Joan Ganz Cooney

Children's Show Creator


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In her four-and-a-half-hour Archive interview, Joan Ganz Cooney talks about her early involvement in public television in New York, where she worked as a producer for local station WNET. She discusses the creation of Children's Television Workshop (CTW), and the academic hurdles she overcame in 1969 to create and produce the internationally acclaimed Sesame Street. She details additional CTW programs like the hugely successful Electric Company, 3-2-1 Contact, and Square One TV, and discusses several of the lesser-known CTW programs targeted towards adults. The interview was conducted by Shirley Wershba on April 27, 1998 in New York, NY.

"Someone on the US Steel Hour was leaving to go to WGBH in Boston... to an educational station. I said, 'what? There is educational television?' And I knew that I was born to be in educational television. I knew it; it was Saint Paul on the highway."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Joan Ganz Cooney on the use of Muppets on Sesame Street and initial reaction to the show
Joan Ganz Cooney on the importance of humor in Sesame Street
Joan Ganz Cooney on the Sesame Street episode following actor Will Lee's death,  "Farewell, Mr. Hooper" (airdate: November 24, 1983)
On results of testing done on pre-schoolers on the efficacy of Sesame Street
On being a woman in a male dominated business
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On her childhood and early influences
On religion; on entering the media and on moving to New York and working for RCA and The U.S. Steel Hour

Chapter 2

On David Sarnoff, William S. Paley, and Pat Weaver
On the New York intellectual crowd she spent time with whle in her 20s; on Partisan Review
On the beginnings of educational television in New York; on becoming a producer at Channel 13 New York
On her early work at Channel 13 and the struggle for the survival of public television

Chapter 3

On her documentary, A Chance at the Beginning, the formation of Head Start, and additional work at Channel 13
On the documentary format for television
On the creation of The Children's Television Workshop

Chapter 4

On hiring producers for The Children's Television Workshop
On bringing Jim Henson onto Sesame Street; on the creation of content for Sesame Street
On the creation of Big Bird, Oscar, and bringing in Gordon and Susan; on measuring the success of Sesame Street
On the music on Sesame Street and the joys of working with Jim Henson

Chapter 5

On the research conducted for Sesame Street
On Jim Henson and the Muppets on Sesame Street
On network interest in Sesame Street, humor and guest stars; on incorporating 
On the Sesame Street episode following actor Will Lee's death,  "Farewell, Mr. Hooper" (airdate: November 24, 1983)
On the format and topics covered on Sesame Street
On other programs she helped develop for the Children's Television Workshop: The Electric Company, 3-2-1 Contact, Best of Families, Square One TV

Chapter 6

On The Electric Company
On the formation of the Children's Television Workshop in 1968 and its incorporation in 1970
On the financial structure of the Children's Television Workshop, Inc.
On the international success of Sesame Street

Chapter 7

On the grant from The Ford Foundation in the 1970s to help fund The Children's Television's Workshop; on cable investments
On The Children's Television Workshop's partnership with Atari and investment in theme parks
On The Children's Television Workshop's success with licensing; on digital ventures
On executive/consultant Mike Dann's contributions and how The Children's Television Workshop handled international productions - particularly those in Israel and Palestine

Chapter 8

On planning and testing of program to promote reading, The Electric Company
On the programs Feeling Good and Latin American Health Minutes
On the dramatic series, Best of Families
On the science program, 3-2-1 Contact and the math program, Square One TV

Chapter 9

On the format and funding of the science program, 3-2-1 Contact, on the math program, Square One TV, and on the reading program, Ghostwriter
On her reflections on her career and on her personal life
On how Sesame Street competes in the new marketplace; on the show's legacy
On her personal legacy; on her reflections on people with whom she's worked
Shows

3-2-1 Contact

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Joan Ganz Cooney on the show, 3-2-1 Contact
Joan Ganz Cooney on the science show, 3-2-1 Contact
Joan Ganz Cooney on the science program, 3-2-1 Contact
Joan Ganz Cooney on the format and funding of the science program, 3-2-1 Contact
Joan Ganz Cooney on the success of 3-2-1 Contact versus that of Square One TV

Best of Families, The

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Joan Ganz Cooney on the program, Best of Families
Joan Ganz Cooney on subsidizing the program, Best of Families
Joan Ganz Cooney on the dramatic program, Best of Familie s, a social history of New York at the turn of the 20th century

Captain Kangaroo

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Joan Ganz Cooney on hiring producers from Captain Kangaroo for Sesame Street
Joan Ganz Cooney on Mike Dann helping her select executive producers from Captain Kangaroo

Court of Reason

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Joan Ganz Cooney on Malcom X's appearance on the public television show, Court of Reason
Joan Ganz Cooney on the public television show, Court of Reason

Dateline

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Joan Ganz Cooney on the documentary format and how she doesn't enjoy Dateline

Electric Company, The

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Joan Ganz Cooney on the show, The Electric Company
Joan Ganz Cooney on the origin of the program to promote reading, The Electric Company
Joan Ganz Cooney on planning the program to promote reading, The Electric Company

Feeling Good

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Joan Ganz Cooney on health series for adults, Feeling Good

Ghostwriter

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Joan Ganz Cooney on the program to promote reading, Ghostwriter

Latin American Health Minutes

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Joan Ganz Cooney on Latin American Health Minutes

Muppet Show, The

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Joan Ganz Cooney on Jim Henson's fear of being typecast as a children's performer

Poverty, Anti-Poverty and the Poor

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Joan Ganz Cooney on her documentary, Poverty, Anti-Poverty and the Poor

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In

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Joan Ganz Cooney on wanting Sesame Street to be a Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In for kids

Sesame Street

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Joan Ganz Cooney on the origin of the name for Sesame Street
Joan Ganz Cooney on the creation of Sesame Street
Joan Ganz Cooney on importance of research in the development of Sesame Street
Joan Ganz Cooney on the use of Muppets on Sesame Street and initial reaction to the show
Joan Ganz Cooney on the various Muppets on Sesame Street  
Joan Ganz Cooney on the importance of humor in Sesame Street
Joan Ganz Cooney on the Sesame Street episode following actor Will Lee's death,  "Farewell, Mr. Hooper" (airdate: November 24, 1983)
Joan Ganz Cooney on the international versions of Sesame Street
Joan Ganz Cooney on how Sesame Street competes in the new marketplace; on the show's legacy

Sesame Street: "Farewell, Mr. Hooper"

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Joan Ganz Cooney on the Sesame Street episode following actor Will Lee's death,  "Farewell, Mr. Hooper"

Square One TV

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Joan Ganz Cooney on the math program, Square One TV for 8-12 year olds
Joan Ganz Cooney on the math program, Square One TV
Joan Ganz Cooney on the math program, Square One TV

Today

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Joan Ganz Cooney on Pat Weaver's creation of and advertising structure on The Tonight Show and Today

Tonight Starring Jack Paar aka The Jack Paar Show

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Joan Ganz Cooney on Pat Weaver's creation of and advertising structure on The Tonight Show and Today

United States Steel Hour, The

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Joan Ganz Cooney on getting a job at The U.S. Steel Hour
Joan Ganz Cooney on publicizing The U.S. Steel Hour
Joan Ganz Cooney on live television and later taping on The U.S. Steel Hour

Your Show of Shows

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Joan Ganz Cooney on live television, as on Your Show of Shows
Topics

Civil Rights Movement

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Joan Ganz Cooney on how The Children's Television Network was a beacon of hope after the death of Martin Luther King Jr.

Creative Influences and Inspiration

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Joan Ganz Cooney on her high school teachers that influenced her

Criticism of TV

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Joan Ganz Cooney on the use of Muppets on Sesame Street and initial reaction to the show
Joan Ganz Cooney on the criticism of the health series for adults, Feeling Good

Emmy Awards

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Joan Ganz Cooney on her documentary, Poverty, Anti-Poverty and the Poor and winning an area Emmy for the program
Joan Ganz Cooney on Emmy awards for Sesame Street

John F. Kennedy

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Joan Ganz Cooney on a program she produced on Cuba shortly before the Cuban Missile Crisis

Pop Culture

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Joan Ganz Cooney on the pop culture phenomenon of the Talking Big Bird toy - a sample of what was to come with the Tickle Me Elmo mania

Technological Innovation

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Joan Ganz Cooney on color television
Joan Ganz Cooney on struggling public TV stations -relegated to the undesirable UHF (Ultra High Frequency) range of the broadcast spectrum
Joan Ganz Cooney on The Children's Television Workshop's investments in cable systems
Joan Ganz Cooney on the online services of The Children's Television Workshop and the digital channel in the works with Nickelodeon

We Cried

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Joan Ganz Cooney on the Sesame Street episode following actor Will Lee's death,  "Farewell, Mr. Hooper" (airdate: November 24, 1983)

Women

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Joan Ganz Cooney on how the character of Susan on Sesame Street was problematic for NOW (National Organization for Women)
 Joan Ganz Cooney on the initial lack of female puppeteers on Sesame Street
Joan Ganz Cooney on being a woman in a male dominated business
Professions

Producers

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Joan Ganz Cooney on becoming a producer at Channel 13 New York
Joan Ganz Cooney on her early days as a producer at Channel 13 New York
Joan Ganz Cooney on "volume producing" for Sesame Street
Joan Ganz Cooney on Dave Connell's role producing the math program, Square One TV

Puppeteer

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 Joan Ganz Cooney on the initial lack of female puppeteers on Sesame Street
Genres

Children's Programming

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Joan Ganz Cooney on Louis Friedman and the creation of The Children's Television Network
Joan Ganz Cooney on the creation of Sesame Street
Joan Ganz Cooney on the use of Muppets on Sesame Street and initial reaction to the show
Joan Ganz Cooney on the importance of humor in Sesame Street
Joan Ganz Cooney on the Sesame Street episode following actor Will Lee's death,  "Farewell, Mr. Hooper" (airdate: November 24, 1983)
Joan Ganz Cooney on the international versions of Sesame Street
Joan Ganz Cooney on Joan Ganz Cooney on Jim Henson's request to run licensing of the Sesame Street Muppets
Joan Ganz Cooney on the reading program, The Electric Company
Joan Ganz Cooney on the math program, Square One TV
Joan Ganz Cooney on the science program, 3-2-1 Contact
Joan Ganz Cooney on the science program, 3-2-1 Contact
Joan Ganz Cooney on the math program, Square One TV
Joan Ganz Cooney on the program to promote reading, Ghostwriter

Drama Series

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Joan Ganz Cooney on The Golden Age of Television

News and Documentary

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Joan Ganz Cooney on the importance of documentaries
People

David Britt

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Joan Ganz Cooney on her reflections on The Children's Television Workshop's David Britt

Karen Carpenter

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Joan Ganz Cooney on The Carpenters popularizing the song, "Sing" from Sesame Street

Dick Cavett

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Joan Ganz Cooney on Dick Cavett hosting 3-2-1 Contact
Joan Ganz Cooney on getting Dick Cavett to host the health program, Feeling Good

Bruce Christensen

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Joan Ganz Cooney on her reflections on public television's Bruce Christensen

Dave Connell

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Joan Ganz Cooney on Dave Connell from Captain Kangaroo executive producing for The Children's Television Workshop
Joan Ganz Cooney on contributing to The Electric Company
Joan Ganz Cooney on Dave Connell's role as producer on the reading program, The Electric Company
Joan Ganz Cooney on Dave Connell's involvement with producing the science program, 3-2-1 Contact
Joan Ganz Cooney on Dave Connell's role producing the math program, Square One TV

Bill Cosby

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Joan Ganz Cooney on contributing to The Electric Company
Joan Ganz Cooney on her reflections on working with Bill Cosby

Michael Dann

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Joan Ganz Cooney on Mike Dann leaving CBS to become an executive at The Children's Television Workshop
Joan Ganz Cooney on Mike Dann helping to find an Executive Producer for The Children's Television Workshop
Joan Ganz Cooney on Mike Dann's involvement with The Children's Television Workshop
Joan Ganz Cooney on Mike Dann's early assistance with The Children's Television Workshop

James Day

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Joan Ganz Cooney on James Day, who ran local San Francisco PBS station, KQED, and served on the board of The Children's Television Workshop

Paul Dooley

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Joan Ganz Cooney on The Electric Company's head writer, Paul Dooley

Paul Firstenberg

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Joan Ganz Cooney on executive Paul Firstenberg's push to sell the company's investments in cable
Joan Ganz Cooney on the end of Paul Firstenberg's term at the Children's Television Workshop

Lewis Freedman

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Joan Ganz Cooney on Louis Friedman and the creation of The Children's Television Network

Morgan Freeman

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Joan Ganz Cooney on contributing to The Electric Company as "Easy Reader"

Fred Friendly

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Joan Ganz Cooney on Fred Friendly's disapproval of an Arabic version of Sesame Street

Sam Gibbon

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Joan Ganz Cooney on hiring Sam Gibbon from Captain Kangaroo for The Children's Television Workshop
Joan Ganz Cooney on contributing to The Electric Company
Joan Ganz Cooney on Sam Gibbons role as producer on the reading program, The Electric Company
Joan Ganz Cooney on Sam Gibbon's involvement with producing the science program, 3-2-1 Contact

Linda Gottlieb

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Joan Ganz Cooney on hiring Linda Gottlieb and creating show ideas that would make their way into Sesame Street

Jack Gould

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Joan Ganz Cooney on meeting with New York Times television critic Jack Gould and having him in her corner

Lawrence K. Grossman

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Joan Ganz Cooney on her reflections on Larry Grossman and his contributions to news and public affairs

Hartford Gunn

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Joan Ganz Cooney on her reflections on public television's Hartford Gunn

Jim Henson

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Joan Ganz Cooney on bringing Jim Henson into The Children's Television Workshop
Joan Ganz Cooney on meeting Jim Henson
Joan Ganz Cooney on Jim Henson
Joan Ganz Cooney on the initial lack of female puppeteers on Sesame Street
Joan Ganz Cooney on Jim Henson's Muppets on Sesame Street
Joan Ganz Cooney on Jim Henson's request to the run licensing of the Sesame Street Muppets
Joan Ganz Cooney on a story Jim Henson told her about someone passing on Sesame Street toys to a daughter
Joan Ganz Cooney on her reflections on Jim Henson

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Joan Ganz Cooney on how The Children's Television Network was a beacon of hope after the death of Martin Luther King Jr.

Will Lee

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Joan Ganz Cooney on the Sesame Street episode following actor Will Lee's death,  "Farewell, Mr. Hooper" (airdate: November 24, 1983)

Loretta Long

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Joan Ganz Cooney on Sesame Street's "Susan," Loretta Long

Kathy Mendoza

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Joan Ganz Cooney on Kathy Mendoza's involvement with producing the science program, 3-2-1 Contact

Rita Moreno

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Joan Ganz Cooney on contributing to The Electric Company

Sheila Nevins

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Joan Ganz Cooney on Sheila Nevins' work on the health program, Feeling Good

Frank Oz

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Joan Ganz Cooney on Jim Henson's Muppets and Frank Oz's puppeteering on Sesame Street
Joan Ganz Cooney on her reflections on puppeteer Frank Oz

William S. Paley

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Joan Ganz Cooney on William S. Paley, founder of CBS

Joe Raposo

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Joan Ganz Cooney on bringing in Joe Raposo to do the music on Sesame Street
Joan Ganz Cooney on Joe Raposo's musical genius on Sesame Street
Joan Ganz Cooney on doing the music for The Electric Company

Matt Robinson

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Joan Ganz Cooney on Sesame Street's original "Gordon," Matt Robinson

Carl Sagan

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Joan Ganz Cooney on Carl Sagan's input on the creation of the science program, 3-2-1 Contact

David Sarnoff

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Joan Ganz Cooney on meeting David Sarnoff and starting at RCA
Joan Ganz Cooney on David Sarnoff (founder of NBC) and William S. Paley (founder of CBS)
Joan Ganz Cooney on why David Sarnoff fired Pat Weaver

Fred Silverman

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Joan Ganz Cooney on Fred Silverman helping to find an Executive Producer for The Children's Television Workshop

Frank Sinatra

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Joan Ganz Cooney on Joe Raposo's friendship with Frank Sinatra and taking Sesame Street music mainstream

Jon Stone

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Joan Ganz Cooney on hiring John Stone from Captain Kangaroo for The Children's Television Workshop
Joan Ganz Cooney on John Stone suggesting the stage be a street on what would become Sesame Street

Sylvester L. "Pat" Weaver

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Joan Ganz Cooney on wanting to work for Pat Weaver at NBC
Joan Ganz Cooney on why David Sarnoff fired Pat Weaver

Ethel Winant

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Joan Ganz Cooney on casting agent Ethel Winant's involvement in producing the dramatic program, Best of Families

Malcolm X

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Joan Ganz Cooney on Malcom X

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