Is Elmo Black? Kevin Clash Was Puppeteer of 'Sesame Street' Character For 28 Years

Elmo, one of the most well-known and beloved Sesame Street characters, became the subject of a viral meme this week which has led many internet users to ask if the puppeteer behind the famous puppet is Black.

Last week, Sesame Street debuted two Black muppets to educate the show's young viewers about race.

The characters are a Black dad Elijah and his son Wes have been introduced as part of the show's Coming Together, initiative, Sesame Workshop's ongoing commitment to racial justice.

In one video featuring the two new Muppets, Elmo wants to know why Wes's skin is brown.

Elmo
Elmo attends the 6th Annual Sesame Workshop Benefit Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on May 28, 2008 in New York City. Jason Kempin/Getty/WireImage

Elijah explains the concept of melanin and that the color of our skin is an important part of who we are.

Elijah reminds young viewers that "the color of our skin is an important part of who we are, but we should all know that it's OK we all look different in so very many ways."

Twitter user @TheDillonOne took a screenshot from the video and captioned it: "But what if Elmo is just singing along to Elmo's favorite song? Can Elmo say it then?"

"But what if Elmo is just singing along to Elmo's favorite song? Can Elmo say it then?" pic.twitter.com/AymNGPdMYz

— Ol' QWERTY Bastard (@TheDillonOne) March 29, 2021

The joke is poking fun at the debate around the use of the N-word in songs and the tweet has amassed more than 151,000 likes at the time of publishing.

Interestingly, however, the original voice of Elmo was Black puppeteer Kevin Clash who voiced the character for 28 years.

Clash resigned from Sesame Street in 2012 amid allegations of sexual impropriety, which he denied and were later dismissed due to the expiration of the statute of limitations.

Clash returned to puppeteering in the comedy The Happytime Murders.

Puppeteer Ryan Dillon, who is white, took over as Elmo in 2012 and won a Daytime Emmy Award for "Outstanding Principal Performance in a Daytime Program" for the special Sesame Street's 50th Anniversary Celebration.

"Working for Sesame Street is like working for the NBA, if you want to play basketball," Dillon said of working for the long-running children's show in 2017 to The Straits Times.

"Elmo specifically is all about love, he couldn't lie to somebody if he wanted to," he said of the character.

"He is just a genuine young kid who loves playing and being with kids, and they know he is just honest.

"Elmo is a legacy character, so a lot of his characteristics are built in already. But the real trick is finding the balance between keeping him true to who he is, without making him a stale copy of what came before.

"We are always trying to grow and make choices that will allow the character to grow, but not feel out of character."