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Alistair Cookie

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Performer:
Cookie Monster • (Character)
Frank Oz • (Puppeteer)
Alistair
Alistair-pipe

Alistair with pipe.

Alistair-playlist

Alistair Cookie is Cookie Monster's alter ego when hosting "Monsterpiece Theater" on Sesame Street. Created as a spoof of the original Masterpiece Theater host Alistair Cooke, Alistair Cookie is basically Cookie Monster in an English smoking jacket and ascot, introducing viewers to a spot of culture while relaxing in a well-stuffed armchair. Though seemingly more sedate and urbane, Alistair Cookie is still a Cookie Monster, devouring baked goods, props -- and in the revamped opening in the 1990s, noisily consuming cookies over the theme, while offering judicious comments on the texture.

To match his smoking jacket (and the stereotype of the urbane British host), Alistair Cookie used to appear holding a pipe, which he would consume by the end of each piece. These skits with Alistair Cookie's pipe could be identified by their "Union Jack" opening titles. By the late 1980s, the pipe was gone -- so as not to reinforce smoking as a positive attribute. Subsequently, the Alistair Cookie scenes in earlier skits were re-taped (without the accessory)[1], with the puppet being lip-synched to the original voice track performed by Frank Oz.

In a 2004 Chicago Public Radio interview, David Rudman referred to Cookie Monster's occasional use of more advanced phrases, such as "It a bit esoteric," as his Alistair Cookie side: "He throws out these words like, you know, 'Me digress.' It's his whole Alistair Cookie side... It's a whole 'nother side of Cookie, where he's just kinda, you know, laidback and intellectual, but he still has that 'Me Alistair Cookie,' and it's just such a funny contrast."

Alistair Cookie is generally a detached party who simply serves as a frame for the "Monsterpiece Theater" spoofs. Occasionally, however, the participants take their grievances directly to Alistair Cookie ("Twelve Angry Men", "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"), crash into his sanctum ("The 39 Steps"), or otherwise disrupt his hosting duties. On rare occasions, Cookie Monster himself stars in the sketches, as in "Twin Beaks," invariably winning rave critical reviews from Alistair Cookie.

Alistair Cookie was first introduced circa 1978. Alistair Cooke retired from Masterpiece Theater in 1992, replaced by American host Russell Baker, but this had no affect on Alistair Cookie, as reported in The Washington Post from February 24, 1993: "A spokeswoman for Sesame Street yesterday reassured its fans -- and their children -- that despite the change at the top, Cookie Monster will continue to appear as Alistair Cookie, the host of "Monsterpiece Theater" -- big chair, fireplace and all... 'We love that character,' said Ellen Morgenstern..."

Cooke himself was wryly appreciative of the take-off, predicting at a 1991 dinner celebrating the 20th anniversary of Masterpiece Theater that if he was remembered at all, he would be best recalled by fans of Sesame Street as "Alistair Cookie, the Cookie Monster of Monsterpiece Theater."

In 1998, Applause offered a limited edition stuffed Alistair Cookie plush to collectors, complete with smoking jacket, slippers, and armchair. The item was also available through certain PBS stations.

Alistair Cookie most recently appeared in select introductions on Sesamestreet.org for the theme of the day:

  • "What a Story Day" playlist on October 24, 2008.
  • "Word Day" playlist on January 27, 2009.

Sources

  1. Virginia Heffernan, "Sweeping the Clouds Away", New York Times, November 18, 2007.

See also

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