Big Bird is based on what I learned as a child.
When he first started - Jim Henson, who created Bid Bird and Oscar - he said Big Bird was just a big, goofy guy. And it was - a script came along and I said, 'I think Big Bird would be much more useful to the show if he were a child learning all the things we were teaching in the show.' And so he didn't know the alphabet, even, for instance.
I've played Big Bird for over half my life, and now I'm in my 80s. It does feel older than 79. Someone said it's just a number, and I said, 'No, I genuinely feel older.'
Big Bird went through his very human kind of struggles as a child. No other children's character has been that complete and detailed.
I found out animation is incredibly boring. You draw and draw and draw, and it's only a few seconds done in a week.
When I got to New York, I had no place to sleep. The pay from 'Sesame Street' wasn't enough to rent an apartment. I was staying on people's couches. I stayed in the dressing room until they found out. I stayed with Jim Henson and his family for a week, and I wanted to do that permanently. I didn't dare ask, though.
Oscar is the exact opposite of how I think you should behave. I just think of it as a negative view of the positive mind I have. Big Bird is sweet and nice and also sympathetic, as kids can identify with him even though he looks like such a bizarre character - great 8 feet 2 inches, a beak 18 inches long.
I was asked to be on 'The Colbert Report' last year as Big Bird and Oscar. But when we got there, we discovered they wanted both characters on at the same time. Stephen Colbert didn't know one man plays them both. We called Joey Mazzarino, our head writer, who's a very good puppeteer as well. He agreed to zip over and do Oscar.