on Sesame Street, in episode 4104 from the halcyon days of 2005. This Muppet is known as DONALD Grump and this time we’re in a sharp and funny parody of Trump’s reality TV drivel: The Apprentice.

The episode starts with a bunch of Grouches, including Oscar and Grundgetta sitting around a table. They all sing a swingin Broadway-style song about how Donald Grump has more trash than any other Grouch. Again, it seems like the Grouches use trash as currency, but it’s not explained what the exchange-rate is and I DEMAND TO KNOW.

At the apex of the song, Donald Grump pops out of his garbage can, bizarre bright Beaker-orange toupee and all and screams “I’m Donald Grump and I have more trash than all of you so nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah!” to which all the other Grouches reply “Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah!” which is a PERFECT summation of Trump and his followers.

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After that, he fires two Grouches right away for no good reason. Wasn’t it great when the most scary thing about Trump was his ability to fake-fire people who weren’t really working for him in the first place on his goofy cartoon-of-a-reality-show?

It turns out that Grump is looking for an apprentice and Elmo volunteers, much to Oscar and Grundgetta’s chagrin. Grump decides to have them compete with each other over who gets to be his apprentice. He makes the contestants of this grim display of allegiance to a false god fit trash in his bucket and sort through his rotting sneakers. Ya know, rich Grouch stuff. Elmo rocks it with his plucky perseverance while Oscar and Grundgetta argue the whole time about who would do a better job of completing these simplistic tasks, hypothetically, of course. Just like a couple of Trump… er I mean Grump supporters to live in a world of hypotheticals where they don’t actually have to think about how to accomplish anything actually productive.

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Welp, Elmo wins, but he’s too perfect an apprentice for Grump, so he gets fired. Elmo isn’t upset as he has too many other friends on Sesame Street. He doesn’t need approval from a phony. Another wise-Sesame Street lesson. He takes Grump’s wild orange toupee as a souvenir and leaves the scene to go to a Bernie Sanders rally or something.

Grump tries to hire Oscar and Grundgetta, but they actually don’t want to do any work, so they finally come to their senses in this episode and fire him! Grump leaves by taxi and we think that’s the last we’ll see of him in the episode.

But! The sting on the end of the episode features Donald Grump meeting a Donald Trump parody Muppet:

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OK – so the only concept more terrifying than one Trump is two. We’ve got a Trumpception happening here, one that could render reality asunder with the magnitude of hot air that could spew forth from both these guys at once. What a scary thing to happen in a show for kids.

Sesame Street has truly given us a Trump parody for all seasons. If you like to see Joe Pesci get pouty when defeated and have the Sesame Street gang lookin’ all fly nineties while doing it, then the 25th Anniversary Special is for you. If you like your Trump’s grouchier and a little less scary, then I’d head over to episode 2399. Finally, if you want to witness the culmination of all of my scariest dreams and see two versions of Trump onscreen at once then watch episode 4104, if you dare.

I would be happier with any of the Sesame Street parody versions of Trump running in this election. The real-life Trump is much scarier. We’ll soon see if he will get the nomination he’s so does not deserve. If he does, I might be hugging my Tickle-Me-Elmo a little tighter, at least until the general election!

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by Louie Pearlman



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