Tony Geiss

Writer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his one-and-a-half hour Archive interview, writer Tony Geiss (1924-2011) speaks in great detail about his 28-year association as a writer of the classic children's series Sesame Street. He describes the basics of writing for the show, the importance of research, and his composition of the show's classic songs including "Butterfly" and "Elmo's World."  He also talks about key creative talent from the series including Joan Ganz Cooney, Jon Stone and Joe Raposo.  Additionally, he discusses his early years as a writer on such television series as WNET's Emmy-winning "How to Be Mayor of New York" and his work on "Comedy Tonight", "The David Frost Show" and various local New York broadcasts. Karen Herman conducted the interview at the Sesame Workshop in New York, NY on July 20, 2004.

"One of the attitudes of 'Sesame Street' has been that children, even tiny ones, have a sense of humor. The other is that they are people. You don't get down on your knees and talk in a tiny voice. I think those are the strengths and the uniqueness of the show."

Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early years; on his memories of his father's work in animation; on his early interest in entertainment; on first seeing television; on his World War II service; on working in France
On his job as a press agent on Broadway; on joining Channel 13 in New York City and working on the comedic documentary How to Be Mayor of New York and How to be Governor of New York State
On Joan Ganz Cooney's vision for Sesame Street; on the beginnings of Sesame Street; on the philosophy of the show; on the state of public television at the time
On working on Comedy Tonight; on working on The David Frost Show; on guests Woody Allen and Alex Haley

Chapter 2

On working with Dick Cavett; on working with David Frost; on producing a local New York talk show
On working on a local New York health show; 
On joining Sesame Street; on how assignments were made on the series; on the rules for writers; on the research goals on the series; on Sesame Street's teaching of Spanish and the show's reach into diverse communities
On the format of Sesame Street and how it changed over the years; on the show's audience; on Sesame Street's teaching of Spanish and the show's reach into diverse communities; on writing for adult audiences, too; on the journey of a Sesame Street script to production; on making sure children don't model bad behavior

Chapter 3

On the journey of a Sesame Street script to production; on writing for characters Ernie and Bert
On the importance of music on Sesame Street; on Buffy Saint-Marie's appearance and the song written for her; on some of the series' famous songs, including "Elmo's" theme
On writing for Sesame Street's guest stars including Madeline Kahn, Robin Williams, Lena Horne, Tony Bennett
On how Sesame Street changed since he started; on adding "Elmo's World"; on writing the feature Find That Bird  
On the legacy of Sesame Street;  on his advice for writing children's television; on the importance of working
Shows

Comedy Tonight

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Writer Tony Geiss on working on Comedy Tonight
01:27

David Frost Show, The

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Writer Tony Geiss on working on The David Frost Show; on guests Woody Allen and Alex Haley
04:14

Sesame Street

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Tony Geiss on Joan Ganz Cooney and the genesis of Sesame Street; on the philosophy of the show; on the state of public television at the time
07:19
Writer Tony Geiss on joining Sesame Street and how assignments were made; on the rules for writers; on the research goals on the series
06:32
Writer Tony Geiss on Sesame Street's teaching of Spanish and the show's reach into diverse communities; on writing for adult audiences, too
09:34
Writer Tony Geiss on the journey of a Sesame Street script to production; on making sure children don't model bad behavior
02:59
Writer Tony Geiss on the journey of a Sesame Street script to production
02:11
Writer Tony Geiss on the importance of music on Sesame Street; on Buffy Saint-Marie's appearance and the song written for her; on some of the series' famous songs, including "Elmo's" theme
05:52
Writer Tony Geiss on writing for Sesame Street's guest stars including Madeline Kahn, Robin Williams, Lena Horne, Tony Bennett
06:04
Writer Tony Geiss on how Sesame Street changed from his start there in the 1970s until 2004
03:10
Writre Tony Geiss on the legacy of Sesame Street
03:06
Genres

Children's Programming

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Writer Tony Geiss on the importance of music on Sesame Street; on Buffy Saint-Marie's appearance and the song written for her; on some of the series' famous songs, including "Elmo's" theme
05:52
People

Woody Allen

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Writer Tony Geiss on working on The David Frost Show; on guests Woody Allen and Alex Haley
04:14

Tony Bennett

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Writer Tony Geiss on writing for Sesame Street's guest stars including Madeline Kahn, Robin Williams, Lena Horne, Tony Bennett
06:04

Dick Cavett

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Writer Tony Geiss on working with Dick Cavett
02:25

Joan Ganz Cooney

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Tony Geiss on working on How to be Governor of New York State, which Joan Ganz Cooney produced as she was looking into childrens' television
01:36

David Frost

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Writer Tony Geiss on working on The David Frost Show; on guests Woody Allen and Alex Haley
04:14
Writer Tony Geiss on working with David Frost
01:36

Lena Horne

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Writer Tony Geiss on writing for Sesame Street's guest stars including Madeline Kahn, Robin Williams, Lena Horne, Tony Bennett
06:04

Madeline Kahn

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Writer Tony Geiss on writing for Sesame Street's guest stars including Madeline Kahn, Robin Williams, Lena Horne, Tony Bennett
06:04

Robin Williams

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Writer Tony Geiss on writing for Sesame Street's guest stars including Madeline Kahn, Robin Williams, Lena Horne, Tony Bennett
06:04

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