“Would You Like To Buy An O” by Frank Oz & Jim Henson as The Salesman & Ernie

Unless you are Generation X or older you are not likely to understand the humor in this skit from classic Sesame Street featuring Frank Oz and Jim Henson as Muppet characters: The Salesman and Ernie, respectively.

In the 20th century, there really were people in long coats walking around trying to sell items hidden under their coats. They could be found in any American downtown, market, densely populated neighborhoods, bus stops, college campus and anywhere people might be walking around. They usually sold wristwatches and jewellery.

It was “buyer beware” if you were going to make a purchase from one of these often shady characters. People became annoyed with them and came to see them as a public nuisance. The practice was eventually made illegal In most jurisdictions. “Coat-commerce” was in decline by the 90s. The advent of online shopping dealt the final death-blow to the custom.

This track appeared on at least 80 releases in different countries and different formats. It first appeared on The Muppet’s Alphabet Album in 1971.

As a kid, I had an LP called Ernie’s Hits that I ordered from a school book club catalog. I found a photo of the 8-track version that was published the same year that I was born. This 8 track has the Spanish version of “Rubber Ducky” which did not appear on the LP. I still have the LP but it’s no longer playable.

courtesy of discogs

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