Bert and Ernie

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Ernie (left) with his rubber duckie, and Bert (right)

Bert and Ernie are two Muppets who appear together in numerous skits on the popular U.S. children's television show Sesame Street. 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[edit]

Bert and Ernie were built by Don Sahlin from a simple design scribbled by Jim Henson, creator of The Muppets. Initially, Henson performed Bert and Oz performed Ernie, but after just one day of rehearsal, they switched characters. The original idea was to show that even though two people can have totally different characters, they can still be good friends.[1] According to writer Jon Stone, the relationship between Bert and Ernie reflected the real-life friendship between Henson and Oz.[2]

According to A&E's Biography, Bert and Ernie were virtually 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.[citation needed]

A typical Bert and Ernie skit has Ernie coming up with a hare-brained idea and Bert trying to talk him out of it ending with Bert losing his temper and Ernie remaining unaware of the results of his own bad idea. For example, in one sketch, Ernie tells Bert he started to collect ice cubes the day before, and put them under the electric blanket overnight. When he shows the ice cubes to Bert, he finds out that they have melted into water. Bert knows what happened and tries to tell Ernie that his ice cubes melted because of the electric blanket, but Ernie takes this to mean that a fish from the ocean came into the apartment and melted his ice cubes, and vows to find the (non-existent) fish that melted them.[citation needed]

The age of the characters is unclear. Sesame Street Live performer Taylor Morgan said in an interview that "I just kind of try to think like a 6-year-old or a 7-year-old, because that's how old Bert is."[3]

Ernie[edit]

Main article: Ernie (Sesame Street)

Ernie was originally performed by Jim Henson. Since 1993, Muppeteer Steve Whitmire has taken on the role of Ernie (following the death of Henson in 1990). Ernie is a "live-hand 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.

Unlike Bert, Ernie's nose is rarely ever removed from his face in a skit.

Ernie's performance of "Rubber Duckie," wherein he sings affectionately about his squeaking toy duck and the joy it brings him during bath time, became a modest mainstream hit, reaching No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1970.[4]

Bert[edit]

Main article: Bert (Sesame Street)

Bert was initially performed by Frank Oz. Since 2001, Muppeteer Eric Jacobson has been phased in as Bert's primary performer after Oz retired from most of his Muppet duties to focus on directing (Oz, however, does continue to perform the character occasionally).

One running gag with Bert is when Ernie often removes his nose either accidentally or for humorous purposes.[citation needed]

Bert is a hand-rod puppet, which means that while the puppeteer's right arm is inserted into Bert's head to control the mouth, the puppeteer's left hand uses rods to control the arms of the puppet.

In popular culture[edit]

Bert and Ernie are among a handful of Sesame Street-specific Muppets to also appear on The Muppet Show, making occasional cameo appearances, such as at the end of The Muppets Valentine Show, the 1974 pilot episode for the series. While several other Muppets featured on Sesame Street such as Kermit the Frog would crossover into the other program, Bert and Ernie were primarily confined to the occasional cameo.

Bert and Ernie live together in an apartment in the basement of 123 Sesame Street. Although they sleep in separate beds, they share a bedroom, which has led some to suggest that they are representations of gay lovers. This is denied by Sesame Workshop,[5] and some of Bert's interactions with female characters appear to show that he is attracted to women: serenading Connie Stevens in the Some Enchanted Evening segment of a first-season episode of The Muppet Show, and recording a song about his girlfriend, I Want to Hold Your Ear, which was released on several albums. But the idea of Bert and Ernie as a couple is sufficiently widespread that it has been used as the basis of jokes on the shows Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Supernatural, and Friends. More recently, The New Yorker magazine chose an image of Bert and Ernie by artist Jack Hunter, titled Moment of Joy, as the cover of their July 8, 2013 publication which covers the Supreme Court decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act and California's California Proposition 8.[6]

From March 30, 1997 to ca. 2002, the parody website "Bert is Evil" displayed Bert in a number of doctored photographs, implicating him in crimes ranging from the Assassination of John F. Kennedy 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.[7]

In the German comedy sketch series Freitag Nacht News, they had a recurring sketch called Bernie und Ert created by Attik Kargar, who performed the puppets and supplied the voice of Bernie. Bernie and Ert are an obscene parody of Ernie and Bert, and especially re-dubbed on Sesamstrasse. The puppets had no nose, one eye each, and swapped hairstyles. In February 2003, Bernie and Ert were dropped from the series because of legal concerns; however, older episodes circulate on the internet. They also appeared in a Freitag Nacht News sequence called Bullzeye, in a sketch called Popo Club. They wore black masks and leather jackets, disguised as unknowns one (Bernie) and two (Ert), with another character named Winfried.

Characters named Bert and Ernie appear in the film It's a Wonderful Life as a taxi driver and a policeman, respectively, but those behind Sesame Street claim that it is merely a coincidence. Jerry Juhl, a writer on many Henson-related projects, said, "Despite his many talents, Jim had no memory for details like this. He knew the movie, of course, but would not have remembered the police officer and the cabdriver." This is referenced in the Sesame Street special Elmo Saves Christmas, where due to Elmo's wish, Christmas repeats itself every day and "It's a Wonderful Life" plays on TV continuously. The part where Bert and Ernie are referenced is toward the end, where the two (who don't speak) are walking by the TV and stop short when they hear their names mentioned.[8]

A pair of high-energy neutrinos detected at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory in 2013, possibly of extragalactic origin, have been nicknamed "Bert" and "Ernie".[9]

The British soap opera EastEnders has confirmed that characters Bert and Ernie Moon are named after the Muppets characters.[10]

Internationally[edit]

  • Arab World, Iftah Ya Simsim, Bert is "Badr", and Ernie is "Anis". They are called "Anis w Badr"
  • Brazil, Vila Sésamo, Bert is "Beto", and Ernie is "Ênio". They're called "Ênio e Beto".
  • Egypt, Alam Simsim, Bert is "Hadi", and Ernie is Shadi. They are known as "Shadi w Hadi".
  • France, 1, Rue Sésame, Bert is "Bart" and Ernie is "Ernest". They are called "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 called "Ernie und Bert".
  • Israel, Rechov Sumsum, Bert is "Bentz", a common short-form for the name "Ben-Tzion", and Ernie is "Arik", short-form for "Ariel".
  • Italy, "Sesamo apriti", Bert is "Berto" and Ernie is "Ernesto". They are called "Ernesto e Berto".
  • Mexico and all Latin America, Plaza Sésamo, Bert is "Beto", while Ernie is "Enrique". In addition, Ernie's cousin Ernestine is called "Enriqueta".
  • Netherlands, Sesamstraat they are "Bert en Ernie". Paul Haenen provides Bert's voice, and Wim T. Schippers provides Ernie's.
  • Norway, Sesam Stasjon, Bert is "Bernt", while Ernie is "Erling". Usually, they're called "Bernt og Erling"
  • Poland, Ulica Sezamkowa, Bert is "Hubert" and Ernie is "Emil". They are called "Hubert i Emil".
  • Portugal, Rua Sésamo, Bert is "Becas" and Ernie is "Egas". They are called "Egas e Becas", in the opposite order.
  • Russia, Ulitsa Sezam, Bert is Vlas and Ernie is Yenik. They are called Yenik i Vlas
  • Spain, Barrio Sésamo, Bert is "Blas", and Ernie is "Epi". Also, they're always called "Epi y Blas", in the opposite order.
  • Turkey, Susam Sokağı, Bert is "Büdü", while Ernie is "Edi". They are commonly called "Edi ile Büdü".

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "ONTD_Political - Bert and Ernie Come Out in the New Yorker". Ontd-political.livejournal.com. 2013-06-28. Retrieved 2014-07-15. 
  2. ^ Davis, Michael (2008). Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street. New York: Viking Press. p. 166. ISBN 978-0-670-01996-0. 
  3. ^ "macon.com". macon.com. [dead link]
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2007). "Top Pop Singles: 1955-2006". 
  5. ^ Mikkelson, Barbara and David P.. "Open Sesame". Urban Legends Reference Pages. Barbara and David P. Mikkelson. Retrieved 2007-10-28. "The Children's Television Workshop has steadfastly denied rumors about Bert and Ernie's sexual orientation..." 
  6. ^ Francoise Mouly; Mina Kaneko. "Cover Story". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2013-06-28. "“It’s amazing to witness how attitudes on gay rights have evolved in my lifetime,” said Jack Hunter, the artist behind next week’s cover" 
  7. ^ BBC News - Bert in the frame with Bin Laden
  8. ^ Carroll, Jon (2000-01-03). "A Few Tiny Errors, Part I". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  9. ^ George Dvorsky (2013-04-25). "Neutrinos From Another Galaxy Have Been Discovered in Antarctica". Io9.com. Retrieved 2014-07-15. 
  10. ^ Leigh, Rob (22 June 2014). "EastEnders spoilers: Kat and Alfie Moon's twin boys to be named after Muppets Bert and Ernie - Mirror Online". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 4 September 2014. 

External links[edit]