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Who Actually Voices Elmo From Sesame Street?

The work of the late Jim Henson lives on to this day in all shapes and sizes, and it's not difficult to see why. Through projects like "The Muppet Show," "The Dark Crystal," and "Sesame Street," among others, he and his creative team managed to captivate audiences of all ages and demographics, welcoming them into worlds previously unseen and providing them with valuable life lessons. As a result, numerous characters of his creation have become entertainment legends, not the least of which being everyone's favorite rock-hating fuzzy friend and not-so-late night TV host, Elmo.

Introduced way back in 1980 for "Sesame Street" Season 11, it didn't take long for Elmo to catch on with young viewers. By the 1990s, he was a household name, appearing on "Sesame Street" regularly and becoming a merchandising machine whose likeness wound up on everything from t-shirts to the famous Tickle Me Elmo doll. He even got his own segment, "Elmo's World," in 1998, in addition to starring in the 1999 movie, "Elmo in Grouchland." These days he continues to appear on "Sesame Street" to teach kids about any number of topics, all while maintaining his newfound status as a meme icon.

Of course, despite his backstory and fleshed-out personality, Elmo is just a Muppet, meaning there's a talented individual behind him that brings him to life every time he's shown on television. Here's who currently puppeteers and voices the fan-favorite character.

Ryan Dillon is the latest actor to portray Elmo

During his earliest appearances on "Sesame Street," Elmo didn't have one set actor behind him. The likes of Jerry Nelson, Brian Muehl, and Richard Hunt all took a crack at the character, though none of these early interpretations stuck around for long. That eventually presented Kevin Clash with the chance to try his hand (literally) at the role and give Elmo his signature voice, which almost instantaneously stuck (via PBS). He'd stick with the part from 1985 to 2012 before passing the torch to the current Elmo voice actor and puppeteer, Ryan Dillon.

Dillon's Elmo tenure formally began in 2013, and as of 2022, he's still going strong as the character. However, he has been involved with "Sesame Street" for far longer, first becoming a part of the show in 2005 when he was just 17 years of age. As Dillon recalled in a Wired YouTube interview from 2017, he worked closely with Clash in the years leading up to his departure, affording him the chance to witness firsthand what went into an Elmo performance — experiences that went a long way in him eventually taking over for his mentor (via the Puppet Tears Podcast on YouTube).

So long as his voice doesn't give out, or he doesn't give in to the pressure of portraying one of the world's most beloved children's television personalities, it stands to reason that Ryan Dillon will play Elmo for many more years to come.