Elmo Debuts With His New Talk Show The Not Too Late Show with Elmo has premiered on HBO Max Wednesday, becoming the very first late-night style talk show hosted by a 3 1/2-year-old monster.

Elmo Debuts With His New Talk Show

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HBO's new streaming service HBO Max made history this week presenting the very first late-night-style talk show hosted by a 3 1/2-year-old monster. "The Not Too Late Show With Elmo" features "Sesame Street's" red furry star trading jokes with Jimmy Fallon and singing with Lil Nas X. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans asked Elmo how he pulled it all off.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: For a young monster, Elmo's made some pretty famous friends, and it turns out they helped him decide to create his own talk show.

RYAN DILLON: (As Elmo) Elmo's good friends with Mr. Jimmy Fallon. So Elmo's done Mr. Jimmy's show, and Elmo has done Mr. Stephen Colbert's show. So Elmo knows a little bit about talk shows. And Elmo just just thought, boy, those people look really good in suits. So Elmo wanted to try that.


DAVID RUDMAN: (As Cookie Monster) And now, everybody's favorite 3 1/2-year-old red monster, put your paws, claws and hands together - Elmo.


DEGGANS: Elmo not only wears a suit but has a studio audience, a backing band and a monologue.


DILLON: (As Elmo) Knock, knock.

RUDMAN: (As Cookie Monster) Who's there?

DILLON: (As Elmo) Interrupting cow.

RUDMAN: (As Cookie Monster) Interrupting cow who?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Moo.

DEGGANS: Yeah, it's the kind of show where a cow can pop up any time. Cookie Monster says he asked Elmo if he could be the show's announcer when he heard all their friends from Sesame Street would be involved.

RUDMAN: (As Cookie Monster) Rosita was stage manager. Abby was writing. It was like a well-oiled machine. Bert and Grover directing. What could possibly go wrong?

DEGGANS: Well, there was that time when Ernie let a bunch of chickens take over the show's control room.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Why are there chickens running everything?

PETER LINZ: (As Ernie) Well, you said you wanted someone who would work for chicken feed. Is that a bad thing. you said you wanted someone who would work for chicken feed.

RUDMAN: (As Cookie Monster) Is that a bad thing?

DEGGANS: Cookie kind of likes it when things don't go entirely according to plan.

RUDMAN: (As Cookie Monster) We just embrace it. The more chaos, the better.

DEGGANS: The show has had the Jonas Brothers singing about brushing your teeth and Kacey Musgraves singing a lullaby familiar to "Sesame Street" fans.


KACEY MUSGRAVES: (Singing) Rubber ducky, joy of joys, when I squeeze you, you make noise.

DEGGANS: Elmo says the goal is to learn a bedtime routine.

DILLON: (As Elmo) Sometimes Elmo doesn't want to go to bed, you know. But then, you know, if you do the routine and you do it with your mommy and daddy, sometimes it could be fun. So we learn about putting on our pajamas, brushing our teeth, combing our fur.

DEGGANS: Ben Lehman, an executive producer of "The Not Too Late Show" for Sesame Workshop, says they have been considering an Elmo talk show for a while. They filmed the first episode a year and a half ago, intended for HBO, which now airs new episodes of "Sesame Street" months before they go to PBS.

BENJAMIN LEHMAN: We, of course, thought, like, well, what is something that would be beneficial to families as they end their day? And we always designed it to be a family viewing experience. You'd watch it with your younger kids but also with your older kids, as a family. And it just felt like the perfect educational moment to do bedtime routines.

DEGGANS: Sesame Workshop develops programs with research and shows episodes to kids for feedback. With Elmo's talk show, Lehman says they got a surprising response.

LEHMAN: Interestingly, the biggest piece of feedback we got is less talk, which is ironic for a talk show (laughter). It's the best piece of feedback we've gotten. The younger kids like the more visual stuff; the parents like the celebrities. So it kind of informed how we designed the show.

DEGGANS: And even though the episodes were filmed before the pandemic, Elmo says he hopes the show helps kids have fun while spending so much time at home.

LINZ: (As Elmo) Some days are hard and some days are good, but remember that the good days will come. And to be strong, give your mommy and daddy a hug or, you know, your caretakers - give them a great big hug.

DEGGANS: Good advice from a kid who's turned out to be a pretty good talk show host. I'm Eric Deggans.

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