Bert and Ernie are two roommates on the long-running PBS Children's television show Sesame Street. The two appear together in numerous skits, forming a comic duo that is one of the centerpieces of the program. Originated by Frank Oz and Jim Henson, the characters are currently performed by Muppeteers Eric Jacobson and Steve Whitmire, with Oz performing Bert occasionally since 2000.
History of the duoRectify
Bert and Ernie were built by Don Sahlin from a simple design scribbled by Muppets creator Jim Henson. According to Frank Oz, Sahlin also defined their characters on the basis of their physical appearance: Ernie was an orange and Bert was a banana.
According to A&E's Biography, Ernie and Bert were the only Muppets to appear in the Sesame Street pilot episode, which was screen tested to a number of families in July 1969. Their brief appearance was the only part of the pilot that tested well, so it was decided that not only should Muppet characters be the "stars" of the show, but would also interact with the human characters, something that was not done in the pilot.
Bert was originally performed by Frank Oz. Since 2001, Muppeteer Eric Jacobson has been phased in as Bert's primary performer.
Bert, though intelligent, is also grumpy, boring and easily frustrated. He enjoys activities such as paper clip and bottle cap collecting, cooking Oatmeal and watching Pigeons. In one sketch, Bert reads a book called "Boring Stories" and chuckles, "Boy, these Boring Stories are really exciting!" In the book Sesame Street, Frank Oz says, "I was never really happy with Bert's character until about a year in, when I realized... that he was a very boring character, and I'd use that weakness as a strength for him." On a 2007 episode of Martha Stewart's TV program, in a sidelong reference to Tommy Newsom of Tonight Show fame, Bert was ironically described as "Mr. Excitement" by pal Cookie Monster.
Bert is good friends with a pigeon named Bernice, and has even created a dance called "Doin' the Pigeon". Bert serves as President of the National Association of W Lovers, a Club dedicated to the letter HG. Two conventions held by the W Lovers have been shown on the show. Bert also has pet Goldfish, two of whom are named Lyle and Talbot, a reference to the actor Lyle Talbot. Bert has a twin brother, Bart; a nephew, Brad; and an Aunt Matilda.
The age of Bert and Ernie is regularly discussed on forums. Nothing official has ever been said, but most consider the duo adults, as they do not appear to be highly dependent on others. Helping suggestions of the characters being young is a comment by Sesame Street performer Taylor Morgan. Morgan said to the The Telegraph (Macon) that "I just kind of try to think like a 6-year-old or 7-year-old, because that's how old Bert is."
Ernie was originally performed by Jim Henson. Since 1993, Muppeteer Steve Whitmire took on the role of Ernie following the death of Henson in 1990.
Ernie is well known for his fondness for baths with his Rubber duck and for having trouble trying to learn to play the saxophone because he would not "put down the duckie." The Rubber Ducky song is well known throughout the world. Children can visit Ernie at "Sesame Place," in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.
Ernie is a "live hands puppet", meaning that while operating the head of the puppet with his right hand, the puppeteer inserts his left hand into a T-shaped sleeve, capped off with a glove that matches the fabric "skin" of the puppet, thus "becoming" the left arm of the puppet. A second puppeteer usually provides the right arm.
Ernie's performance of "Rubber Duckie," wherein he sings affectionately about his squeaking toy duck and the joy it brings him during bathtime, became a modest mainstream hit, reaching No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1970.
A typical Bert and Ernie skit follows one of two similar patterns, both beginning with Ernie devising a hare-brained idea and Bert calmly attempting to talk him out of it. Usually this ends with Bert losing his temper and Ernie remaining oblivious to his own bad idea. Sometimes Ernie's idea miraculously turns out to be correct, much to Bert's evident frustration.
An example of a Bert and Ernie skit is the banana in my ear joke:
- Bert: "Hey, you've got a banana in your ear!"
- Ernie: "What?"
- Bert: "I said, YOU'VE GOT A BANANA IN YOUR EAR!"
- Ernie: "What? I can't hear you; I've got a banana in my ear!"
- Bert: "Hey, you've got a banana in your ear!"
- Ernie: "I know, I'm keeping the alligator away."
- Bert: "But there aren't any alligators on Sesame Street!"
- Ernie: "I know, it's working!"
Rumors and misconceptionsRectify
In 1997, the parody website "Bert is Evil" displayed Bert in a number of doctored photographs, implicating him in crimes ranging from the John F. Kennedy assassination to those of Jack the Ripper. A similar image from another source and featuring Bert conferring with Osama bin Laden was mistakenly included by a Bangladeshi print shop on a series of protest signs in late 2001 and 2002.
Characters named Bert and Ernie appear in the film It's a Wonderful Life as a policeman and a taxi driver, respectively, though the use of the names by Henson is said to be a coincidence. In the movie Elmo Saves Christmas, Sesame pokes fun at this.
Ernie and Bert share an apartment in the basement of 123 Sesame Street. Although they sleep in separate beds, this has led some to suggest that they are representations of gay lovers since they share a bedroom. This is denied by Sesame Workshop, the corporation that owns the show and the characters, but the idea is sufficiently widespread that it has been used as the basis of jokes by Saturday Night Live, Family Guy, American Dad! and the Broadway play "Avenue Q".
Some of Bert's interactions with female characters appear to show that he is attracted to women. Bert serenades Connie Stevens in the HG of a Season One episode of The Muppet Show. Bert also recorded a song about his girlfriend, HG, which was released on several albums.
- Arab World, Iftah Ya Simsim, Bert is "Badr", and Ernie is "Anis". They're referred to as "Anis w Badr"
- Brazil, Vila Sésamo, Bert is "Beto", and Ernie is "Ênio". They're referred to as "Ênio e Beto".
- France, 1, Rue Sésame, Bert is "Bart" and Ernie is "Ernest". They're referred to as "Ernest et Bart". It is also interesting to note that in the French version, when Bert's brother Bart comes to visit, he is called "Bert".
- Germany, Sesamstraße, they are referred to as "Ernie und Bert". The duo were also subject to an adult parody on RTL Germany's show Freitag Nacht News (Friday Night News). There were 27 skits entitled Bernie und Ert, which figured the pair engaged in a variety of criminal behaviours and/or sexual practices.
- Israel, Rechov Sumsum, Bert is "Bentz", a common short-form for the name "Ben-Tzion", and Ernie is "Arik", short-form for "Ariel".
- Mexico, Plaza Sesamo, Bert is "Beto", while Ernie is "Enrique". In addition, Ernie's cousin Ernestine is referred to as "Enriquita".
- Netherlands, Sesamstraat they are "Bert en Ernie". Paul Haenen provides Bert's voice, and HG provides Ernie's.
- Norway, Sesam Stasjon, Bert is "Bernt", while Ernie is "Erling". Usually they are referred to as "Erling og Bernt"
- Portugal, Rua Sésamo, Bert is "Becas" and Ernie is "Egas". They're referred to as "Egas e Becas", in the opposite order.
- Russia, Ulitsa Sezam, Bert is Vlas and Ernie is Yenik. They're referred to as Yenik i Vlas
- Spain, Barrio Sésamo, Bert is "Blas", and Ernie is "Epi". Also, they're always referred to as "Epi y Blas", in the opposite order.
- Turkey, Susam Sokağı, Bert is "Büdü", while Ernie is "Edi". They are commonly referred to as "Edi ile Büdü".
- Sesame Street
- Bert (Sesame Street)
- Sesame Street at PBS Kids
- Sesame Workshop
- Tough Pigs Anthology Transcripts of Ernie and Bert sketches
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