Joan Ganz Cooney

Children's Show Creator


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

Tab

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."

Highlights
Joan Ganz Cooney on the use of Muppets on Sesame Street and initial reaction to the show
02:00
Joan Ganz Cooney on the importance of humor in Sesame Street
00:50
Joan Ganz Cooney on the Sesame Street episode following actor Will Lee's death,  "Farewell, Mr. Hooper" (airdate: November 24, 1983)
01:16
On results of testing done on pre-schoolers on the efficacy of Sesame Street
00:40
On being a woman in a male dominated business
02:25
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On her childhood and early influences
17:31
On religion; on entering the media and on moving to New York and working for RCA and The U.S. Steel Hour
11:01

Chapter 2

On David Sarnoff, William S. Paley, and Pat Weaver
04:36
On the New York intellectual crowd she spent time with whle in her 20s; on Partisan Review
05:06
On the beginnings of educational television in New York; on becoming a producer at Channel 13 New York
08:34
On her early work at Channel 13 and the struggle for the survival of public television
10:35

Chapter 3

On her documentary, A Chance at the Beginning, the formation of Head Start, and additional work at Channel 13
08:06
On the documentary format for television
07:45
On the creation of The Children's Television Workshop
12:53

Chapter 4

On hiring producers for The Children's Television Workshop
06:02
On bringing Jim Henson onto Sesame Street; on the creation of content for Sesame Street
12:12
On the creation of Big Bird, Oscar, and bringing in Gordon and Susan; on measuring the success of Sesame Street
06:05
On the music on Sesame Street and the joys of working with Jim Henson
05:06

Chapter 5

On the research conducted for Sesame Street
03:59
On Jim Henson and the Muppets on Sesame Street
04:33
On network interest in Sesame Street, humor and guest stars; on incorporating 
08:50
On the Sesame Street episode following actor Will Lee's death,  "Farewell, Mr. Hooper" (airdate: November 24, 1983)
01:23
On the format and topics covered on Sesame Street
02:48
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
07:00

Chapter 6

On The Electric Company
07:45
On the formation of the Children's Television Workshop in 1968 and its incorporation in 1970
09:34
On the financial structure of the Children's Television Workshop, Inc.
03:19
On the international success of Sesame Street
11:36

Chapter 7

On the grant from The Ford Foundation in the 1970s to help fund The Children's Television's Workshop; on cable investments
06:38
On The Children's Television Workshop's partnership with Atari and investment in theme parks
03:13
On The Children's Television Workshop's success with licensing; on digital ventures
08:40
On executive/consultant Mike Dann's contributions and how The Children's Television Workshop handled international productions - particularly those in Israel and Palestine
10:20

Chapter 8

On planning and testing of program to promote reading, The Electric Company
08:49
On the programs Feeling Good and Latin American Health Minutes
06:20
On the dramatic series, Best of Families
03:55
On the science program, 3-2-1 Contact and the math program, Square One TV
07:45

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
08:08
On her reflections on her career and on her personal life
10:27
On how Sesame Street competes in the new marketplace; on the show's legacy
03:41
On her personal legacy; on her reflections on people with whom she's worked
07:12
Shows

3-2-1 Contact

View Show Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on the show, 3-2-1 Contact
01:42
Joan Ganz Cooney on the science show, 3-2-1 Contact
01:11
Joan Ganz Cooney on the science program, 3-2-1 Contact
07:04
Joan Ganz Cooney on the format and funding of the science program, 3-2-1 Contact
02:28
Joan Ganz Cooney on the success of 3-2-1 Contact versus that of Square One TV
01:03

Best of Families, The

View Show Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on the program, Best of Families
01:18
Joan Ganz Cooney on subsidizing the program, Best of Families
01:22
Joan Ganz Cooney on the dramatic program, Best of Familie s, a social history of New York at the turn of the 20th century
03:55

Captain Kangaroo

View Show Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on hiring producers from Captain Kangaroo for Sesame Street
04:10
Joan Ganz Cooney on Mike Dann helping her select executive producers from Captain Kangaroo
02:26

Court of Reason

View Show Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on Malcom X's appearance on the public television show, Court of Reason
00:57
Joan Ganz Cooney on the public television show, Court of Reason
04:13

Dateline

View Show Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on the documentary format and how she doesn't enjoy Dateline
00:56

Electric Company, The

View Show Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on the show, The Electric Company
01:26
Joan Ganz Cooney on the origin of the program to promote reading, The Electric Company
07:45
Joan Ganz Cooney on planning the program to promote reading, The Electric Company
08:49

Feeling Good

View Show Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on health series for adults, Feeling Good
04:16

Ghostwriter

View Show Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on the program to promote reading, Ghostwriter
01:36

Latin American Health Minutes

View Show Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on Latin American Health Minutes
02:04

Muppet Show, The

View Show Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on Jim Henson's fear of being typecast as a children's performer
00:30

Poverty, Anti-Poverty and the Poor

View Show Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on her documentary, Poverty, Anti-Poverty and the Poor
02:58

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In

View Show Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on wanting Sesame Street to be a Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In for kids
00:49

Sesame Street

View Show Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on the origin of the name for Sesame Street
01:55
Joan Ganz Cooney on the creation of Sesame Street
23:23
Joan Ganz Cooney on importance of research in the development of Sesame Street
01:28
Joan Ganz Cooney on the use of Muppets on Sesame Street and initial reaction to the show
02:00
Joan Ganz Cooney on the various Muppets on Sesame Street  
02:39
Joan Ganz Cooney on the importance of humor in Sesame Street
00:50
Joan Ganz Cooney on the Sesame Street episode following actor Will Lee's death,  "Farewell, Mr. Hooper" (airdate: November 24, 1983)
01:16
Joan Ganz Cooney on the international versions of Sesame Street
11:36
Joan Ganz Cooney on how Sesame Street competes in the new marketplace; on the show's legacy
03:41

Sesame Street: "Farewell, Mr. Hooper"

View Show Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on the Sesame Street episode following actor Will Lee's death,  "Farewell, Mr. Hooper"
01:17

Square One TV

View Show Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on the math program, Square One TV for 8-12 year olds
01:23
Joan Ganz Cooney on the math program, Square One TV
00:41
Joan Ganz Cooney on the math program, Square One TV
04:04

Today

View Show Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on Pat Weaver's creation of and advertising structure on The Tonight Show and Today
01:16

Tonight Starring Jack Paar aka The Jack Paar Show

View Show Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on Pat Weaver's creation of and advertising structure on The Tonight Show and Today
01:16

United States Steel Hour, The

View Show Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on getting a job at The U.S. Steel Hour
01:02
Joan Ganz Cooney on publicizing The U.S. Steel Hour
03:28
Joan Ganz Cooney on live television and later taping on The U.S. Steel Hour
03:14

Your Show of Shows

View Show Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on live television, as on Your Show of Shows
00:41
Topics

Civil Rights Movement

View Topic
Joan Ganz Cooney on how The Children's Television Network was a beacon of hope after the death of Martin Luther King Jr.
00:44

Creative Influences and Inspiration

View Topic
Joan Ganz Cooney on her high school teachers that influenced her
05:26

Criticism of TV

View Topic
Joan Ganz Cooney on the use of Muppets on Sesame Street and initial reaction to the show
02:02
Joan Ganz Cooney on the criticism of the health series for adults, Feeling Good
02:13

Emmy Awards

View Topic
Joan Ganz Cooney on her documentary, Poverty, Anti-Poverty and the Poor and winning an area Emmy for the program
02:58
Joan Ganz Cooney on Emmy awards for Sesame Street
00:55

John F. Kennedy

View Topic
Joan Ganz Cooney on a program she produced on Cuba shortly before the Cuban Missile Crisis
01:13

Pop Culture

View Topic
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
01:00

Technological Innovation

View Topic
Joan Ganz Cooney on color television
00:24
Joan Ganz Cooney on struggling public TV stations -relegated to the undesirable UHF (Ultra High Frequency) range of the broadcast spectrum
00:43
Joan Ganz Cooney on The Children's Television Workshop's investments in cable systems
02:14
Joan Ganz Cooney on the online services of The Children's Television Workshop and the digital channel in the works with Nickelodeon
02:58

We Cried

View Topic
Joan Ganz Cooney on the Sesame Street episode following actor Will Lee's death,  "Farewell, Mr. Hooper" (airdate: November 24, 1983)
01:16

Women

View Topic
Joan Ganz Cooney on how the character of Susan on Sesame Street was problematic for NOW (National Organization for Women)
00:38
 Joan Ganz Cooney on the initial lack of female puppeteers on Sesame Street
01:34
Joan Ganz Cooney on being a woman in a male dominated business
02:25
Professions

Producers

View Profession
Joan Ganz Cooney on becoming a producer at Channel 13 New York
03:48
Joan Ganz Cooney on her early days as a producer at Channel 13 New York
01:17
Joan Ganz Cooney on "volume producing" for Sesame Street
00:36
Joan Ganz Cooney on Dave Connell's role producing the math program, Square One TV
04:04

Puppeteer

View Profession
 Joan Ganz Cooney on the initial lack of female puppeteers on Sesame Street
01:34
Genres

Children's Programming

View Genre
Joan Ganz Cooney on Louis Friedman and the creation of The Children's Television Network
12:53
Joan Ganz Cooney on the creation of Sesame Street
30:45
Joan Ganz Cooney on the use of Muppets on Sesame Street and initial reaction to the show
02:43
Joan Ganz Cooney on the importance of humor in Sesame Street
00:06
Joan Ganz Cooney on the Sesame Street episode following actor Will Lee's death,  "Farewell, Mr. Hooper" (airdate: November 24, 1983)
01:16
Joan Ganz Cooney on the international versions of Sesame Street
11:36
Joan Ganz Cooney on Joan Ganz Cooney on Jim Henson's request to run licensing of the Sesame Street Muppets
00:47
Joan Ganz Cooney on the reading program, The Electric Company
08:49
Joan Ganz Cooney on the math program, Square One TV
07:04
Joan Ganz Cooney on the science program, 3-2-1 Contact
00:41
Joan Ganz Cooney on the science program, 3-2-1 Contact
02:28
Joan Ganz Cooney on the math program, Square One TV
04:04
Joan Ganz Cooney on the program to promote reading, Ghostwriter
01:36

Drama Series

View Genre
Joan Ganz Cooney on The Golden Age of Television
01:02

News and Documentary

View Genre
Joan Ganz Cooney on the importance of documentaries
07:23
People

David Britt

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on her reflections on The Children's Television Workshop's David Britt
00:56

Karen Carpenter

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on The Carpenters popularizing the song, "Sing" from Sesame Street
00:23

Dick Cavett

View Interview Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on Dick Cavett hosting 3-2-1 Contact
01:50
Joan Ganz Cooney on getting Dick Cavett to host the health program, Feeling Good
00:59

Bruce Christensen

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on her reflections on public television's Bruce Christensen
00:22

Dave Connell

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on Dave Connell from Captain Kangaroo executive producing for The Children's Television Workshop
06:02
Joan Ganz Cooney on contributing to The Electric Company
07:15
Joan Ganz Cooney on Dave Connell's role as producer on the reading program, The Electric Company
02:57
Joan Ganz Cooney on Dave Connell's involvement with producing the science program, 3-2-1 Contact
03:06
Joan Ganz Cooney on Dave Connell's role producing the math program, Square One TV
04:04

Bill Cosby

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on contributing to The Electric Company
00:58
Joan Ganz Cooney on her reflections on working with Bill Cosby
00:45

Michael Dann

View Interview Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on Mike Dann leaving CBS to become an executive at The Children's Television Workshop
00:24
Joan Ganz Cooney on Mike Dann helping to find an Executive Producer for The Children's Television Workshop
01:52
Joan Ganz Cooney on Mike Dann's involvement with The Children's Television Workshop
00:29
Joan Ganz Cooney on Mike Dann's early assistance with The Children's Television Workshop
06:40

James Day

View Interview Page
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
00:36

Paul Dooley

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on The Electric Company's head writer, Paul Dooley
02:27

Paul Firstenberg

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on executive Paul Firstenberg's push to sell the company's investments in cable
03:34
Joan Ganz Cooney on the end of Paul Firstenberg's term at the Children's Television Workshop
01:14

Lewis Freedman

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on Louis Friedman and the creation of The Children's Television Network
08:26

Morgan Freeman

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on contributing to The Electric Company as "Easy Reader"
00:45

Fred Friendly

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on Fred Friendly's disapproval of an Arabic version of Sesame Street
02:01

Sam Gibbon

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on hiring Sam Gibbon from Captain Kangaroo for The Children's Television Workshop
04:10
Joan Ganz Cooney on contributing to The Electric Company
07:15
Joan Ganz Cooney on Sam Gibbons role as producer on the reading program, The Electric Company
00:55
Joan Ganz Cooney on Sam Gibbon's involvement with producing the science program, 3-2-1 Contact
04:04

Linda Gottlieb

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on hiring Linda Gottlieb and creating show ideas that would make their way into Sesame Street
02:13

Jack Gould

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on meeting with New York Times television critic Jack Gould and having him in her corner
01:06

Lawrence K. Grossman

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on her reflections on Larry Grossman and his contributions to news and public affairs
00:38

Hartford Gunn

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on her reflections on public television's Hartford Gunn
00:20

Jim Henson

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on bringing Jim Henson into The Children's Television Workshop
01:38
Joan Ganz Cooney on meeting Jim Henson
05:03
Joan Ganz Cooney on Jim Henson
01:13
Joan Ganz Cooney on the initial lack of female puppeteers on Sesame Street
01:35
Joan Ganz Cooney on Jim Henson's Muppets on Sesame Street
02:38
Joan Ganz Cooney on Jim Henson's request to the run licensing of the Sesame Street Muppets
00:47
Joan Ganz Cooney on a story Jim Henson told her about someone passing on Sesame Street toys to a daughter
00:23
Joan Ganz Cooney on her reflections on Jim Henson
01:21

Martin Luther King, Jr.

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on how The Children's Television Network was a beacon of hope after the death of Martin Luther King Jr.
00:44

Will Lee

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on the Sesame Street episode following actor Will Lee's death,  "Farewell, Mr. Hooper" (airdate: November 24, 1983)
01:16

Loretta Long

View Interview Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on Sesame Street's "Susan," Loretta Long
00:30

Kathy Mendoza

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on Kathy Mendoza's involvement with producing the science program, 3-2-1 Contact
00:58

Rita Moreno

View Interview Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on contributing to The Electric Company
00:58

Sheila Nevins

View Interview Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on Sheila Nevins' work on the health program, Feeling Good
00:40

Frank Oz

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on Jim Henson's Muppets and Frank Oz's puppeteering on Sesame Street
02:38
Joan Ganz Cooney on her reflections on puppeteer Frank Oz
00:42

William S. Paley

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on William S. Paley, founder of CBS
01:11

Joe Raposo

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on bringing in Joe Raposo to do the music on Sesame Street
01:05
Joan Ganz Cooney on Joe Raposo's musical genius on Sesame Street
03:53
Joan Ganz Cooney on doing the music for The Electric Company
00:23

Matt Robinson

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on Sesame Street's original "Gordon," Matt Robinson
00:30

Carl Sagan

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on Carl Sagan's input on the creation of the science program, 3-2-1 Contact
01:08

David Sarnoff

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on meeting David Sarnoff and starting at RCA
01:49
Joan Ganz Cooney on David Sarnoff (founder of NBC) and William S. Paley (founder of CBS)
02:16
Joan Ganz Cooney on why David Sarnoff fired Pat Weaver
00:40

Fred Silverman

View Interview Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on Fred Silverman helping to find an Executive Producer for The Children's Television Workshop
01:52

Frank Sinatra

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on Joe Raposo's friendship with Frank Sinatra and taking Sesame Street music mainstream
00:44

Jon Stone

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on hiring John Stone from Captain Kangaroo for The Children's Television Workshop
04:10
Joan Ganz Cooney on John Stone suggesting the stage be a street on what would become Sesame Street
00:50

Sylvester L. Weaver

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on wanting to work for Pat Weaver at NBC
04:37
Joan Ganz Cooney on why David Sarnoff fired Pat Weaver
00:40

Ethel Winant

View Interview Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on casting agent Ethel Winant's involvement in producing the dramatic program, Best of Families
02:20

Malcolm X

View Person Page
Joan Ganz Cooney on Malcom X
00:57

All Interviews

Q
S