I can still remember that magical Christmas eve back in the early ’70s – OK they were all magical but this is the one that I remember most especially – when I work up at 2 a.m. and quietly checked the pillow cases hung at the end of our beds that were, by now, stuffed full of special gifts for my sister and I.
They were supposedly the precursors to the presents sitting under the tree but when I spied a Grover hand puppet sitting atop the bag, his arm hanging engagingly over the side, that was Christmas made then and there.
Grover came with me everywhere that Christmas day, and in the weeks and months that followed, the ever-present physical manifestation of a love affair that began a few years earlier when Sesame Street, made by the nonprofit Sesame Workshop (then Childrens’ Television Workshop) debuted on Australian television.
And years later, when I found out to my intense dismay that Grover had somehow gone missing from my carefully-curated boxes of childhood toys and books – I am one of those rare people whose kept pretty much everything he had as a child; yes I am hopelessly sentimental – my sadness knew no bounds.
He was my favourite Sesame Street character by a long way – sorry Ernie & Bert, Big Bird and Oscar but that’s the way it is – and his loss, well his puppet’s loss anyway, tore a big hole in my childhood memories, one that was only patched a year or so ago when Grover popped up in a box of miscellaneous odd-and-ends in the shed in mum and dad’s backyard and we were reunited.
So what was it about goofy, enthusiastic, amusingly easily-bamboozled Grover that so enchanted me almost from the moment I saw him and what it is that keeps me a devoted fan well after I have slipped the bonds of Sesame Street’s core demographic?
Grover is endlessly enthusiastic and eager to learn
Yes I know, you can say that pretty every muppet on Sesame Street is upbeat, excited and eager to learn all about, well, everything.
They’re on a show that squarely aimed at getting kids enthused about learning and turning that initial flicker of excitement into a lifelong flame.
But there is something deeply endearing about the way Grover approaches all the things he gets to learn about; for him, this is absolutely the best thing ever and his enthusiasm is contagious.
Sure he might not quite get the concept straight away but he always gives it a red hot go and when you’re helping kids understand that learning is all about giving it a shot even if you don’t succeed straight away, a character like Grover is indispensable.
And even when he does get it, such as in the video below, he gives his absolute all to make the teaching of in this case disco ABCs as much fun as Grover-ly possible.
How could you not want to learn when your learning partner goes all out to make it as entertaining and engaging as possible?
Especially when he collapses from exhaustion doing it.
That’s true commitment to learning, and to life.
How can you not love that?
Grover has a not-so-secret alter-ego
Good old Super Grover!
His heart is always in the right place but his superhero skills? Not so much.
His landings are pretty hit-and-miss, his ability to solve problems suspect at best, and the people in peril he tries to help usually end up solving their own problems while ineptly does his best to effect a solution.
He’s not in the same league as Superman – although he appeared in all kinds of Superman spoofs in the ’70s and ’80s, his alter ego Grover Kent who was introduced with the stirring line “Presenting the further adventures of everybody’s favorite hero. A man who is faster than lightning, stronger than steel, smarter than a speeding bullet. It’s… SUPERGROVER!” – or Batman or anyone of their ilk but you can’t help but love the fact that he wants to do what he can to get someone out of their predicament.
He might not be the solution but he sure as heck tries to be one, and in life, that’s way better than not trying at all.
Grover is an accomplished actor
Not only does he eagerly teach kids all kinds of cool things, and do his best to help them when they’re in a pickle but he’s also a highly regarded actor – OK that might be stretching on a general basis but I love him in every role he plays – who’s appeared in whole heaps of Sesame Street‘s imaginative pop culture parodies.
Take his star turn as the accidental king in the Game of Thrones parody Game of Chairs, or his delightful take on the Old Spice guy from those memorable ads.
I know Cookie Monster gets the monster-share of those roles now, and yes he is very good, but Grover will always be my spoofy thespian.
He’s never fazed when he and the program aren’t so with each other as miles and miles apart, and throws himself completely into his roles, befuddlement or no.
Matt Damon, Ryan Reynolds, Sandra Bullock, Meryl Streep … all impressive actors true but none holds a shining Oscar statuette to Grover.