What do Robert DeNiro, Jason Mraz, First Lady Michelle Obama, David Beckham, Alicia Keys and Kofi Annan all have in common? They, along with hundreds of actors, politicians, athletes and rock stars have appeared on Sesame Street -- reciting the alphabet, dancing and singing with muppets and, in many cases, acting adorably silly.
"For celebrities, Sesame Street is a really fun and safe place to go. It's hip, cool and gives you cred." says Brian Jay Jones, author of Jim Henson: the Biography. "Famous people go on twitter and say things like: "Highlight of my career. I just appeared with Bert and Ernie."
This past September marked the anniversary of the show's debut 45 years ago in 1969. As early as the second episode, with James Earl Jones, celebrities began making guest appearances. During that episode, the 38-year-old actor slowly and intensely recited the alphabet in a most serious and dramatic tone. To add to the drama, his head was shaved bald because he was appearing on Broadway at the time in the Great White Hope
Methodically and slowly as if performing a Hamlet soliloquy, Jones took roughly one minute and a half to recite the alphabet. The actor paused before each letter (which appeared next to him on screen before he spoke). "With my bald head shaved for the role of Jack Johnson in the Great White Hope, I thought I'd terrify them," the actor later said of his hesitation to appear. Hardly! The mesmerizing dramatic pauses inspired children to recite the letters on their own. In fact, Sesame Street producers coined the actor's pausing method between letters, "the James Earl Jones Effect."
Now watched in more than 120 countries, Sesame Street has won more Emmys than any other television show. And the celebrity guests keep coming. To watch some favorite celebrity guest moments click on this story in Parade.