|Sesame Street character|
|First appearance||Episode 0406 (November 13, 1972)|
|Created by||Norman Stiles|
Count von Count (known simply as the Count) is a fictional mysterious but friendly vampire Muppet on the long-running PBS/HBO children's television show Sesame Street who is meant to parody Bela Lugosi's portrayal of Count Dracula. He first appeared on the show in the Season 4 premiere in 1972, counting blocks in a sketch with Bert and Ernie.
The Count's main role is to teach counting skills to children. The Count loves counting so much (as said in his signature greeting, “They call me the Count because I love to count things.”) that he often will count anything and everything regardless of size or amount, to the point of annoying other characters. In Episode 0539 (Season 5, 1973), for example, he hired Ernie to answer his telephone so that he would not be bothered while looking for things to count. He then impulsively forbade him from answering the first call that came through until it was way too late because he wanted to count all 5 times the telephone rang, and a mêlée resulted when the caller re-tried, resulting in an argument with Ernie. In Episode 1970 (Season 16, 1984), on his first day of serving as an elevator operator, he foolishly neglected to let Kermit the Frog out at his selected floor, because he wanted to count all 10 floors in the building, and was unable to stop until he finished, leaving Kermit very angry. In Episode 3489 (Season 27, 1996), he tricked Oscar the Grouch into saying the word "no" 17 times, by continuously knocking on his trash can and prodding him to help the Count find something to count 17 of. The Count can occasionally lose his temper if interrupted while counting, or feel sad when there is nothing around for him to count. But apart from these, he is typically portrayed as friendly and cheerful. Once he reaches the total number of his targeted item to count, thunderstorms roll (even indoors) while he laughs his iconic "Ah-Ah-Ah!" staccato laugh.
The Count lives in an old cobweb-infested castle which he shares with many bats, a wolf named Yuba, and a cat named Fatatita. He spent his childhood in the Carpathian Mountains, which makes it clear he is Romanian, as explained in his most famous song, "The Batty Bat". His pet bats tend to have Slavic names, such as Grisha, Misha, Sasha, and Tatiana. He views the bats as his "children" and sometimes counts them. As a running gag, his castle has a squeaky door, which visitors always point out, only for the Count to instantly change the subject to his counting addiction. The Count drives a special car, the Countmobile, designed to look like a bat. (cf. Batmobile)
The Count has been shown with a number of girlfriends, who tend to be vampire Countesses. These include Countess von Backwards (debuting in Sesame Street‘s 28th season), who counts backward, her total is indicated by a wolf howl; Countess Dahling von Dahling (debuted in the 12th season); and one simply called "The Countess" (first appearing in season 8). The von Count family includes an unnamed brother and mother as well as an Uncle Uno and grandparents. His grandparents are unnamed, but they too love to count and have a similar laugh (ah ah ah!), but instead of thunder and lightning, Grandma Count’s counting makes it rain, and Grandpa Count’s counting makes it snow.
The Count has a personal cloud hovering over him, which is the possibility of the source of his thunder and lightning. Some residents have been disturbed by it in a few episodes. For example, it interrupted Kermit's broadcast at the Three Little Pigs' house, and the pigs were frightened by it, thinking rain would follow, and in episode 0974, he was counting at midnight, and as his punishment, the Amazing Mumford used magic to detach his cloud, therefore taking his thunder and lightning away until he understood. This episode was featured in a 1978 Sesame Street bedtime storybook titled "Who Stole the Count's Thunder?"
According to BBC News, during an interview with the More or Less team's Tim Harford, the Count said his favorite number is 34,969. The Count was quoted as saying, "It's a square-root thing.": 34,969 is a perfect square, being 1872.
The Count's signature song is "The Song of the Count". The song was written by Jeff Moss as a traditional Hungarian Csárdás. He might not be a vampire in the classic sense, given that he has been seen with a reflection in a mirror, and he has no problem with being out in the daylight.
The Count was originally portrayed by Jerry Nelson. However, Nelson's health began to deteriorate in 2004, so he retired from performing all his characters except for the Count and his other Sesame Street characters. Due to his increasingly failing health, Nelson could no longer puppeteer the character of the Count, so he handed over puppeteering duties to Matt Vogel, though Nelson still continued to voice the Count. After Nelson's death in 2012, Vogel took over voicing and puppeteering the Count full time the following year.
The Count debuted on Sesame Street in Episode 0406, the premiere of Season 4 (1972–73), and he was conceived by Norman Stiles, who wrote the first script. In the Count's very first scene, Ernie told Bert to watch his pyramid of blocks and make sure nothing happened to it while he got his camera to take a picture of the pyramid. The Count then walked by, counted the blocks, and in the process, took Ernie's pyramid apart before Bert could stop him. He then counted the blocks again, moving them back into place. Bert yelled at the Count for moving Ernie's blocks, so the Count counted the blocks again, taking the pyramid apart. The Count was performed by Jerry Nelson, who brought the character to life. He is made out of the Large Lavender Live Hand Anything Muppet pattern. Before a counting session, he originally greeted the viewers (and the characters) by saying, "Greetings. I am the Count. They call me the Count because I LOVE to count... things." Nelson voiced the Count until his death on August 23, 2012. At that time, Matt Vogel had taken over performing the puppetry of the Count. Upon Nelson's death, Vogel started performing both the Count's voice and puppetry. His first performance of the Count was in a YouTube video called "Counting the Yous in YouTube", a song about the celebration of Sesame Street's YouTube channel reaching 1 billion views.
Despite the fact that the Count is now friendly and non-threatening, in his earliest appearances from 1972 to 1975, he showed a much more villainous nature. To begin a counting session, the Count would enter the scene holding his cape over his face in an exaggerated Lugosi-style pose before reciting his greeting, and he was often accompanied by creepy organ music. He would not even let anything interrupt him while counting, and to prevent this, he shouted "SILENCE!" and used hypnotic powers to temporarily stun people with a wave of his hands (although he sometimes did this without shouting anything, and even did it for no reason, occasionally). He only did this twice. In his first appearance, he hypnotized Bert before counting Ernie's pyramid blocks, while on season 5, during a skit with Grover, the waiter, he hypnotized Grover to serve him more hot dogs to count instead of eating, leaving Grover breathless. And after counting, he would laugh maniacally, "MWAH HA HA HA HA HAAAA!!!", while thunder and lightning flashed in moody colors, and then he would exit the scene, once again, holding his cape over his face. This aspect of the Count's personality, however, was abruptly ended in 1975 out of concern that it might frighten younger viewers, and this practice was changed, as he became friendlier, did not have hypnotic powers, did not enter or exit the scene holding his cape over his face, and interacted more pleasantly with the characters (both live actors and Muppets). Also, the creepy organ music was removed, the lightning flashes were changed from moodily colored to normally colored, and his laugh was changed from a maniacal laugh to a more throaty, triumphant Lugosi-style laugh, "Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!"
Belvedere Castle, in New York's Central Park, was used for exterior establishing shots of the Count's castle on the show.
The Count made an appearance in the film The Muppets Take Manhattan at Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy's wedding, then in the Sesame Street movies Follow That Bird (1985) as a supporting character and The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland (1999) as a minor character. Notably, the Count appeared on-screen during the closing credits of Follow That Bird, where he proceeded to read and count the credits. He also said, "Hi, Mom." when a credit appears for Joan Ganz Cooney, creator of Sesame Street.
In Season 33, the Count got a daily segment on Sesame Street, simply called The Number of the Day.
The St. Paul Saints, an independent minor-league baseball team in St. Paul, Minnesota, known for unique and sometimes over-the-top promotions, announced that it would give away 2,500 bobblehead dolls dressed as the Count at its May 23, 2009 game. However, instead of the Count's regular head, this doll's head featured Al Franken on one side and Norm Coleman on the other, and was called "Count von Re-Count"—referring to the extraordinarily prolonged recount and legal battle surrounding the 2008 U.S. Senate election between the two men. The team made further jabs at the election during the game.
Australian rugby league football international Anthony Minichiello has been nicknamed 'The Count' due to his striking resemblance to the character.
During the 2020 United States presidential election, which required a ballot-counting period of four days before Joe Biden was declared the winner (a result of record-setting use of mail-in voting and early voting), the Count was featured in many internet memes and social media posts, such as playful wishes that he could be called in to assist the tabulation and the insistence that President Donald Trump's demand to "Stop the Count" was hopeless against the Sesame Street character.