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9 Muppets Kicked Off Sesame Street

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In over four decades, Sesame Street has featured over 1,000 characters. Although we'll always have mainstays like Big Bird, Elmo, Bert and Ernie, many Muppets have been forgotten or deemed unnecessary. Here are a few Sesame Street residents who were evicted.

1. Roosevelt Franklin

Perhaps the most famous of the retired Sesame Street Muppets is Roosevelt Franklin. Originally voiced by Matt Robinson, who portrayed the first Gordon on Sesame Street, Roosevelt was an African-American Muppet who had his own school (named Roosevelt Franklin Elementary School). He often taught the class important lessons about things such as the geography of Africa and how to avoid drinking poison.

Parents wrote to the Children's Television Workshop to complain that Roosevelt was a negative stereotype of African-American children, citing his rowdy nature and the fact that his classes closely resembled after-school detention. Roosevelt only lasted from 1970-1975, but he has appeared in many Sesame Street books.

2. Harvey Kneeslapper

harveyIf a Muppet with a '70s porn mustache and googly eyes offers to keep an eye on your hat, run the other way. Chances are he's Harvey Kneeslapper, and he's about to crush your fedora with an oversized letter I. Harvey pulled practical jokes on unsuspecting victims—jokes featuring bad puns about letters and numbers. Harvey was his own biggest fan, laughing loudly at his gags. One person who didn't care for Harvey's trademark laugh was his performer, Frank Oz, who complained that performing the character was too hard on his throat.

3. Professor Hastings

professor-hastings
If there's one thing kids like, it's boring lectures. That's why Sesame Street introduced Professor Hastings, a Muppet whose lectures were so boring, he'd put himself to sleep. And as entertaining as an educational narcoleptic might be, the dull Professor didn't last long.

4. Don Music

don-musicOne of Richard Hunt's most beloved characters was Don Music, a pianist and lyricist who penned such hits as "Mary Had a Bicycle," "Drive, Drive, Drive Your Car," and "Can You Tell Me How to Get to Yellowstone Park?" Although his lyrics were so very close to their familiar counterparts, Don demonstrated his artistic frustration by banging his head on the piano, shouting "I'll never get it! Never, never!" Unfortunately, the kids at home found that so amusing, they began to imitate the act themselves, thus causing Don Music to join the growing pile of retired Muppets.

5. Buddy & Jim

In the first season of Sesame Street, two bumbling humans named Buddy and Jim (played by Brandon Maggart and James Catusi) appeared as "a walking Polish joke" (at least that's what Time called them). They repeatedly failed at simple tasks: they'd hammer a backwards nail into the wall, or play checkers with backwards chairs (I think you're starting to see the pattern here). The long-standing rumor is that the actors who played Buddy and Jim took their act on the road to make a few extra bucks, but neglected to ask for permission to use the Sesame Street scripts. By season two, they were replaced by Larry and Phyllis (played by real-life couple Alan Arkin and Barbara Dana). But parents hated Larry and Phyllis, and a myriad of angry letters forced Sesame Street to replace them with Wally and Ralph (played by Joe Ponazecki and Paul Rice). A weak copy of the Buddy and Jim team, Wally and Ralph lasted just one season, and Sesame Street abandoned the human comedy duo format altogether.

6. Bruno the Trashman

brunoIn the 1970s, there were only two ways for Oscar to get around. He either had to let a cast member move his can across the set, or he had to walk around with the trash can obscuring the upper half of his body (Oscar's legs were performed by none other than Fantasy Island's Hervé Villechaize). Oscar's performer, Caroll Spinney, created Bruno the Trashman, who was inspired by a puppeteer on The Gong Show. Bruno was a full-bodied puppet with an opening in the stomach, so Spinney could perform Oscar while walking around (or even roller skating). The large, yet silent Bruno stuck around for several years, and appeared in the motion picture Follow That Bird. After years in storage, the Bruno puppet began to disintegrate, and the decision was made not to rebuild him. Oscar's trashman eventually became trash himself.

7. "Around the Corner"

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Then there was the time an entire section of Sesame Street was shuttered. The cul-de-sac known as "Around the Corner" was introduced in 1993, and featured a ritzy hotel, jazz club, thrift store, dance studio, park, and subway station. The Around the Corner locations stuck around for five years, but research showed that kids were confused about having to look to the right to see more of the Street. The alleyway was abandoned, as were all the characters who worked at the aforementioned establishments. The alley now serves as a parking spot for Oscar's Sloppy Jalopy.

8 & 9. Kermit the Frog & Herbert Birdsfoot

kermit-Herbert-Birdsfoot

Yes, that Kermit the Frog. Jim Henson knew Kermit was going to be his trademark character for a long time to come, so after the first season of Sesame Street, Henson "retired" Kermit from the show. At the time, Kermit was known for giving lectures on Sesame Street about letters, numbers and basic concepts. He was replaced by Herbert Birdsfoot, an accountant-looking Muppet whose nerdiness was usually offset by his lovable assistant, Grover. As we all know, it wasn't so easy to keep Kermit away from the Street, and he returned to the show for the third season and has made occasional appearances over the years. Herb was phased out by season five.

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Pop Culture
Neil deGrasse Tyson Recruits George R.R. Martin to Work on His New Video Game
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Kevin Winter / Getty Images

George R.R. Martin has been keeping busy with the latest installment of his Song of Ice and Fire series, but that doesn’t mean he has no time for side projects. As The Daily Beast reports, the fantasy author is taking a departure from novel-writing to work on a video game helmed by Neil deGrasse Tyson.

DeGrasse Tyson’s game, titled Space Odyssey, is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. He envisions an interactive, desktop experience that will allow players to create and explore their own planets while learning about physics at the same time. To do this correctly, he and his team are working with some of the brightest minds in science like Bill Nye, former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino, and astrophysicist Charles Liu. The list of collaborators also includes a few unexpected names—like Martin, the man who gave us Game of Thrones.

Though Martin has more experience writing about dragons in Westeros than robots in outer space, deGrasse Tyson believes his world-building skills will be essential to the project. “For me [with] Game of Thrones ... I like that they’re creating a world that needs to be self-consistent,” deGrasse Tyson told The Daily Beast. “Create any world you want, just make it self-consistent, and base it on something accessible. I’m a big fan of Mark Twain’s quote: ‘First get your facts straight. Then distort them at your leisure.’”

Other giants from the worlds of science fiction and fantasy, including Neil Gaiman and Len Wein (co-creator of Marvel's Wolverine character), have signed on to help with that same part of the process. The campaign for Space Odyssey has until Saturday, July 29 to reach its $314,159 funding goal—of which it has already raised more than $278,000. If the video game gets completed, you can expect it to be the nerdiest Neil deGrasse Tyson project since his audiobook with LeVar Burton.

[h/t The Daily Beast]

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entertainment
10 Badass Facts About Jason Statham
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Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET

Jason Statham is one of the preeminent action heroes of a generation—some would say he’s our last action hero. On the screen, he's been a hitman, a transporter, a con man, a veteran, and a whole host of other unsavory, but oddly endearing, tough guys. Before he stepped foot on his first movie set, though, Statham had a past life that would rival any of the colorful characters he’s brought to the screen. To celebrate his 50th birthday, we’re digging into what makes this English bruiser tick with these 10 fascinating facts about Jason Statham.

1. DIVING WAS HIS FIRST CALLING.

Before becoming a big-screen tough guy, Jason Statham exuded grace and fluidity as one of the world’s top competitive divers in the early 1990s. He spent 12 years as part of the British National Diving Squad, highlighted by competing in the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand.

Though he was an elite diver, Statham never qualified for the Olympics, which he admits is still a “sore point” for him. "I started too late," he has said of his diving career. "It probably wasn't my thing. I should have done a different sport."

2. HE DABBLED IN MODELING.

With his diving career over, Statham entered the world of modeling for the fashion company French Connection. If his rugged image doesn’t seem to naturally lend itself to the world of male modeling, that was exactly what the company was going for.

“We chose Jason because we wanted our model to look like a normal guy," Lilly Anderson, a spokesperson for French Connection, said in a 1995 interview with the Independent. "His look is just right for now—very masculine and not too male-modelly."

3. HE DANCED HALF-NAKED IN A COUPLE OF MUSIC VIDEOS.

A word of warning: The internet never forgets. Back in 2015, two ‘90s music videos went viral—“Comin’ On” by The Shamen and “Run to the Sun” by Erasure—and it’s not because the songs were just that good. It’s because both videos featured a half-naked, and quite oily, Jason Statham curiously dancing away in the background.

Both make liberal use of Statham’s lack of modesty, which is a far cry from the slick suits and commando gear we’d later see him sporting in The Transporter and Expendables series. So which one is your favorite? Leopard-print Speedo Statham from “Comin’ On” or his Silver Surfer look from “Run to the Sun”? And no, “both” isn’t an option. (Though “neither” is acceptable.)

4. GUY RITCHIE CAST HIM BECAUSE HE WAS SELLING KNOCKOFF JEWELRY AND PERFUME ON THE STREET.

After years of high dives, modeling, and pelvic gyrations, Statham was still looking to make a real living in the late ‘90s. His next odd job? Selling knockoff perfume and jewelry on London street corners. Luckily, that type of real-world hoodlum was exactly what director Guy Ritchie needed for 1998's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

Ritchie was introduced to Statham through his modeling gig at French Connection and saw the potential this real-world con man had for the movie. He wrote the role of Bacon specifically for Statham, which would end up being the movie that propelled him to Hollywood stardom.

5. JOHN CARPENTER WANTED HIM AS THE LEAD IN GHOSTS OF MARS.

Though Statham gained acclaim for his role in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, he wasn’t quite a leading man yet. Director John Carpenter wanted to change that by casting him as James “Desolation” Williams, the main character in Ghosts of Mars.

While Carpenter was convinced that Statham was ready for the role, the producers weren’t. They pushed the director to cast someone with more name value, eventually settling on Ice Cube. Statham stayed in the movie in a smaller role as Sgt. Jericho Butler.

6. HE REGULARLY DOES HIS OWN STUNTS.

Jason Statham in Wild Card (2015).
Lionsgate

In addition to being in impeccable shape, Statham also takes pride in doing many of his own stunts in his movies, from hand-to-hand combat to dangling from a helicopter 3000 feet above downtown Los Angeles. In fact, he’s almost dogmatic in his belief that actors should be doing their own stunts.

“I'm inspired by the people who could do their own work,” the actor said. “Bruce Lee never had stunt doubles and fight doubles, or Jackie Chan or Jet Li. I've been in action movies where there is a face replacement and I'm fighting with a double, and it's embarrassing.”

The worst offenders? Superhero movies. And Statham isn't shy about sharing his thoughts on those:

"You slip on a cape and you put on the tights and you become a superhero? They're not doing anything! They're just sitting in their trailer. It's absolutely, 100 percent created by stunt doubles and green screen. How can I get excited about that?"

7. FILMING EXPENDABLES 3 ALMOST KILLED HIM.

For all the authenticity that Statham likes to bring to the screen by doing his own stunts, sometimes things don’t go according to plan. While filming an action scene for Expendables 3, the brakes failed on a three-ton stunt truck Statham was driving, sending it off a cliff and into the Black Sea.

If you've ever wondered if the real Statham was anything like the movie version, his underwater escape from a mammoth truck should answer that.

"It's the closest I've ever been to drowning,” Statham said on Today. “I've done a lot of scuba diving; I've done a lot of free diving ... No matter how much of that you've done, it doesn't teach you to breathe underwater ... I came very close to drowning. It was a very harrowing experience."

8. HE PRACTICES A RANGE OF MARTIAL ARTS.

Statham’s fitness routine is about more than just weights and core work. The actor is also involved in a variety of different fighting disciplines like boxing, judo, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Out of everything he does to stay in shape, it’s the martial arts that have the been most helpful for Statham’s onscreen presence. “That’s what I have to give most of my time to these days: training for what I have to do in terms of providing action in an authentic manner," he told Men's Health

Statham is not alone in his passion for martial arts; director Guy Ritchie is also a black belt in jiu-jitsu and a brown belt in karate. When Men’s Health asked Statham if the two ever sparred, he responded, “I remember when we started out, we’d go on a press tour for Lock, Stock… and we’d be moving all the furniture out of the way in the hotel room, trying to choke each other out.”

After all, what are collaborators for?

9. HE’S WELL AWARE SOME OF HIS MOVIES HAVE BEEN DUDS.

When asked by Esquire if he ever watched one of his movies during the premiere and thought "Oh, no ...," his response was a very self-aware: "Yeah, I think I've said that more often than not. Yeah."

He went on to rattle off his Guy Ritchie movies, The Bank Job, Transporter 1 and 2 (not 3), and Crank as being among his favorite films. As for the others, the actor joked, “And the rest is sh*t."

He clarified that remark as a joke and said, “I mean, you do a lot of films. You're always aiming for something and trying to push yourself to do something good.”

He then compared his work to the inner workings of a watch, saying, “A movie, it's like a very complicated timepiece. There's a lot of wheels in a watch. And some of those wheels, if they don't turn right, then, you know, the watch ain't gonna tell the time."

10. HIS MOVIES HAVE MADE MORE THAN $1.5 BILLION IN THE U.S. ALONE.

Statham's films may have a tough time impressing critics, but audiences and studio executives can’t get enough. Taken as a whole, Statham’s filmography has raked in just a touch more than $1.5 billion in the United States, with the worldwide total standing at $5.1 billion.

A lot of this is due to his more recent entry into the Fast and Furious franchise, but he’s also had seven movies cross the $100 million mark worldwide outside of that series. This isn’t an accident; Statham knows exactly what type of movie keeps the lights on, as he explained in an interview with The Guardian.

“So if you've got a story about a depressed doctor whose estranged wife doesn't wanna be with him no more, and you put me in it, people aren't gonna put money on the table. Whereas if you go, 'All he does is get in the car, hit someone on the head, shoot someone in the f*cking feet,' then, yep, they'll give you $20 million. You can't fault these people for wanting to make money.”

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