Mo Willems: Sunny Day A botched job interview wound up landing Willems a gig on Sesame Street. Will an Ask Me Another Challenge about the legendary show turn Willems into a giggling Ernie, or Oscar the Grouch?

Mo Willems: Sunny Day

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OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Please welcome back our very important puzzler Mo Willems.

(APPLAUSE)

MO WILLEMS: Hi.

EISENBERG: Now, Mo, you started your career with "Sesame Street" in 1993.

WILLEMS: Wow, yeah.

EISENBERG: And then you worked there for almost a decade, is...

WILLEMS: Almost a decade, yeah.

EISENBERG: So initially applying for a job as a writer on "Sesame Street," what does that packet look like?

WILLEMS: It was tough. Actually what they wanted - adults writers, so you handed in adult sketches. And then they figured it was easier to teach you how to write for children than to teach you how to be funny. So I got through the audition process, and the room had, like, 20 people, and then a week later, it had 10. And I got, you know - sort of subtraction bit.

(LAUGHTER)

WILLEMS: And then I got to write a full script. And I went to my head writer's office, and he had this big smile on his face, and he said, Mo, Mo, I really thought you had it in you. I thought you could have been...

EISENBERG: No.

WILLEMS: ...A "Sesame Street" writer, but this script is terrible. And he started telling me what was wrong with it and I - like, as soon as he said it, I realize that scales were falling from my eyes and I was so nervous. And he said look, I'm sorry. And I left the office, and I slammed the door behind me 'cause I was just upset, not realizing that he also was leaving the office until I heard, oo-ah (ph).

(LAUGHTER)

WILLEMS: And his head was in the door and my hand was on the thing. And...

(LAUGHTER)

WILLEMS: And I was 24, so I said, never criticize my work again.

(LAUGHTER)

WILLEMS: And then our next meeting, we had on the phone.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: There was another meeting, though?

WILLEMS: There was, and he hired me 'cause his brain was addled. All he could remember was that Mo guy, but he couldn't remember anything past that.

EISENBERG: Wow.

(LAUGHTER)

WILLEMS: So.

EISENBERG: I don't want anyone to learn a lesson from that story, but I love the story. So we have a, I believe, a worthy opponent for you that you know - Andy Rash.

WILLEMS: I do know Andy.

EISENBERG: Welcome Andy Rash, everybody.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Illustrator, children's book author as well.

ANDY RASH: Yeah, I am.

EISENBERG: And what is the last or current book that - children's book that you were working on?

RASH: Well, the next thing I've got coming out is called "Archie The Daredevil Penguin," but that won't be out until September 22. There's a lot of lead time in the children's book world.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) Yeah.

WILLEMS: 2043.

(LAUGHTER)

RASH: Yeah, exactly.

EISENBERG: Did you watch "Sesame Street" growing up?

RASH: I did.

EISENBERG: 'Cause this is a quiz called Open Sesame. As you might guess, it's a quiz all about "Sesame Street." Mo has an advantage - maybe. We never know.

WILLEMS: The advantage is that Elmo is just Spanish for the Mo.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: OK. So ring in when you know the answer. You're going to be using your buzzers, my friends. Here we go - "Sesame Street" trivia, let's find out what you know. We all know it ain't easy being green, but many people do not know that Oscar the Grouch was not originally green. What color was Oscar on the first season of "Sesame Street"?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Andy?

RASH: I believe he was orange?

EISENBERG: He was orange, yes.

(APPLAUSE)

WILLEMS: And he was changed because orange did not read on black-and-white screens. He didn't match the background.

EISENBERG: Oh, yes, of course.

JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: Was he invisible?

EISENBERG: I thought they were, like, uh (ph) radioactive garbage.

WILLEMS: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

WILLEMS: No, no. A matter of fact, for many years, you could not mention the color of the characters because a lot of the televisions were black-and-white, and if you were talking about something that some people in the audience couldn't see, that just wouldn't be right.

EISENBERG: Look at what I'm learning. This is amazing. But this is good, point for Andy and then background from Mo.

WILLEMS: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: This is a good game. The composer Muppet known as Don Music was retired from "Sesame Street" when parents complained that children at home were imitating his trademark behavior. What did Don Music do when he got frustrated?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Andy?

RASH: He would yell, I'll never get it right - never, never, never, and then he would bang his head...

(LAUGHTER)

RASH: ...On the keyboard of the piano.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Parents suck.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: I'm going to say that. What frantic and excitable Muppet's real name is Bernie Liederkranz, which he changed to a much cheerier stage name?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Andy?

RASH: I believe that is game show host Guy Smiley.

EISENBERG: That is correct.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Let's break this down. Bernie Liederkranz and then they changed his name to - no, they're just saying less Jewy (ph). That is what they're saying there.

(LAUGHTER)

WILLEMS: That sounds like a Muppet name - Less Jewy.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) Less Jewy.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: The legendary director and puppeteer Frank Oz played "Sesame Street" characters over the years as well as Miss Piggy and, of course, Yoda. Which of these characters was not played by Frank Oz? Cookie Monster, Bert, Snuffleupagus or Grover?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Andy?

RASH: Was it Snuffleupagus?

EISENBERG: Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: All right. This last one is a musical clue. We have changed the lyrics to a popular "Sesame Street" song. So just ring in and correct the lyrics. You ready?

(Singing) Miss Kentucky, you're the one. You make pageants lots of fun. Miss Kentucky, I'm awfully fond of - Miss Kentucky, I'm enjoying the blonde of - Miss Kentucky, I'm awfully fond of you.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Mo?

WILLEMS: "Rubber Duckie."

COULTON: "Rubber Duckie" is the answer.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: All right. Well, clearly you know everything about "Sesame Street," Mo. And, in this case, we brought up a great contestant for you because he did amazing at the quiz.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Congratulations, you both are going home with an ASK ME ANOTHER anagram T-shirt, so get ready to wear that. Let's hear it again for our VIP Mo Willems.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: (Singing) It's not that easy being green, having to spend each day in the color of the leaves. When I think it could be nicer being red or yellow or gold or something much more colorful like that. It's not easy being green, seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things. People tend to pass you over 'cause you're not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water, stars in the sky. But green is the color of spring. And green can be cool and friendly-like. Green can be big like an ocean or important like a mountain or tall like a tree. Green is all there is to be. It could make you wonder why, why wonder? Why wonder? I'm green. It'll do fine. It's beautiful. I think it's what I want to be.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Jonathan Coulton.

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