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Too hot for 'Sesame Street': Why the Red Hot Chili Peppers were rejected by the show

·Editor in Chief, Yahoo Music
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Sesame Street has welcomed many musical guests since it premiered 50 years ago on Nov. 10, 1969, from Katy Perry and Feist to R.E.M. and Elvis Costello. But the dream of one band, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, to perform on the show was never realized, because they were “too racy,” according to drummer Chad Smith.

Back in 1994, Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis excitedly told Rolling Stone about his funk-rock band’s tireless and seemingly successful campaign to finally be Sesame Street musical guests, saying, “Did I tell you we’re going on Sesame Street? I’ve seen Dizzy Gillespie on Sesame Street, and a number of musicians have appeared in sketches. They play music, and the kids gather around, and it’s always a really cool thing. For a long time, we’ve wanted to play Sesame Street, and they weren’t too sure about it. But they finally said yes. So as soon as we finish this record, we’re gonna do a spot on Sesame Street. That could be the pinnacle of our career… I think it just took ’em a while to realize that we have an understanding with kids and that kids dig what we do.”

Unfortunately, RHCP’s Sesame Street appearance never happened. Later in ’94, a Children's Television Workshop publicist, Carolyn Miller, revealed to British music magazine Melody Maker that producers had decided that the Peppers "would not be appropriate" for the show. According to Jeff Apter’s biography Fornication: The Red Hot Chili Peppers Story, she said in a statement, “It’s a hot band, but we just don’t feel they’d be suited to our audience.”

According to a 2010 Vulture interview with Sesame Street head writer Joseph Mazzarino, it was, ironically, another RHCP appearance in Rolling Stone, in 1992, that had made the Sesame Street powers-that-be skittish. “I remember years ago, when the Red Hot Chili Peppers were on the cover of Rolling Stone [in the nude] and they wanted to do the show, and the executive producer at the time said no, but that’s the only thing in my memory where we said, ‘No, that’s inappropriate,’” Mazzarino explained.

Speaking last year to Yahoo Entertainment/SiriusXM Volume, Smith, a Muppets fan who’s been known to rock an Animal jacket from time to time, expressed his disappointment. “Yeah, we really wanted to be on Sesame Street, so bad, because it was such a great, great show. And you know, we have kids, we love kids.” (Smith, a father of three, does a great deal of charity work to promote music education in schools, and his bandmate Flea runs the Silver Lake Conservatory of Music to provide music lessons for underprivileged L.A. youth.)

“We thought it would be so fun. And they were like, ‘Um, no, you guys are a little too racy for us,’” Smith continued. “We were like, ‘No, come on! We don’t do that anymore! We’ll be good!’ But that was it. They ran it up the totem pole, and the totem pole came back down.”

Interestingly, Elmo must not have been happy about the producers’ decision. When Sesame Workshop included a "Muppetbook" section of Muppet bios in the digital press kit for 40th season of Sesame Street, the famous furry creature listed the Red Hot Chili Peppers as his favorite band on his profile page. That must have given RHCP some serious Street cred.

Elmo's Muppetbook profile from 2009. (Photo: SesameWorkshop.org)
Elmo's Muppetbook profile from 2009. (Photo: SesameWorkshop.org)

And while the Peppers never got to be on a Sesame Street episode brought to you by the letters R-H-C-P, an unofficial, fan-made, but quite convincing viral video of Kermit the Frog (and Animal) singing the band’s biggest hit gives an idea what might have been.

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