11 Famous Puppets Who Stole the Spotlight

These famous puppets prove that having a hand up your sleeve can really make the difference.

Published February 13, 2024

From Kermit the Frog to Elmo, we’ve been blessed with so many amazing famous puppets over the years. If there’s one thing the characters on this list show us, it’s that every generation has an iconic puppet to call their own. From the 1660s to the 1960s, we’re counting down some of the most legendary puppets to take center stage.

Punch and Judy


You don’t get more famous in the puppet world than England’s Punch and Judy. Introduced in the 1660s by Italian puppeteer Pietro Gimonde, this married rod puppet couple performed comedic acts across London’s streets and beyond.

It was common to see violent interpersonal gags like throwing their baby through the window or characters being exaggeratedly beaten by a club at a Punch and Judy performance. When it comes to broad slapstick comedy, Punch and Judy are the puppets for you.

Charlie McCarthy


Charlie McCarthy, with his monocle, top hat, and tuxedo might remind you of a much more sinister puppet. But the flirtatious and childish character created by ventriloquist Edgar Bergen captivated interwar audiences.

Charlie McCarthy was so popular that just his voice racked in money. From starring in radio programs to getting his own eponymous show, Charlie McCarthy had it all.

Mortimer Snerd


Mortimer Snerd was Bergen’s second puppet character and served as an excellent foil to Charlie McCarthys’ mischievous upper-crust personality. A lovable fool, Mortimer Snerd was up there with the likes of Barney Fife in his endearing slow-wittedness.

While he might not have been quite as famous as his proverbial brother, he was a vital part of Bergen’s act and worldwide sensation between the 1930s-1950s.

Lamb Chop


Complicated puppets might have more pizazz but sometimes the ones that make the biggest impact are made out of socks. Lamb Chop — puppeteered by Shari Lewis — made her debut in the zany 50s kids show Captain Kangaroo. She was sassy and vulnerable and the perfect character for little kids to connect to. So perfect, in fact, that she got her own PBS children’s show in the 1990s called Lamb Chop’s Play-Along.



There’s nothing that screams high 80s camp more than a feather boa-wearing, swearing puppet. Wayland Flowers and Madame captured the irreverent energy of the 1970s and created an adult act that swept the nation. Puppeteered by “illusionist” Wayland Flowers, Madame’s bright Miss Piggy-esque showgirl outfits and colorful life lessons embody the whacky 70s-80s like no other.

The Sesame Street Gang


When you hear the word puppet, we’re 99% sure your mind goes to one of Sesame Street’s famous characters. From Big Bird to Elmo to Oscar the Grouch, you can find every type of puppet on this 50+-year-old children’s program.

Whether you’re Gen X or Gen A, you were fed and watered on these iconic puppets’ antics, and this multi-generational appeal makes them one of the most memorable casts in all of puppetland.

Fast Fact

Puppets (and the humans behind them) deserve to be celebrated. In honor of puppets and puppeteers everywhere, March 21st is World Puppetry Day, and April 22nd is the National Day of Puppetry. 

The Muppets


If your mind doesn’t go straight to Sesame Street, then it’s probably a one-track that goes right to The Muppets. Incredibly, Kermit’s been around since 1955, though you probably remember him better for his musical debut in The Muppet Movie. Each of Henson’s Muppets has their own larger-than-life personality, leading the gang right to our list.

Related: Which TV or Movie Friendship Matches You & Your BFF?



If you’re a 90s kid then you probably still hold loads of love for the prehistoric puppet that taught you the clean-up song and how to make friends to your heart's content. Barney isn’t what most people think of when they envision puppets, but he’s the best life-sized one in the bunch. Barney and his friends had a genuine earnestness that made being kind and showing love seem cool as a kid.

Binyah Binyah

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Gullah Gullah Island came in on the heels of Barney & Friends with their own giant animal puppet. Binyah Binyah, a polywog, was a central part of this feel-good children’s show inspired by Gullah culture. While this bright yellow frog-like puppet won’t mean much to kids today, there’s a whole generation of millennials who remember hopping along with this frog after school.



Zoboomafoo was the silly lemur star of the PBS nature show Zoboomafoo. Partly puppet, partly real lemur, Zoboomafoo was the Kratt Brothers’ wily sidekick. With his outlandish stories, untamable energy, and natural curiosity, Zoboomafoo was the thing that launched many millennials’ wildlife careers. And for that, he has to be honored on our list.

Slappy the Dummy


The scariest puppet to make our list is Slappy the Dummy, plucked from the mind of kids’ horror author R.L. Stein. While his design pays homage to older puppets like Charlie McCarthy, his antics are far less wholesome. As one of R.L. Stein’s most recognizable characters, Slappy continues to strike fear into kids’ hearts everywhere. While he might not be the stuff of dreams, he lives on in enough nightmares to make our list.

We've Got Our Nominees for the Puppet Hall of Fame


It’s incredible that puppeteers or ventriloquists can fade into the background while standing on the stage because of how captivating their puppets are. While not every puppet makes it to the big leagues, these icons of the genre deserve their own place in the puppet hall of fame.

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11 Famous Puppets Who Stole the Spotlight