Sweepin’ the clouds away: Jack Davis’ Sesame Street

« Until now Mr. Cookie Monster refused to talk about the matter because his mouth was full, and it’s not polite to talk with your mouth full. » — Guest Star Robert McNeil

With the venerable MAD Magazine (1952-2019) bowing out after sixty-seven years, and kid’s educational show Sesame Street (singalong time!) about to hit the half-century mark, it seems à propos to salute one of the geniuses their respective histories share, Jack Davis (1924 – 2016)… rather than mire ourselves in the inevitable stack of lachrymose paeans to Harvey Kurtzman’s long-lost progeny.

So, are you in need of a bit of cheering up after a down-in-the-dumps day? Take a stroll down friendly Sesame Street with sweet Mr. Davis! Now isn’t this a place where you’d care to linger a spell?

A lovely excerpt from the Sesame Street Annual (1972, Dell); according to the table of contents, it teaches ‘Planning’. Don’t worry, I won’t leave you in the lurch: the answers are at the end of this post. You’re welcome!
It’s a sunny day indeed when genial Jack Davis’ long legs come striding down Sesame Street! The series was called Sherlock Hemlock’s Hidden Answer Jigsaw Puzzles, and this is number one, The Puzzle of the Hidden C’s. Well, don’t just stand there gaping, how many can *you* spot, wise guy?
Spaghetti and chaos are on the menu in this scene that Davis was commissioned to create in 1971, early in the rise of the Muppet empire. This is number 2, The Puzzle of the Hidden S’s.
This is number 3, The Puzzle of the Hidden Numbers. Each puzzle was packaged with a blue transparency “looking glass”, which could be used to discover hidden shapes in the picture. I’m afraid I don’t have one to spare, so you’ll have to procure your own.
And here’s number four of the puzzle illustrations Mr. Davis created for Educational Toys’ Sherlock Hemlock’s Hidden Answer Puzzle series. This is número 4, The Puzzle of the Hidden Shapes… you know what to do next!

Here’s the aforementioned [Yves Klein] blue looking glass you’ll need.

Another Davis-illustrated exercise in fun from the 1972 Sesame Street Annual, which also features some gorgeous contributions from Mel Crawford and Davis’ fellow Usual Gang of Idiots member, Al Jaffee. This one teaches, again according to the “Parents’ Guide to Contents”, “Pre-reading skills”.
As one of America’s most distinctive and deservedly successful illustrators, Davis created scores of splendid TV Guide covers, and he was uniquely well suited for this one. This is the July 10, 1971 issue. I never would have figured the mag’s logo to be edible, but then the Cookie Monster’s idea what’s fit to eat is pretty liberal.
A very early Davis Sesame Street illustration initially used in The Sesame Street Learning Kit (Children’s Television Workshop, 1969); the show made its début on November 10, 1969, on the about-to-expire National Educational Television network. A merger soon turned the NET into the Public Broadcasting Service, which Sesame Street, now in its 49th season, calls home to this day.
And here’s your answer. Thanks for playing along!

In case one of you experts is wondering, I did leave out, deliberately, Davis’ single meatiest contribution to the show’s canon: The 1972 Sesame Street Calendar (which I look forward to reusing in 2028), twenty-five pages of pure Davis, including thirteen particularly lush watercolours. In order to do it justice, it’ll require at least one post of its own.

And as we’re on the topic of Sesame Street’s seemingly boundless creativity, I can’t recommend enough this recent profile of the enduring friendship of a pair of the show’s most pivotal songwriters.

« Never refer to me as an item. I’m a bird. » — Big Bird

– RG

4 thoughts on “Sweepin’ the clouds away: Jack Davis’ Sesame Street

    • gasp65 July 6, 2019 / 22:29

      Ah, I’m not surprised that this one tickled your fancy. As always, your sharing is much appreciated. Cheers, George!

      Liked by 1 person

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