Bert (Sesame Street)
|Sesame Street character|
|First appearance||Sesame Street Test Pilot (1969)|
|Portrayed by||Frank Oz (1969-1996; and occasionally since)
Eric Jacobson (1997-present)
Bert is a yellow Muppet character on the long-running children's television show, Sesame Street. Bert was originally performed by Frank Oz. Since 2001, Muppeteer Eric Jacobson has been phased in as Bert's primary performer, although Frank Oz still performs Bert occasionally. Bert has also made cameo appearances within The Muppets franchise, including The Muppet Show, The Muppet Movie, and The Muppets Take Manhattan.
Bert, though kind and intelligent, is also grumpy, boring and easily frustrated. His catchphrase is "Yes, I do mind!" He enjoys activities such as paper clip and bottle cap collecting, cooking oatmeal and watching pigeons. Producer Arlene Sherman has called Bert "everyone's idea of a blind date". In one sketch, Bert reads a book called Boring Stories and chuckles, "Wow! These boring stories are really exciting!" In the book Sesame Street Unpaved, 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."
Bert has very boring foods as his favorites. He loves oatmeal, unflavored fizzy water, and other bland foods. In one episode when Ernie is hired to sub for Mr. Hooper, he makes Bert an unflavored fizzy water but adds syrup, ice cream and whipped cream to it angering Bert who eventually screams a memorable phrase: "I hate ice cream sodas!"
Bert's appearance and clothing contrast markedly with Ernie; he is the taller and thinner of the two, wears a turtleneck under a shirt with vertical stripes (as opposed to Ernie's horizontal ones), and has a head that is narrower than it is high. In addition, Bert has visible eyebrows (actually a unibrow), while Ernie doesn't.
Bert has a pet pigeon named Bernice, and he created a dance called "Doin' the Pigeon". In one sketch, Bert gets dressed and says he is going to a pigeon lovers party, which is obviously hosted by himself. Bert serves as President of the National Association of W Lovers, a club dedicated to the letter W. Two conventions held by the W Lovers have been shown on the show. Bert has pet goldfish, two of whom are named Lyle and Talbot.
Bert's favorite number is 6 and he has a song he wrote himself about the number 6 "My Favorite Number Is 6" to which he sings to Ernie in one episode. His favorite instrument is the tuba. All of these interests are opposed to Ernie's whose favorite number is 8,243,721 and Ernie's favorite instrument is the Saxophone to which he is unable to play because he can't "put down the Duckie".
In Christmas Eve on Sesame Street Bert decides to get Ernie a soap dish for Rubber Duckie not to fall in the tub anymore and sink, but has no money. He offers Mr. Hooper his paper clip collection as a trade but sadly walks off afterward. Then Ernie decides to trade Rubber Duckie for a cigar box for Bert's paper clips. Mr. Hooper however can see by their sad expressions that they do not want to give up their possessions so he gives them back to them as gifts and lets them keep the cigar box and soap dish.
A typical "Bert and Ernie" skit has Ernie coming up with a hare-brained idea and Bert attempting to talk him out of it, ending with Bert completely losing his temper and Ernie remaining oblivious to his own bad idea. Other sketches have involved Bert and Ernie sharing a snack by division but finding that one of them has a bit more than the other leading Ernie to stupidly decide to make it even by eating the extra piece. Others involved Bert wanting to pursue a boring or unreasonable hobby but Ernie asks him to play a simple game with him (such as "The Rhyming Game") but when Bert refuses Ernie makes puns or loopholes; to get him into the game and finally when Bert begins to enjoy himself Ernie wants to do something else and asks him and Bert to desert the game much to Bert's dismay.
Others involved Bert preparing a snack for himself and goes somewhere before coming back to find that Ernie has eaten it up. Despite Ernie's attempts to cover up the crime Bert knows Ernie is lying. For example, in one sketch Bert wants to have his chocolate ice cream but when he finds that Ernie has eaten it, he charges, but then Ernie tries his best to cover up his crime by making a disgusting dish: Mashed Bananas with Ice Cubes and Gold Beef Gravy. At the same time Bert is shouting at him that he knows better. Ernie only gets away with his crime because Oscar the Grouch their good friend comes in their apartment and offers them chocolate ice cream cones in exchange for the disgusting dish.
Bert has a twin brother, Bart; a nephew, Brad; and an Aunt Matilda. Brad has a voice like Beaker, but slightly deeper, and while he still made baby-like noises, he was able to talk. It is most likely that Brad is Bart's son since Bart is the only sibling seen for Bert. In one episode Bert babysits Brad and wants to give Brad a bath, but Ernie says he must give Brad toys to play with. In that episode, Ernie brought a toy shark with him in one skit; Brad was scared by it, not realizing it was a toy until Bert pointed out the fact. Bart looks exactly like Bert, and Ernie once mistook Bart for Bert; but Bart wears a suit and fedora and is an entrepreneur who is just like Ernie in personality ("Bart's the name and selling's my game!"). Bart also tells several jokes and laughs at his own jokes and has combed hair which shocks Ernie who expected Bart to be as grumpy as Bert. Bert's Aunt Matilda is never shown, but is often talked about, usually concerning Bert buying presents for her for numerous reasons.
Bert is one of Mister Rogers's fans. In one sketch, Bert is trying to write a letter to Mister Rogers and Ernie turns on his electric fan and blows Bert's letters away.
One running gag with Bert is when Ernie often removes his nose either accidentally or for humorous purposes.
As the duo often sing in their skits, several albums were released containing studio-recorded versions of their songs. Bert's best-known song is "Doin' the Pigeon". Additionally, he and Ernie both had their own video, The Best of Ernie and Bert, and their own album, Bert and Ernie's Greatest Hits. Only Ernie, however, has hit the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart with his song Rubber Duckie.
Bert Is Evil
Created in 1996, a humor website called Bert Is Evil hosted digitally manipulated images and satiric articles as "evidence" of Bert being evil. The site drew worldwide attention in 2001 when a photo of a Bangladeshi street protest was distributed by the Reuters news agency. The photo included a protest sign that depicted Bert with Osama bin Laden, an image that had been inadvertently placed there by the owner of a poster shop in Dhaka.
Bert was also described by Jon Stewart on March 18, 2010 as "A fastidious, pigeon-worshiping, felt tyrant whose draconian Sharia Law allows for neither loud noise or rubber duckies. But yet, who spends his day in a children’s workshop telling our impressionable youth what to think," in an act spoofing Glenn Beck.
Alleged portrayal of homosexuality
Ernie and Bert are rumored to be a couple despite the fact that this has been denied by the producers. This rumor has expanded over the years to include the pending marriage of the pair. The source of this rumor is undetermined, although Snopes has attributed it to poor recollection of various media reports covering odd or strange urban legends. The proliferation of the rumor prompted Sesame Workshop to issue a press release strongly insisting that the characters are asexual and denying that Bert and Ernie were meant to represent a gay couple.
- Davis, Michael (2008). Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street. New York: Viking Press. p. 166. ISBN 978-0-670-01996-0.
- Bert at snopes.com
- "Conservative Libertarian - The Daily Show with Jon Stewart - 3/18/2010 - Video Clip | Comedy Central." The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Official Website | Current Events & Pop Culture, Comedy & Fake News. 18 Mar. 2010. Web. 18 Oct. 2010.
- Mikkelson, Barbara & David P. "Open Sesame: Gay Sesame Street Muppet" at Snopes.com: Urban Legends Reference Pages.