The puppeteer who earned over $300,000 a year playing Big Bird made 32 cents at his first show

Big birdLaura Cavanaugh / Stringer / Getty ImagesBig Bird, a beloved children’s character, is played by puppeteer Caroll Spinney.

Caroll Spinney is the man behind Sesame Street star Big Bird — or rather, inside, as Spinney spent his 46-year-long career actually wearing those yellow feathers.

Spinney is the subject of “I am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story,” the new documentary profiling his life and career.

In an interview with the Guardian, the 81-year-old touched on the very beginning of his career, saying:

When I was eight, I bought my first puppet. It was a monkey, and I paid five cents for it. I collected some scrap wood and built myself a puppet theatre. I made 32 cents with my first show, which I thought was pretty good, and that’s when I knew I would be a puppeteer when I grew up.

However, 32 cents was just the beginning.

According to the publicly available form 990 published every year from Sesame Workshop, the educational nonprofit that runs Sesame Street the show, Spinney’s compensation has topped $US300,000 including retirement and other benefits.

In 2012, the last year currently available on the site, his base salary was $US271,213, and his total compensation was $US306,848.

Spinney tells the Guardian that while he still performs as Big Bird and as Oscar the Grouch, he no longer wears yellow full-time, which indicates he may no longer earn as much.

Still — $US300,000 is a long way from 32 cents.

To learn more about Spinney’s career, check out his Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything).

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