Spoofing popular culture has long been a part of the Sesame Street tradition, including educational parodies of such shows as Glee, 30 Rock, and even True Blood. In 2005 it only made sense for the show to take on the popular NBC reality competition The Apprentice. That was long before host Donald Trump threw his hair into the ring and embarked upon his divisive run for the presidency. While the real Trump would probably not be welcome on Sesame Street these days, the appearance of his Muppet doppelgänger, orange wig-wearing Donald Grump (as played by Martin P. Robinson, best known as Telly Monster), was a big deal 11 years ago. Oscar The Grouch and some of his frenemies even sang a catchy song in Grump’s honor. (“Who’s got more trash than anyone does? Grump! Grump! Grump!”)
In the episode, a clip of which is now resurfacing on Reddit, Oscar and his girlfriend are among the grouches competing to be Donald’s assistant, hoping to share in his voluminous collection of monogrammed garbage. Only Maria (Sonia Manzano) is unimpressed: “Who’s Donald Grump?” Ironically, non-grouch Elmo proves to be the best at sorting Donald’s refuse, but he doesn’t want any reward. Ultimately, the grouches of Sesame Street grow tired of groveling for Donald and dismiss him with his own catchphrase: “Scram! You’re fired!”
This was not the first time Sesame Street took on Trump, however. As early as 1988, Robinson played the very similar Ronald Grump, who briefly ousts Oscar from his living space. In 1994, Joe Pesci donned a suitably ridiculous wig to portray a human character also named Ronald Grump in a TV special called Sesame Street All-Star 25th Birthday: Stars And Street Forever! Pesci’s character plans to tear down the beloved thoroughfare and displace its puppet inhabitants, all so he can build his Grump Tower. Needless to say, he doesn’t succeed.
The idea that Trump would want to raze Sesame Street and build something more profitable in its place was also the premise of a 2006 MadTV sketch featuring Frank Caliendo as the clown-haired mogul. Little did the Fox late-night show realize that the real Sesame Street had done that same plot twice already.