Matt Vogel with Baby Big Bird.

Matt Vogel 1970s Muppet puppet toys

A young Vogel (left) and his brother with Rowlf and Kermit toy puppets.


Vogel and Caroll Spinney.


At 2014 Sunday Times photo shoot.

Matt Vogel and Jerry Nelson

Vogel and Jerry Nelson.

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Vogel with The Count.


Vogel with Floyd Pepper.

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Vogel with Mr. Johnson.

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Vogel with Uncle Deadly.

Matt Vogel Sesame director

Directing on the set of Sesame Street.

Matt Vogel (b. October 6, 1970) is an accomplished puppeteer who joined the Sesame Street troupe in 1996. He later joined The Muppets family of characters, inheriting several roles while working with Jerry Nelson, and was cast as Kermit the Frog in 2017.

Vogel first auditioned for The Jim Henson Company in his final year of college (c. 1993), but didn't begin performing with the company until a year later when he became John Henson's understudy for the Coca-Cola Polar Bear.[1][2]

On Sesame Street, Vogel started out as most Muppeteers do, right-handing for other characters; in his case, for David Rudman on Baby Bear.[3] He eventually became Caroll Spinney's understudy for Big Bird whenever Spinney was unavailable. Beginning in 2002, he exclusively performed Big Bird for "Journey to Ernie", a regular Sesame Street segment. He also played Big Bird's infant self Baby Big Bird in the Sesame Beginnings DVD series. Over time, he has accumulated his own recurring characters, including Herb the dinosaur and Hansel. He is currently Sesame Street’s Muppet Captain and serves as a director on the show since Season 39.

Vogel has also assumed some of Jerry Nelson's roles, by the recommendation of Nelson himself.[4] In addition to performing classic Muppet characters such as Floyd Pepper and Lew Zealand in Muppet productions, Vogel has puppeteered Count von Count and other Sesame Street Muppets originated by Nelson, who continued to voice the characters for several years. After Nelson's death, Vogel fully inherited the Count, now providing both the voice and puppetry.

His early Muppet credits include assisting or supporting roles on Big Bag, Bear in the Big Blue House, and Sesame English. Works outside the Henson fold include the video series MATHmatazz, Jack's Big Music Show, The Puzzle Place, the HBO drama Oz, Oobi, Blue's Room, and Between the Lions. On the big screen, Vogel has appeared in The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, The Muppets, Muppets Most Wanted (where he took on the major role of Constantine), the Creature Shop film The Producers (as various pigeons), one of the "Muppet" characters in Old Dogs, and the voice of Wilkins in Alice Through the Looking Glass for director James Bobin.

In theater, Vogel has acted in regional productions of various plays, including The Foreigner and Six Degrees of Sparation, and was involved in the 2003-2004 Broadway run of Little Shop of Horrors, manipulating Audrey II and playing various bums and Skid Row residents (alongside Martin P. Robinson and Anthony Asbury).

In addition to puppeteering, Vogel's interest in music is evident as front man for the The Mighty Weaklings. The band released a CD of songs "for kids--and grown-ups" called You Can't Rock Sittin' Down in June of 2008 after appearing in the video for their song "Rocket Ship" on Jack's Big Music Show. With Joey Mazzarino, Vogel co-owns Pratfall Productions, which produced the film-noir puppet short film Murder, He Squeaked as well as various videos and inserts for Sesame Street, and Nick Jr.'s Curious Buddies.

On July 10, 2017, it was announced that Vogel had been cast as the new performer of Kermit the Frog, following Steve Whitmire's departure from The Muppets. Vogel's first public performance as Kermit was a Muppet Thought of the Week video; originally planned to debut on YouTube during the week of July 17, 2017,[5] but was delayed until August 28, 2017.


Non-Henson Credits

  • Oz - Pecky
  • Between the Lions - Rumplestiltskin, Derek Cheetah, Monkey Ad Executive (Jeff Kidding), various characters
  • Jack's Big Music Show - Leonard the Squirrel, MC Turtle, The Squirrels, etc.
  • Scooby-Doo! Adventures: The Mystery Map - Fred Jones (Frank Welker served as Fred's voice)


  • When Matt Vogel was introduced to Spinney at his first audition for the part of Big Bird, the latter remarked, "Vogel is German for Bird. That's a good sign." The word "vogel" is Dutch for bird as well.
  • The protective slippers Vogel wears over Big Bird's feet when he's not on set are labeled, respectively, "Vogel" and "Füsse," meaning "bird" and "feet," or read together "bird's feet."

Performances as Big Bird

Vogel holds the distinction of being one of very few Muppeteers who perform a character in conjunction with another performer. Beginning as an understudy for Caroll Spinney, and becoming Big Bird's primary performer in Journey to Ernie segments, the following episodes, sketches, and appearances comprise instances in which Vogel has performed Big Bird despite Spinney also continuing with the character. For a full list of known times Vogel provided Big Bird's voice before he became his primary performer, see the list of Caroll Spinney character transitions:

  • A sketch where Big Bird explains to Elmo that plants can't play catch
  • A sketch where Big Bird watches Elmo show up and down
  • Two bumpers with Snuffy where they introduce the letter of the day and an alphabet segment, with Spinney's vocals.
  • Episode 3790: One of the earliest instances of Vogel performing Big Bird to a vocal track by Caroll Spinney, beginning partway through the episode in scenes where Oscar appears.
  • Episode 3831: Whenever Oscar and Big Bird both appear together, Vogel is manipulating the Bird, at one point lip-syncing to a vocal track by Spinney
  • Episode 3838: When Oscar is inside Hooper's Store, Vogel is operating Big Bird.
  • Episode 3845: In the first flashback where Fluffy is tap dancing in Oscar's can, Vogel briefly performs Big Bird. After Fluffy returns inside Oscar's can, Spinney takes over. Matt later performs the bird during "Great Big Beautiful World."
  • Episode 3851: For the scene where the Bird and Elmo practice the tango, Vogel is puppeteering Big Bird
  • Episode 3863: During the third scene, when Oscar declines attending Big Bird's show-and-tell, Vogel performs the bird to Spinney's voice.
  • Episode 3997: In the first street scene and for the parts of the second where Big Bird and Oscar do not share a scene, the Bird is played by Spinney. However, because the second scene is mainly about Oscar, when the two share a scene, Spinney is Oscar, and Vogel is inside the Bird, to a vocal track
  • Episode 4155: Vogel performs Big Bird (voice and puppetry) for his cameo at the beginning.
  • Episode 4187: Vogel played the Bird during the green-screen scenes to a vocal track by Spinney
  • Episode 4203: Vogel played the Bird to a vocal track by Spinney
  • Episode 4206: In the brief moment where we see Big Bird's actual crash when he is wedged inside the little wall in front of 123 Sesame Street, Vogel is the bird
  • Episode 4512: Vogel puppeteers Big Bird for the entire street story while Spinney provides the vocals.


  1. Matt Vogel on Facebook September 10, 2015
  2. Tough Pigs "Interview: Sesame Street's Matt Vogel" by Ryan Roe, August 8, 2008
  3. Matt Vogel on Twitter Sept 20, 2018
  4. Tough Pigs "A Chat with Jerry Nelson" by Joe Hennes, December 8, 2009
  5. ToughPigs "Steve Whitmire No Longer with the Muppets" by Joe Hennes, July 10, 2017

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