Bob Keeshan, who created and played the title character on the kids' show ''Captain Kangaroo'' for 36 years, died Friday at his Vermont home after a long illness, his family said in a statement. He was 76.
Keeshan got his start in children's TV by creating and playing Clarabell, the mute clown on the classic ''Howdy Doody Show'' for five years. In 1955, he launched ''Captain Kangaroo,'' playing the grandfatherly host character who wore a soupbowl haircut and a coat covered with marsupial-like pouches. ''Kangaroo'' ran for 30 years on CBS and another six on public television, winning six Emmys and three Peabody awards.
Unlike many children's shows, Keeshan's was low-key, featuring science and music segments and visits with regular characters like Mr. Green Jeans (played by Hugh ''Lumpy'' Brannum). As Keeshan said in an interview late in his career: ''Play is the work of children. It's very serious stuff.''