THE YAM MONSTER, THE VERY BUSY PANCHO CONTRERAS, AND THE REST OF YOUR FAVORITE INTERNATIONAL SESAME STREET CHARACTERS

(Via Mental Floss)

There are currently more than 20 versions of Sesame Street in countries around the world. From Oscar the Grouch’s Israeli cousin to Nigeria’s Yam Monster, here are some of our favorite international Muppets.

1. OSCAR THE GROUCH’S ISRAELI COUSIN

The Israeli version of Oscar the Grouch is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew. The biggest difference between the two is that when Moishe started on the Israeli show, he lived in a broken-down car instead of a garbage can. The reason? Israeli kids are taught not to play in trash receptacles because they might contain bombs. Moishe also happens to be an observant Jew; he celebrates Rosh Hashanah by dipping apples into sardine grease for a slimy New Year.

2. NIGERIA’S YAM MONSTER

In Africa, Sesame Street doesn’t shy away from the big issues. The Nigerian adaptation of the show stars Kami, the world’s first HIV-positive Muppet (introduced by South Africa’s Takalani Sesame), and Zobi, a fluffy, blue cab driver who educates children about malaria. The production has its lighter side, too. Zobi is also the Nigerian version of Cookie Monster, though he’s more of a Yam Monster. Since not many Nigerian children have access to cookies, the producers decided to give Zobi an insatiable craving for one of the country’s staple foods. He often shouts out, “Me eat yam!”

3. BLUKI

Bluki is a full-bodied blue cat-like creature seen on Barrio Sesamo in Spain back in the late ’90s. He resembles nothing so much as the physical manifestation of a bad drug trip—a monster as big as a person and bright blue with pink toes, wearing a wristwatch, stylish waistcoat and propeller hat. But apparently the kids loved him.

4. BIG BIRD’S PARROT COUSIN

Abelardo Montoya is the impressively monikered and plumaged Mexican parrot cousin of Big Bird who first appeared on Plaza Sésamo in 1981. He is not to be confused with Abelardo the crocodile, who prefigured Abelardo Montoya in the 1970s. Today, Plaza is broadcast across Central and South America and is conducted in Colombian-style Spanish, which is a more neutral form accessible to children in several different countries. In a sign of the times, Abelardo occasionally internet video chats with his big yellow cousin back on Sesame Street.

5. THE VERY BUSY PANCHO CONTRERAS

Pancho, a friend of Abelardo on Plaza Sesamo, has some grouch-like tendencies, but is more Type A than Oscar (“I’m very busy because I’m very busy. I don’t have time.”) He’s literate, plays the cello and likes to crush his competitors in various games of skill. He’s exudes Pancho Villa rather than Sancho Panza. Pancho even has his own show within the show called Pancho Visión, which undoubtedly further serves to inflate his already considerable ego.

6. SAMSON CAN DO ANYTHING

Samson is one of the main characters on Sesamstrasse, the German coproduction of Sesame Street. In appearance, he looks like a distant relative of Captain Caveman, and is the only holdover from the original Sesamstrasse lineup. His signature song goes “Ich bin Samson, und ich schaff’s!,” which may sound German and vaguely menacing to our untrained American ears, but actually means “I am Samson, and I can do anything!” Inspirational.

SIDEBAR: THE BALKANS — WHERE THE ALPHABET SPELLS TROUBLE

Sesame Street has ventured into places where friendly neighbors are tough to come by. In 2006, the show launched a Kosovo version, which was broadcast in both Albania and Serbia. This dual audience immediately created a problem—nobody could agree on which alphabet to use.

The Serbians wanted to use Cyrillic, but the Albanians view Cyrillic as a throwback to Cold War tyranny; they wanted to use the Latin alphabet. The show’s creators came up with an ingenious solution. They invented a “visual dictionary,” in which children of different ethnicities held up an object and said its name in their own language. It’s hard to think of Communist oppression when you’re looking at a preschooler holding an apple.

7. KUBIK THE TINKERER

From Mendeleev to Pavlov to Sakharov, Russia has boasted some of history’s greatest scientists and inventors. Kubik, an orange-yellow creature from Ulitsa Sezam, is cut from this brainy cloth. He’s an inveterate tinkerer, always curious to know how things work. Hopefully one of these days he will get to inventing something useful, like the emissions-free engine or the hoverboard.

8. THE DUTCH DAREDEVIL CHICKEN

Who better to teach kids to face their fears than a daredevil chicken? That was the thought behind Stuntkip, who first appeared on the Dutch co-production Sesamstraat in 2008. Death-defying stunts performed include Stuntkip once telling her aunt that she didn’t want a second portion after fearlessly finishing a first plate of Brussels sprouts, riding an elevator, and checking under the bed for monsters. Just more evidence that the Low Countries have a lot of grit.

9. AN EVEN MORE ADORABLE MUPPET

Kawaii is the Japanese culture of cuteness, embodied by symbols such as Hello Kitty or Pikachu. The Japanese version of Sesame Street is infused with the aesthetic, too. On the program, Teena, a young girl Muppet, is meant to represent kawaii; she dresses all in pink, loves flowers, and wears them in pigtails in her purple hair. She’s so tiny, perky, and sweet she makes Hello Kitty look like a middle-aged cat lady.

THE OFFICIAL DUMPSTER GUIDE TO THE FIRST WEEKEND OF MARCH MADNESS

MIDWEST REGION

Best Game of the First Second Round: #5 Oklahoma State vs. #12 Oregon
This should be a thriller. The Ducks are pissed that they have been drastically under-seeded by the committee after cruising through the Pac-12 Tournament. They’ll be on the hunt for the upset. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have a ridiculously electric backcourt that features Le’Bryan Nash, Markel Brown, and another guy you’re gonna read about in a minute. Lots of reasons to like this game.

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Best (Potential) Game of the Weekend: #7 Creighton vs. #2 Duke
If Duke avoids being upset by a #15 seed for a second consecutive year, and the Blue Jays dispatch a mediocre#10 Cincinnati team, this would be a fucking sweet Second Third Round matchup. Creighton’s Doug McDermott just so happens to be one of the best players in the country; he certainly has the capability to carry the Blue Jays past the Blue Devils.

Biggest Upset: #11 St. Mary’s over #6 Memphis
Watch out for the Gaels; Australian sharp-shooter Matthew Dellavedova is among the best point guards in this tournament. Plus, Memphis hasn’t necessarily been tested this year; the Tigers have beat just one NCAA Tournament team this season (Harvard).

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Most Likely to Overachieve: #4 Saint Louis
Wouldn’t be shocked if the Billikens plow through the first weekend en route to the Sweet 16. This Saint Louis team is scary good, especially on defense. Throw in the fact that their former coach (the legendary Rick Majerus) passed away in December and you have a recipe for late-season magic.

Most Likely to Underachieve: #9 Missouri
After Missouri was shockingly bounced as a 2-seed last year in the NCAAs, so much was expected of the Tigers a year later. Yet, in its first season in a weak SEC, Missouri has failed to produce any kind of consistency, despite having loads of talent. Odds are they’ll be bounced in the first round once again.

Top NBA Prospect: Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State)
He’s arguably the best point guard in the country and unarguably the biggest reason why Oklahoma State could live to see next weekend.

You’ll Learn This Guy’s Name: Sim Bhullar (New Mexico State)
Only because he is SEVEN FOOT FUCKING FIVE.

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And on to the Sweet 16 goes…
#1 Louisville, #4 Saint Louis, #3 Michigan State, #7 Creighton

WEST REGION

Best Game of the First Second Round:  #2 Ohio State vs. #15 Iona
I guess after last year we have to be a little bit more wary of these 15-seeds. This year, if any of them can replicate what Norfolk State/Lehigh did, it’s Iona. Now, the DeShaun Thomas and the Buckeyes will fend off the Gaels, you can take that to the bank. But you better believe this game could come down to the final minute. Plus, fans off up-tempo offenses will love the fact that Iona is second in the nation in scoring (80.7 points per game).

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Best (Potential) Game of the Weekend: #3 New Mexico vs. #6 Arizona
Attention: the Lobos are extremely good. Steve Alford’s squad is the definition of well-rounded. Not to mention New Mexico is 13-4 against teams in the NCAA Tournament this year. As for Arizona, the Wildcats might have the best six-man rotation in the country. Sean Miller’s team is talented as fuck. In fact, the Dumpster would go out on a limb and peg them as a legitimate Final Four candidate…if it weren’t for New Mexico, of course.

Biggest Upset: #12 Ole Miss over #5 Wisconsin
This is honestly nothing against the Badgers; Mississippi just has the look of THAT team. You know, the team that had to scratch and claw just to get into the tournament as it is. They’re a very streaky bunch, but that could be a good thing right now; the Rebels have won five in a row. After starting the season with a 16-2 record, and after taking a tumble in February, Ole Miss looks ready to roll in March.

Most Likely to Overachieve: #1 Gonzaga
I know, I know; how can a No. 1 seed overachieve? Sure, we’re looking at the No. 1 team in the country. Yet, most of the country overlooks how incredible this Gonzaga team truly is. Watch the Bulldogs embarrass Southern on Thursday and dismantle either Pittsburgh or Wichita State on Saturday. Then we’ll see how many people keep sleeping on Gonzaga.

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Most Likely to Underachieve: #7 Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish are always competitive. Yet, year after year it seems like Mike Brey trots out the same exact team and gets the same exact results. Those results in March…not great. Don’t be surprised if a sneaky good Iowa State team blows them out of the water.

Top NBA Prospect(s):
Steven Adams (Pittsburgh)
Kelly Olynyk (Gonzaga)
Gonzaga big man Kelly Olynyk was my initial thought; he will get drafted this June in the top 20 (hello, Boston Celtics?). However, two years from now Steven Adams will be a top-five pick. The seven-footer from New Zealand (who runs the floor like a gazelle) finally came on strong late in the season after a slow start to his freshman year. Another season under his belt and Adams could among be the top centers in the nation.

You’ll Learn This Guy’s Name: Marshall Henderson (Ole Miss)
Marshall Henderson is a fucking psychopath. It’s so awesome.  In fact, every team needs to have a cold-blooded killer like this motherfucker.

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PS: Follow him on twitter @nativeflash22 for hilarity. Seriously, this guy is fucking nuts.

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And on to the Sweet 16 goes:
#1 Gonzaga, #12 Ole Miss, #3 New Mexico, #2 Ohio State

SOUTH REGION

Best Game of the First Second Round:  #8 Villanova vs. #9 North Carolina
If you like outstanding guard play, which is one of the highlights of college basketball, then look no further than this matchup between Villanova and UNC. Sure, both teams are incredibly undersized, but their respective backcourts are incredibly talented. This should make for an action-packed thriller.

Best (Potential) Game of the Weekend: #1 Kansas vs. #8 North Carolina
32 combined Final Four appearances. Six potential first round draft picks. Oh, and North Carolina’s Head Coach (Roy Williams) used to be the Head Coach at Kansas. Enough said.

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Biggest Upset: #11 Minnesota over #6 UCLA
Unless South Dakota State manages to knock off Michigan (which very well could happen), the Dumpster doesn’t expect to see many upsets in this region. So, even though Minnesota is the favorite in this one despite being the lower seed, this is pretty much the biggest upset by default.

Most Likely to Overachieve: #3 Florida
Say what you want about Billy Donovan, but he produces in the tournament. Under his guidance, the Gators have appeared in back-to-back Elite 8s. That is of course after winning two National Championships and appearing in the Sweet 16 six times. Expect Florida to once again quietly march through the first weekend of the Big Dance unscathed.

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Most Likely to Underachieve: #6 UCLA
The Bruins are stockpiled with talent, but a lot of it is inexperienced and unproven. Plus, the season-ending injury to the team’s second-leading scorer, Jordan Adams, could very well spell trouble for UCLA going forward.

Top NBA Prospect(s):
Ben McLemore (Kansas)
Otto Porter (Georgetown)
Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA)
He might just be a freshman, but McLemore needs to step up his game in a big way if the Jayhawks want to make another run to the Final Four. Porter, on the other hand, has been on his game since November; he might be the most consistent player in the nation. McLemore has the upside to be the top overall pick in June’s NBA Draft. Porter, who could step in and impact an NBA team right away, will be taken not too far behind him. Oh, and then there’s Muhammad, who might be the only other player to challenge McLemore for the No.1 spot in the draft. His team will probably get bounced on Friday night though, so tune in accordingly.

You’ll Learn This Guy’s Name: Nate Wolters (South Dakota State)
The Jackrabbits might not get past the Wolverines, but if Nate Wolters shoots the lights out like he normally does, South Dakota State could shock the nation. Even if it comes in a losing effort, and even if Michigan chooses to double-team him, Wolters could easily put up the biggest night of the entire tournament.

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 And on to the Sweet 16 goes:
#1 Kansas, #4 Michigan, #3 Florida, #2 Georgetown

SOUTH REGION

Best Game of the First Second Round: #8 North Carolina State vs. #9 Temple
The 8/9 matchups are always intriguing. Sometimes, it disappoints. Sometimes, it’s the best basketball you watch all weekend. I’m thinking this one could be the latter. 

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Best (Potential) Game of the Weekend: #4 Syracuse vs. #5 UNLV
Neither team has it easy in the opening round. Especially the Runnin’ Rebels, who have to deal with Allen Crabbe and the California Golden Bears. But if both of these teams advance, make sure you mark this game down on your calendar. 

Biggest Upset:  #11 Bucknell over #6 Butler
The Bison have one of the best players in the region in Mike Muscala, who is an absolute beast. The senior forward is averaging over 19 points and 11 rebounds a game; he could be the next mid-major superstar to take the tournament by storm. In fact, I’m taking this one to the next level. Bucknell will move on to the Sweet 16. You gotta get bold at some point, right?

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Most Likely to Overachieve: #4 Syracuse
After starting the season with an 18-1 record, things went south for the Orange. Syracuse went 8-8 down the stretch and underwent a massive meltdown in the Big East Championship game, so at this point it’s not like much is expected of the Orange. However, Syracuse has the talent and the experience to surprise a lot of people this year.   

Most Likely to Underachieve: #7 Illinois
I like Brandon Paul and all, but I still have no clue what Illinois did to earn a No. 7 seed. 12 losses overall? A sub-.500 record in conference play? Sure, they beat Ohio State and Indiana this year, but the Dumpster is not impressed with how this team has played since that unbelievable win over the Hoosiers. Expect the Fighting Illini to go one and done.

Top NBA Prospect(s):
Cody Zeller (Indiana)
Anthony Bennett (UNLV)
Zeller is a man among boys out there. The 6’11” sophomore has had his ups and downs this year, but he still remains a lock to get drafted in the top five. As for Bennett, there is only one word in the arsenal meant to describe him: nasty. The Dumpster touched on him earlier this year, check it out.

You’ll Learn This Guy’s Name:  Shane Larkin (Miami)
I absolutely love watching Shane Larkin play. He is the heart and soul of a resurgent Miami team that could legitimately win it all this year. After getting the job done night in and night out during the regular season, Larkin exploded for 71 points in three ACC Tournament games, including 28 in the title game. It looks like this kid loves the big spotlight, which certainly bodes well for the Hurricanes going forward.

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 And on to the Sweet 16 goes:
#1 Indiana, #4 Syracuse, #11 Bucknell, #2 Miami