Jim Henson began working with puppets as a college student, creating the show Sam and Friends in 1955 for a local Washington, D.C. television station. The energetic Muppets soon became a popular fixture, and led to appearances on national variety shows. Henson's commercials for a local coffee company, Wilkins Coffee, were so popular that he was hired to create similar commercials around the country. In the early 1960s, Henson moved to New York City to work on a variety of projects, including a regular guest spot on The Jimmy Dean Show for the first Muppet star, Rowlf the Dog.
In 1969, Henson was invited to participate in a ground-breaking educational show for television, Sesame Street. Initially, the Muppets were meant to be just one element among many on the show -- but the popularity of Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster, Grover, Ernie and Bert soon made the Muppets the core of the show. Over the years, the Muppet cast has grown to include Mr. Snuffleupagus, Count von Count, Zoe, and, of course, the international superstar Elmo, who stars in his own segment, Elmo's World. Sesame Street is now in production for its 40th season, and the newest star is fairy-in-training Abby Cadabby.
In 1976, Henson created his signature project -- The Muppet Show, a weekly prime-time variety show filled with songs, sketches and talented guest stars. Kermit the Frog is the charming and mostly unflappable host, presiding over a motley crew of performers, including diva Miss Piggy, hopeful comedian Fozzie Bear, daredevil performance artist Gonzo, and the house band, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. The Muppet Show was a huge international success, making unlikely stars out of the Swedish Chef, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker, and the two old cranks in the balcony, Statler and Waldorf.