Thinking back to the first aliens I ever encountered on TV, it’s a tie between the ones that harangued Porky Pig in early Chuck Jones cartoons, or the Yip Yip aliens from Sesame Street. The Yip Yips are my favorite, although interestingly both shared similar traits (they play on the notion that the visitors have trouble identifying the proper seat of intelligent life on planet Earth). Of all the sketches from Sesame Street, theirs stand out the most to me and I remember feeling vaguely terrified by them as a kid, particularly when they actually enter Bert and Ernie’s apartment. I’m surely not the only one who suffered from irrational fear of the Yip Yips, so if you shared that affliction be sure to leave a comment below.
They first appeared in 1971, controlled by none other than Jim Henson himself. The Yip Yips subsequently landed a number of times in classic Sesame Street episodes, and they continue to be used in modern permutations of Sesame Street. Aliens remain a recurring theme in the Sesame Street universe; I saw a more recent episode here in the UK where Bert and Ernie actually get picked up by a UFO. Still, the classic appearances remain the best, such as this very first one where the interplanetary visitors attempt to make contact with a telephone:
What explains the captivating effect of the sketch on kids, so that we remember it after all these years? I think it is appealing because it took us out of the ordinary Sesame Street ‘world’, the same way that contemplating life beyond earth continues to enthrall some of us as adults. The Yip Yips also invited us to consider the universe in new ways, by making banal objects like the telephone, radio and clock seem alien again. And for muppets controlled by only two simple wires and with limited vocabulary, they were just as expressive as the more popular characters. The lower jaw defense mechanism is spectacularly funny – I hope we one day encounter an alien species that actually does that.