Book Excerpt
My Life as a Furry Red Monster : What Being Elmo Has Taught Me About Life, Love and Laughing Out Loud
by Kevin Clash with Gary Brozek

An excerpt from My Life as a Furry Red Monster : What Being Elmo Has Taught Me About Life, Love and Laughing Out Loud by Kevin Clash with Gary Brozek, published 2006 by Broadway Books - A division of Random House, Inc. .
Book excerpt reprinted with the permission of the publisher.
Copyright © 2006 Kevin Clash with Gary Brozek

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BOOK EXCERPT

Love

He may not look like it, but that Elmo's a love machine.

When parents tell me, "My child lives for Elmo," I tell them that Elmo lives because of their child's love for him. I don't just mean that Elmo is alive in their child's imagination, though that is certainly a part of it. That child and Elmo aren't just experiencing love; they're creating more of it to go around, and in doing so they make the world a better place.

It works like this: Elmo feeds off the love he receives from kids, from the adult characters on the show, and from his fellow Muppets. He doesn't just take that love in as a fuel and use it up. Instead, he drinks it in and gives it right back in spades. He's a kind of love-energy power station, and the more love he takes in, the more love he produces for the rest of the world. The more love he produces, the more love he receives, and the cycle completes itself over and over again. Talk about a renewable resource!

I first saw this powerful cycle in action shortly after Elmo debuted and was gaining in popularity in the mid-1980s, when I did an appearance with him at a school in the Bronx. A group of preschoolers were gathered in the library, all of them bundles of fidgeting energy with their legs swinging like metronomes. As soon as Elmo said, "Hello, everybody! Elmo loves you!" it was like a floodgate had opened, and Elmo and I were awash in a surge of little children. I could almost feel an electric charge in the room, as their shouts of "I love you, Elmo!" reverberated off the cinder-block walls. Elmo laughed and opened his arms wide and tried to scoop up all the love and hug it to his chest, all the while repeating "Elmo loves you, too."

That may have been the first time in my adult life when I finally comprehended the ancient notion that what you put out in the universe comes back to you. Since that day, I've learned to try to put as much Elmo and Kevin love out into the world as I can, knowing that it will have a very positive ripple effect. Elmo and the children taught me that one. Somewhere along the road to adulthood, we seem to forget this little secret about the power of love, but it's worth remembering.

When children tell Elmo that they love him, they all have different styles of expressing their emotion. Some of the more demonstrative kids throw their arms around his neck, snuggle their faces against his, and with an eyes-closed, sigh-heaving, hand-me-my-Tony-Award gesture that projects to the very last row of the theater's balcony, they proclaim their undying devotion to Elmo in prose as purple as Telly Monster. "Oh, Elmo, I love you more than chocolate ice cream! More than I love the new baby! Please come and live in my house forever!"

Older kids are a little more matter-of-fact, as if they've been married for twenty years and they're picking up their keys and their bag and heading out the door with an affectionate but perfunctory "Love you." Still others are more shy and reserved, like the bashful and nervous teen letting his or her feelings be known to their crush for the first time. I often wonder how these children will express their love as adults and how many of them will remain demonstrative and unembarrassed, or if they'll naturally pull back into more conservative styles as they grow older. It would be ridiculous if we all greeted each other the way the more enthusiastic kids greet Elmo -- imagine how long it would take to get that first cup of coffee at the office with all the morning greetings in full swing! -- but still, doesn't imagining a love-filled world like that put a smile on your face?

Children approach Elmo differently depending on their age, but they also are inevitably influenced by the kinds of physical demonstrations of affection they receive at home. Elmo wants to reach all kids, and sometimes he can be like that overly enthusiastic puppy who finds everything in the world so fresh and new and wonderful that he can't contain himself. Just as kids may squeal in delight when they first see a puppy and then retreat in leg-hugging, face-shielding fear when the puppy starts to jump on them, Elmo can evoke the same response. Over time, I've learned to think quickly on my feet, to gauge the kinds of responses I'm getting from a child and either tone down or amp up Elmo's enthusiasm level accordingly. I constantly have to remind myself that even though they've seen Elmo countless times on television, they're meeting him face-to-face for the very first time.

The funny thing is, no two kids are alike. I've seen the quiet ones respond with smiles and giggles that escalate to a full-on Elmo love attack -- the eardrum-piercing, vibrating, arms-wide, hugging and squeezing and kissing frontal assault. Other shy kids need a little bit of time to warm up to Elmo and his "de-monster-ative" displays of affection. But in the end, they all come around.

My Life as a Furry Red Monster : What Being Elmo Has Taught Me About Life, Love and Laughing Out Loud by Kevin Clash with Gary Brozek,
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BOOK DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER

My Life as a Furry Red Monster

The master puppeteer behind Elmo shares the lessons he's learned from his famous alter ego and best friend of millions of children the world over.

For the past seventeen years, Kevin Clash has lived a secret life of the best and most rewarding kind, taking on the identity of the beloved cherry red monster known as Elmo. The seven-time Emmy winner performs to an audience of 120 million boys and girls who tune in daily to Elmo's World, bringing Elmo to life in such a way that even adults forget there is a man behind the muppet.

After spending so many years by Elmo's side, Kevin has been able to see beyond his alter ego's obvious cuddly charms to the real way the puppet connects with those around him. In My Life as a Furry Red Monster, Clash shares what he has learned about love, joy, creativity, friends, and more from this most unlikely of teachers-and how all of us can benefit from acting a little more like Elmo.

My Life as a Furry Red Monster : What Being Elmo Has Taught Me About Life, Love and Laughing Out Loud by Kevin Clash with Gary Brozek,
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kevin Clash began making his own puppets and performing for live audiences when he was a boy. He turned his childhood obsession into a professional passion, forging a career in television and making an indelible mark on children's imaginations. Kevin has been with Sesame Street for twenty-six years and is coexecutive producer of "Elmo's World." He has won three Emmy Awards for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series and six for his work as coexecutive producer of an Outstanding Pre-School Children's Series. He has a daughter, Shannon, and lives in New York City.

My Life as a Furry Red Monster : What Being Elmo Has Taught Me About Life, Love and Laughing Out Loud by Kevin Clash with Gary Brozek,
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BOOK REVIEWS

"This delightful book illuminates a man's journey from child to parent, student to teacher, puppeteer to Muppeteer, and reveals to us who our favorite red furry monster really is-a gifted, humane, empathetic entertainer named Kevin Clash. His book is a meditation on the things that really matter-to Elmo and to all of us."

-- Julianne Moore

"It should come as no surprise that the man behind America's most beloved red furball is as wise, warm, witty, and wonderful as Elmo himself. My Life as a Furry Red Monster is an entertaining sneak peek at the life and times of one of the most endearing and enduring characters ever created."

-- Katie Couric

"The warmth and humor is contagious. This book is a delight."

-- Cheryl Henson, President of the Jim Henson Foundation

"In lively and wonderfully written prose, Kevin tells the story of how he came to be the most popular educator and entertainer of children in the country. His riveting tale weaves together the adventures, idealism, love, and optimism that Kevin has experienced both as himself and as a furry red monster."

-- Joan Ganz Cooney, cofounder of Sesame Workshop and creator of Sesame Street

"Kevin has given life and breath to one of the most beloved characters in contemporary pop culture. His heart and soul radiate not only through Elmo, but up and down Sesame Street, through this book, and around the world. Not only is Kevin a brilliant artist, but he's a fabulous human being as well."

-- Vanessa Williams

"I love Elmo and I love this book. What a cutie-patootie. Thanks, Kevin!"

-- Rosie O'Donnell

"An inspiring success story of an amazing puppeteer who created the beloved character of Elmo. Even though I've worked on Sesame Street for 37 years, I learned things from Kevin's book that even I didn't know before. I loved it."

-- Caroll Spinney, puppeteer, Sesame Street's "Big Bird" and "Oscar the Grouch"

"Kevin Clash has been an inspiration to me as a mentor and a human being. I'm glad this book allows him to share his kindness, humor and fascinating life journey with the rest of the world!"

-- John Tartaglia, puppeteer, "Princeton" and "Rod" in the original cast of Broadway's "Avenue Q"

"The first time I met Elmo, I knew there was something special that lived inside of him! His name is Kevin. And there is no one more kind, thoughtful or intelligent. Congratulations on a wonderful book and a wonderful life!"

-- Alicia Keys

"Who would have thought that a Furry Red Monster and an African American man would find happiness and great success as the high-pitched voice for a younger generation. Well, as Kevin Clash so cleverly shares in this new telling of The American Dream, miracles do happen, and for the right reasons. With great candor and humor, he shares his story and what he's learned about life, love, and laughing out loud. Lucky us."

-- Arthur Novell, Executive Director of The Jim Henson Legacy

"When things get tense or testy on the studio floor-and they always do in TV-Elmo's ad-libs are what generally brings everything around. It's weird-you just have to crack up at this little creature who is rising up out of Kevin's shoulder."

-- Bill Irwin, Tony Award-winning actor and Sesame Street's "Mr. Noodle"

My Life as a Furry Red Monster : What Being Elmo Has Taught Me About Life, Love and Laughing Out Loud by Kevin Clash with Gary Brozek,
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