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Viral Elmo video reminds us he has a range of emotions — and an adult audience

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ELMO'S WORLD")

KEVIN CLASH: (Singing, as Elmo) La, la, la, la. La, la, la, la. Elmo's World. La, la, la, la. La, la, la, la. Elmo's World.

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

"Elmo's World" is full of wonder and curiosity, cooperation and kindness. Who other than the fuzzy, red Muppet would ask babies how to do things?

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ELMO'S WORLD")

CLASH: (As Elmo) And now Elmo will ask a baby (laughter). Hello, baby. Hi. Hi. Oh, baby, how do you wrap a gift? (Laughter) Thank you, baby.

RASCOE: But an old "Sesame Street" clip resurfaced this past week and has people wondering, does Elmo have a shady side?

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SESAME STREET")

CLASH: (As Elmo) Oh, Gabi, can Elmo have an oatmeal raisin cookie instead, please?

DESIREE CASADO: (As Gabi) Oh, gee, Elmo, that was my last one.

CLASH: (As Elmo) Oh, that's OK, Gabi. Elmo will just take this one.

FRAN BRILL: (As Zoe) No, no, no. Wait, wait, Elmo.

CLASH: (As Elmo) What?

BRILL: (As Zoe) Rocco says that he wants the oatmeal raisin cookie.

CLASH: (As Elmo) Rocco? Rocco's a rock, Zoe. Rocco won't know the difference.

BRILL: (As Zoe) Yes, he will. You can't have that cookie, Elmo. Rocco wants to eat it.

CLASH: (As Elmo) How? How is Rocco going to eat that cookie, Zoe? Tell Elmo. Rocco doesn't even have a mouth. Rocco's just a rock. Rocco's not alive.

RASCOE: That moment originally aired in May of 2004. This past week's clip racked up millions and millions of views. Elmo, who officially is 3 years old, addressed the issue on his Twitter account Wednesday saying, don't worry, everybody. Elmo and Zoe practiced sharing and are still best buds forever. Elmo loves Zoe. Ha, ha, ha. Elmo doesn't want to talk about Rocco.

So should we be surprised Elmo can be salty? No. He got into it with Jimmy Fallon on "The Tonight Show" in May 2011.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON")

CLASH: (As Elmo) You're not coming to Sesame Street anymore.

JIMMY FALLON: Wait, Elmo. What are you talking about? I'm sorry.

CLASH: (As Elmo) The Roots, you can come. But you're not coming anymore.

FALLON: Elmo, listen to me.

CLASH: (As Elmo) You can come any...

FALLON: Elmo, listen. Listen.

CLASH: (As Elmo) No.

FALLON: Elmo.

RASCOE: Now, there could be some high-minded motives behind Elmo's moods. As Fred Rogers told Terry Gross in 1984, one of his goals as a children's broadcaster was to assure kids...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

FRED ROGERS: That there are things inside them that are OK to talk about. They should know that there is a full array of emotions in life, and all of them are fine. It's what we do with them that matters.

RASCOE: And in Elmo's case, that means feuding with a pet rock named Rocco and a late-night host named Jimmy.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON")

CLASH: (As Elmo) What camera is that? Camera 1?

(LAUGHTER)

CLASH: (As Elmo) Elmo does not love Jimmy Fallon anymore. We are...

RASCOE: Or the explanation could lie in the Muppets' origins in the "Mad Men" era as advertising pitch puppets.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JIM HENSON: (As Wilkins) Have a cup of Wilkins instant coffee?

(As Wontkins) Wild horses couldn't make me.

(SOUNDBITE OF HORSES GALLOPING)

HENSON: (As Wontkins) OK, OK. Give me a cup.

RASCOE: That's Muppets creator Jim Henson and his puppets from a coffee campaign that ran from 1957 to 1961. And, of course, the Muppets also had a nighttime show.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE MUPPET SHOW")

HENSON: (As Kermit the Frog) It's "The Muppet Show" with our very special guest star, Diana Ross.

RASCOE: Ross performed "Love Hangover" on that episode, which aired in February of 1980, when Jimmy Fallon was 5. So Elmo and his colleagues have a long, rich history of having a toe, so to speak, in the world of grown-ups. And for anyone who's decided they like their Muppets more sour than sweet, we leave you with two to remember - Statler and Waldorf.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE MUPPET SHOW")

RICHARD HUNT: (As Statler) You know something? That was a sweet number.

HENSON: (As Waldorf) It sure was.

HUNT: (As Statler) You know something else?

HENSON: (As Waldorf) What?

HUNT: (As Statler) I hate sweet numbers.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MAHNA MAHNA")

MAHNA MAHNA AND THE SNOWTHS: (Singing) Mahna mahna (ph). Mahna mahna. Do, do, do, do, do. Mahna mahna. Do, do, do, do. Mahna mahna. Do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do. Mahna mahna. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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