Aart Staartjes (b. 1938) is an Amsterdam-born actor, director, and presenter who plays Meneer Aart on Sesamstraat, the Dutch co-production of Sesame Street. Aart is a businessman who always walks around in a brown suit with a couple of medals on his chest, and enormous glasses on his nose. He thinks of himself as the most important neighbor on Sesamstraat, which is why he prefers to be called Meneer Aart (Mr. Aart). He is a bit of a know-it-all, and a bit of a grouch. He can even be a little mean at times - but usually, the other Sesamstraat inhabitants manage to outsmart him. Nevertheless, Aart is a well loved person on the street. He interacts well with children, reading them stories at the end of the show.
Rik is Aart's nephew.
Concerning Aart's role on Sesamstraat, it's often said that "Aart is the snake in the paradise named Sesamstraat." The early episodes of Sesamstraat had no grumpy character, which made the street scenes a little dull and preachy at times. One of the writers suggested a man named Buurman Bol (Neighbor Bol) who hated everything, but he never made it because he was too negative.
Aart made his debut on the show in 1984, when the script called for a gentleman who was looking for Frank. During his search, Aart met Pino, whom he treated very arrogantly; and a new character was born.
Staartjes is also involved behind the scenes of Sesamstraat, fulfilling important duties in the staff and the production team. One of the most important things he achieved was changing the number of writers, from a couple to a whole group. He also serves as advisor and location director.
Staartjes has a history of creating and performing in quite a few innovative Dutch children's shows, including the live broadcasts of Saint Nicholas' arrival which he hosted for quite a few years. He was also a regular voice on the puppet series De Fabeltjeskrant as Rocus de Vrije Vogel, and worked on Disney dubs, supervising translation of Bambi and dubbing Bernard (voiced in English by Bob Newhart) in The Rescuers.
Staartjes' biography, Meneer Aart, was published in 2002. That same year, the actor stepped down from his other children's shows; Sesamstraat is the only series he is still involved with. Nevertheless, a new grumpy neighbor known as Buurman Baasje was added to the street that year. Aart has become a bit more tame on the show, sometimes playing the part of the grandfather character.
On April 10, 2009, Staartjes announced that he would quit his role after the current season of Sesamstraat. Due to repeatedly changing of broadcasting time, the number of viewers dropped from 500,000 to a mere 35,000 in recent years. This, along with differing opinions of Staartjes and NPO (the joint Dutch broadcasting organizations) about the time of broadcasting, made him come to his decision.