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Lefty the Salesman

Lefty the Salesman (commonly known simply as Lefty) is a Sesame Street character from the 60s and 70s. He is not to be confused with Lefty, the shaky Fat Blue Anything Muppet in the "Secret Knock" skit. His catchphrase is a breathy, whispered "riiight", which he seems to say in order to avoid giving a straight answer to any question. Lefty's boss (performed by Jerry Nelson) is the only character to refer him (Lefty) by name. In the book Sesame Street Unpaved, and in various books and merchandise, he is referred to simply as "The Salesman".

Prevalence on the Show

Lefty was gradually removed from the American version of the show; this is said by some to be because parents feared he encouraged children to talk to strangers, although the validity of this claim is questioned. However, he is still a rather popular character on Sesamstrasse, the German version of Sesame Street. On this version of the show, he is known as Schlemihl, a Yiddish word for a "habitual bungler".

Role on the Show

Lefty was known to sell various goods (usually letter and numbers, but sometimes other things) for a nickel. Ernie was his most common target, even though he rarely bought what Lefty was selling; in many skits, Ernie shouts the name of Lefty's product very loudly, only to be immediately shushed by Lefty (e.g. "AN EIGHT?!" "Ssshhhh!" "(whispers) An eight?" "Riiiiiiight."). The educational benefit of his skits seemed to be his descriptions of his wares. For example, in addition to telling about the words spelled with the letters he sold, one of his skits talked about the uses of air (breathing, playing instruments, and blowing up balloons).


Lefty was originally a Green Anything Muppet. He wears a black hat and a gray trenchcoat. His appearance resembles the stereotypical "shady stranger".

Famous Skits

"Would you like to buy an O?"- Lefty sings a song about the letter O to try to get Ernie to buy it for a nickel; however, he is unsuccessful.

"Lefty and the Painting"- Lefty sells Ernie a painting of a tree, which contains an optical illusion making it look like there are elephants in the tree. When Ernie shows Bert the painting, he sees the elephants right away.

"The Snowman"- Lefty tries to sell Ernie a snowman, which melts before he can sell it.

"The Number 8"- Thought to be Lefty's first appearance. He tries to sell Ernie an 8, but he can't buy it because he spent all his money on 9's. Ernie then wants to trade with Lefty, who walks away shaking his head and saying, "Oh, why me?"

"The Golden AN"- Lefty and his boss (sometimes referred to as "Accomplice") are discussing their plan of what to do with the Golden AN, which they have just stolen. Everything in their plan rhymes with "an" ("Take the Golden AN, put it in the tan van. Give it to Dan, who takes it to Fran"). However, Lefty can't remember the plan very well ("Take the Golden AN, put it in the tan truck and take it to Horace"), so he has to repeat it multiple times. Eventually, a police officer named Stan hears him and gives him "ten days in the can for stealing the Golden AN." The skit ends with Lefty saying "I should have ran!"

"Lefty and the Carrots"- This was a three-part story about Lefty getting carrots for his boss. The first time, he gets some carrots, next, he gets more carrots, and finally he gets "the most carrots he can find". His boss then reveals that the carrots are for his pet rabbit (a real rabbit), which he shows to Lefty. (In this skit, Lefty briefly mentions that he has a pet turtle.)

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