Best of the Day: I Am Big Bird – May 18, 2015

Who’s the man in the bird suit? A new documentary takes a look at 81-year-old Muppeteer (and Waltham native) Caroll Spinney.

Welcome to Best of the Day, our daily recommendation for what to check out around town. If you do one thing in Boston today, consider this.


Caroll Spinney in I Am Big Bird

Caroll Spinney, as featured in documentary I Am Big Bird / Courtesy photo

The magic of the Muppets is that, with a little puppeteer alchemy, suddenly a heap of gaudy yellow feathers and a pile of green faux fur transform into a character capable of becoming as indelibly etched into our memory as any living person. If Sesame Street was part of your childhood (and considering the show’s incredible 45-year run, that would account for pretty much everyone reading this), just hearing the voice of Oscar the Grouch singing “I Love Trash” is enough to send us into a Proustian reverie. And for that, we can thank Caroll Spinney, the 81-year-old puppeteer who’s been playing Oscar and Big Bird on Sesame Street since 1969. You need only read Spinney’s Reddit AMA—in which he recounts his heartbreaking encounter with a terminally ill 5-year-old—to understand the impact of his work over the decades. Now there’s a new documentary devoted to the man inside the bird suit.

A Waltham native, Spinney got his start in television on the Boston broadcast of Bozo’s Big Top. Soon after, he attracted the notice of Jim Henson, later landing a spot on Sesame Street. What happened next is chronicled in a new documentary, I Am Big Bird. With last Saturday marking the 25th anniversary of Henson’s untimely death, I Am Big Bird shows us how Spinney, now one of Sesame Street’s longest-running cast members, continues to carry the torch. The film opened at the Brattle this weekend; tonight is your last chance to catch Big Bird on the big screen.

$8-$11, May 18, 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Brattle Theatre, 40 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617-876-6837, brattlefilm.org.