When Time Out Kids was offered a phone interview with Elmo, we jumped at the chance. The prospect of chatting with the reddest, hairiest monster in showbiz sounded like fun. Of course, discussing the alphabet for half an hour held little appeal; but, unfortunately, even though Elmo was getting US$500 (his minimum interview fee) to talk to us, we were still issued with no-go areas.
Our proposal of quizzing him on such subjects as house prices on the Street and the inauguration of America’s new president was met with a stern reply: ‘Elmo will not be discussing the recession or Obama. Please bear in mind he is only three-and-a-half.’ Thus it was with some trepidation that we approached our interview with the biggest diva in puppetry…
Hi Elmo, how are you today?
Elmo’s great. It’s really snowing here so Elmo can’t wait to go out and play. Do you have snow there too?
No – we live in a desert.
Oh great! Elmo wishes he was there [laughs]. Elmo would love to come to Dubai. I’ve heard it’s so wonderful there!
How are things on Sesame Street, has the recession hit the area?
On Sesame Street? No! Because it’s a wonderful place where everything is always cool. Everyone wants to live on Sesame Street. [Ironically, it was revealed just nine days later that 20 per cent of Sesame Street’s production company was to be made redundant as a result of the economic downturn.]
You’ve met a lot of famous people – who’s been your favourite?
Elmo has a lot of favourite friends, like Whoopi Goldberg. She’s so cool! She’s all about really loving what you look like and who you are. Elmo wanted to have dreads like Whoopi Goldberg and Elmo wanted to have her skin, but she said, ‘Elmo, do you like your fur?’ and Elmo said, ‘Yes.’ ‘Elmo, do you like your colour?’ And Elmo said, ‘Yes,’ and then she said, ‘Well you should be proud of what you look like!’
If you had to be stranded on a desert island with someone, who would it be and why?
Hmm, let’s see, that’s a good question. Um… probably, um, let’s see. Hmm. Boy that’s a hard question! Who hosted the Oscars?
I don’t know.
[Talking to PR, who’s also on the line] Who was it Mr Phil? [PR says it was Hugh Jackman.] If Elmo was on a desert island with anyone, he would want it to be Hugh Jackman!
Because he’s so cool!
You can’t think he’s that cool if you don’t know his name.
Elmo just couldn’t remember his name. But he’s so cool! He’s from Australia and there’s a lot of stuff to do in Australia that’s really physical. Hugh and me would be able to take care of each other. [Laughs]
The mind boggles. What do you like about Australia?
Elmo loves everything about Australia! Especially the kangaroos. Elmo loves them because they’re really funny [laughs].
I heard that you went inside a kangaroo’s pouch once.
Yes it was fun! What a way to travel.
Tell me a secret about Sesame Street.
Hmm… a secret… Hmm… Boy you have good questions! [Laughs] Let’s see. Umm… a secret. Hmm… Sesame Street doesn’t have any secrets!
None at all?
No, not on Sesame Street! We don’t have any secrets.
Don’t you have any of your own?
Elmo has one secret – but it’s more about Oscar really.
Go on, tell us.
He’s really not that grouchy underneath. He’s more grouchy on the outside than the inside. But please don’t tell him, he’ll be mad with Elmo.
OK. What’s your favourite food?
Elmo’s favourite food is wasabi.
That’s a very hot food for a three-and-a-half year old.
That’s why Elmo doesn’t have any eyelids! [Laughs] Elmo has it with sushi. But wasabi is a sometime food. You can’t have it all the time.
Because it’s not good to eat it all the time. There are foods that you can eat all the time, like fruit and vegetables, and foods that you can eat sometimes.
What’s your favourite drink?
That’s pretty boring.
No no, because you can put orange juice in it, you can put lime, lemon…
I understand that you’re potty trained now.
Yes, Elmo is now. [Laughs.]
Do you have any tips for kids who are trying to learn?
Just be patient. Sometimes you make mistakes, but keep at it and you’ll learn.
Who taught you?
My mummy and daddy!
So you live with your mummy and daddy?
[Incredulously] Of course!
Oh… I wasn’t sure because we don’t see much of them on Sesame Street.
No, mum and dad are always here, they just don’t like being on camera all the time. They’re shy.
How old do you want to be when you get married?
Who would be your ideal wife?
Somebody that loves to draw with crayons and somebody that likes fish because Elmo has a pet goldfish named Dorothy. She just has to be a really nice person. Someone like Julia Roberts.
How about someone a bit closer to your own age?
Dakota Fanning. She’s so cool.
Were you pleased about Obama’s presidential victory?
I was excited.
Do you think America having a black president opens the gates for red hairy presidents in the future?
[Laughs] It’s a possibility now. Maybe Elmo’s dad will be president one day!
How about Elmo himself?
Oh, Elmo’s never thought about being the president.
Because it’s a very hard job. And a very important job, too.
But you’re pretty well-practised in public speaking. That’s a big part of the job.
Elmo likes talking to his friends, so that’s kind of easy.
So if you don’t want to be a president, what do you want to be?
Elmo wants to be a teacher!
What sort of teacher?
Well, a teacher that teaches manners and stuff like that, respect for elders and things like that. That would be cool.
Like an etiquette teacher?
Oh wow that’s a big word!
You seem to have been three-and-a-half for as long as I can remember – how do you stay young?
Being a monster – we don’t really age that much.
Oh, so you don’t use any special beauty products?
You don’t dye your hair to hide the greys?
[Laughs] No, au naturel!
I understand you asked for US$500 for this interview – that’s an awful lot of money for a three-and-a-half year old.
[Very long pause] Huh? [We repeat the question.] Well Elmo doesn’t get it – that goes back to Sesame Street.
Oh OK. So do you get pocket money?
Elmo gets 25 cents a week and puts it in his piggy bank.
Why do you refer to yourself in the third person?
Why do you refer to yourself as ‘Elmo’ instead of ‘I’?
It’s just the way Elmo is Elmo. Elmo doesn’t know any other way of being Elmo.
Do your parents speak like that too?
Elmo doesn’t know. Elmo doesn’t really listen to Elmo’s mummy and daddy like that.
You don’t listen to your parents?
No, he listens to them, but Elmo just talks like Elmo, Elmo doesn’t really see the difference with anybody else.
Are you a well-behaved son?
Err… you would need to talk to them about that.
So I’ll take that as a no?
Not a no, but Elmo is only three-and-a-half.
Elmo’s Sesame Street DVDs are available in all major outlets, including Virgin and Carrefour.