Norman Stiles (b. December 4, 1942) is a writer who worked on Sesame Street and its related productions for over twenty years. His concepts include the Muppet characters Harvey Kneeslapper, Count von Count and Forgetful Jones.
Stiles initially studied zoology and chemistry at Hunter College, and became a social worker for the New York City Welfare Department. During that period, he began writing comedy material for such performers as Ron Carey (later a regular on Barney Miller) and Marty Brill, and wrote for Merv Griffin.
Stiles joined the Children's Television Workshop in 1971 and became the head writer on Sesame Street in Season 6, after which he left the show to pursue a career in Hollywood. He returned to Sesame Street in Season 11, resuming his role as head writer until 1995. In later years, his work would often touch upon sensitive topics, such as the death of Mr. Hooper in Episode 1839, or the effects of divorce on children in the unaired "Snuffy's Parents Get a Divorce." In 1990, as part of the Season 22 curriculum mandate to examine race relations, Stiles wrote an episode in which a blue monster named Greta refuses to let Elmo play wubbaball because of his different fur color, only to find herself excluded.
Stiles has also written for appearances by the Muppets, such as an Ad Council nutrition spot with Cookie Monster, and authored a variety of Sesame Street books (including The Perils of Penelope), wrote lyrics for such songs as "Put Down the Duckie," and helped script Jim Henson's pilot special The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence.
Stiles discussed his philosophy of writing in 1988:
“Never talk down to children. Always try to entertain children and parents at the same time. Try to have adult characters speak the way adults speak and not in singsong kiddy-show style. And teach something while all this is going on... This is basically a sketch comedy show.”
In 1996, Stiles co-founded Sirius Thinking Ltd, an independent children's television production company, with fellow Sesame alumni Michael K. Frith and Christopher Cerf. At Sirius Thinking, Stiles wrote and produced the PBS children's show Between the Lions which premiered in 2000. The show has won six Daytime Emmy Awards, including a 2004 Emmy for best writing.
In April 2014, Stiles launched a crowdfunding campaign for an online video series Baby & Toddler Parenthood News Network with his wife Ellen Dillon and child development expert Amy Hatkoff.
Television writing credits
- Sesame Street (1971 - 1997)
- The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence
- Out to Lunch
- The Jean Marsh Cartoon Special
- Learning About Numbers
- I'm Glad I'm Me
- Play-Along Games and Songs
- The Sesame Street Special
- Free to Be... a Family
- The Sesame Street Library volumes 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 & 12
- The Sesame Street Treasury volumes 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5
- The Sesame Street Storybook
- The Sesame Street 1, 2, 3 Storybook
- The Sesame Street ABC Storybook
- The Perils of Penelope
- I'll Miss You, Mr. Hooper
- The Amazing Mumford and His Amazing Subtracting Trick
- The Ernie & Bert Book
- Grover's Little Red Riding Hood
- Grover and the Everything in the Whole Wide World Museum
- Around the Corner on Sesame Street
- The Count's Number Parade
Song writing credits
Miscellaneous writing credits
- Big Bird Discovers the Orchestra, album
- Silly Dancing, Sesame Street Live stage show
- Sleeping Birdie, stage show
- Sirius Thinking page on Stiles (archived)
- Old Jews Telling Jokes
- ToughPigs.com interview: "We're All Norman's Kids"
- Graphic Policy interview: Muppets Gone Missing: Norman Stiles