Remembering Big Bird’s Puppeteer Caroll Spinney

31st December 2019

Taking a moment to look back at a past Bullseye guest we lost this year, Caroll Spinney. He was Big Bird’s puppeteer for 50 years, but he was so much more than the literal man inside the costume. Caroll was the voice and spirit of the iconic character many of us grew up watching. In this conversation director Dave LaMattina also joined us to discuss his documentary, I am Big Bird.

Episode notes

Courtesy of Sesame Workshop / Photographer Robert Fuhring


Caroll Spinney on playing Big Bird and Dave LaMattina on his documentary I am Big Bird

Just hearing the name Big Bird sends many of us swirling down memory lane. Maybe you remember watching him on Sesame Street with your mom or your best friend after school. Or maybe you remember his quirky and educational tunes like, ABC-DEF-GHI, or adventures to far-off places like the Great Wall of China.

For over five decades, one person voiced and controlled Big Bird: Caroll Spinney. He was not only the literal man who navigated the bulky 8-foot costume, but also the voice and spirit of the iconic character.

Caroll retired in 2018 and passed away this past December. When he came on our show back in 2014, Dave LaMattina had just made a documentary about him, I am Big Bird. The film is a portrait of Caroll’s life and contributions to Sesame Street as both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.

In this interview, Caroll tells us about the first puppet show he ever did, back when he was a kid. LaMattina talks about creating a documentary around Spinney, and what it’s like today, watching Big Bird as a parent.

If you missed I am Big Bird in theaters, its available to watch on Amazon, Youtube and other streaming websites.

Click here to listen to this interview on YouTube.

This interview originally aired June 2014.

In this episode...

Senior Producer
Maximum Fun Producer
Maximum Fun Production Fellow


  • Caroll Spinney
  • Dave LaMattina

About the show

Bullseye is a celebration of the best of arts and culture in public radio form. Host Jesse Thorn sifts the wheat from the chaff to bring you in-depth interviews with the most revered and revolutionary minds in our culture.

Bullseye has been featured in Time, The New York Times, GQ and McSweeney’s, which called it “the kind of show people listen to in a more perfect world.” Since April 2013, the show has been distributed by NPR.

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Senior Producer


Maximum Fun Producer

Maximum Fun Production Fellow

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