Jack Davis + Sesame Street= Awesome
While surfing the internet for images for my article about my renewed appreciation for Ebay I made an exciting if unsurprising discovery. Jack Davis, my favorite artist, was also a prolific Sesame Street illustrator.
Some folks like Magritte. Others like Picasso. Still others are partial to Thomas Kinkade, the painter of light. My favorite artist did his best and best known work as part of Mad Magazine’s “Usual Gang of Idiots” for a period of decades. Then again, Jack Davis did not work exclusively for Mad Magazine. He didn’t work exclusively for anyone. He was wildly prolific and not terribly discriminating in who he worked with.
Davis created some of my all-time favorite movie posters, wild, kinetic, overstuffed extravaganzas for classics like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and The Long Goodbye. But he also worked for E.C Comics and William Gaines outside of Mad Magazine, including Tales from the Crypt.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, Sesame Street did not really have a house style when it came to the illustrations in its books, magazines, calendars and puzzles. Consequently Davis did not have to conform to a preexisting visual aesthetic; instead he was able to re-conceive the show’s colorful cast of Muppety oddballs through his own distinctive style.
Davis’ aesthetic was perfect for Sesame Street: wild, energetic and overflowing with riotous details and personality. In its early days, Sesame Street looked and felt like an actual city street that doubled as a wonderland of play and imagination. Davis was all about capturing in satirical form the essence of his subject; there’s something impressionistic and abstract about his illustrations that’s perfect for Sesame Street.
Moreover, Davis was versatile and witty enough that he could draw outrageous, naughty parodies for Mad Magazine of his own illustrations for Sesame Street. The first image here is from Davis’ work for the Children’s Television Workshop. The second is a parody of the same image he composed for a Sesame Street parody entitled Reality Street.
Davis was skilled at playing both sides of the street, as it were. He parodied Sesame Street for Mad but he also depicted the crazy energy of Sesame Street and its iconic Muppets for a TV Guide cover depicting Cookie Monster chomping on the magazine’s logo and this amazing illustration for Out to Lunch, a 1974 special bringing together The Electric Company, the Muppets of Sesame Street and stars like Barbara Eden, Elliott Gould and Carol Burnett. Hat tip to my pal Alonso Duralde for bringing this special to my attention. I hope someday I get to experience it.
Given Davis’ genius for details, it makes sense that he would be the artist for a series of Sherlock Hemlock puzzles that came with a magnifying glass that would help children see details seemingly hidden in the frame.
Davis’ work with Sesame Street included a 1972 calendar and a series of posters I would love to get my hands on.
Yes, Jack Davis and Sesame Street are two great tastes that go great together. I was excited to discover their connection and I’m happy that I get to share my discovery with y’all.
I make my living largely through Patreon, so if you would be kind enough to consider pledging even a dollar a month over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace it would be