Ernie (Sesame Street)
|Sesame Street, Play with Me Sesame character|
Ernie and his rubber duckie with Bert in a publicity still for Sesame Street.
|First appearance||Sesame Street Test Pilot (1969)|
|Portrayed by||Jim Henson (1969–1990)
Steve Whitmire (1993–2014)
Billy Barkhurst (2014–present)
|Aliases||Caveman Ernie, Sir Ernie, etc.|
|Family||Cousins (Ernestine and Fred)|
Ernie is a Muppet character on the long-running PBS children's television show, Sesame Street. He and his roommate Bert form the comic duo Bert and Ernie, one of the program's centerpieces, with Ernie acting the role of the naïve troublemaker and Bert the world-weary foil.
Ernie has a distinctive, chuckling laugh (a trait he shares with his baby cousin Ernestine). His appearance and clothing contrast noticeably with Bert, as he is the shorter and stouter of the pair, wears a shirt with horizontal stripes as opposed to Bert's vertical ones, and has a head that is wider than it is high. In addition, Ernie has no visible eyebrows, while Bert displays a unibrow.
Ernie is well known for his fondness for baths with his Rubber Duckie, and for trying to learn to play the saxophone. Ernie is also known for keeping Bert awake at night, for reasons such as wanting to play the drums, wanting to count something (like sheep), to observe something like a blackout, or even because he is waiting for his upstairs neighbor to drop his shoes.
Many Ernie and Bert sketches involve Ernie wanting to play a game with Bert, who would much rather do something else (like read). Ernie keeps annoying Bert with the game until Bert joins — and usually, by the time Bert starts enjoying the game, Ernie is tired of playing the game and wants to do something else. Other sketches have involved them sharing some food by dividing it equally, only for one of them to have a bit more than the other, leading Ernie to make it even by eating the extra piece.
Ernie makes appearances without Bert. He has regularly appeared in skits with Cookie Monster, Sherlock Hemlock and Lefty the Salesman. From season 33 (2002) until season 36 (2005), he and Big Bird starred in a daily segment called "Journey to Ernie".
Movies, songs and specials
Ernie sang about his affection for Rubber Duckie in a skit, which aired during the first season of Sesame Street. The song from that skit – titled "Rubber Duckie" – became a modest mainstream hit, reaching No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1970.
Ernie has appeared in both of the Sesame Street movies. In Follow That Bird, he and Bert searched for Big Bird by plane. Ernie piloted the plane, and eventually, after they found Big Bird, he flew the plane upside-down, singing "Upside Down World". However, after they lost Big Bird, Ernie blamed Bert.
In The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, Ernie and Bert served as hosts, interrupting the movie whenever it looks like something bad is about to happen. Bert was worried about the bad bits, but Ernie clammed him by saying "Bert, nothing bad is going to happen!". Ernie reveals in Sesame Street Episode 257 that his favorite activities include watching parades, circuses and going to birthday parties.
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 while Ernie becomes 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; Ernie humorously decides to try to make it even by eating the extra piece which goes forth until the entire snack is all eaten up.
Others have also involved Ernie eating part of Bert's snack he prepares for himself and when Bert comes back from somewhere Ernie tries to make several attempts to cover up the crime in front of Bert which is not successful mostly. Some other plotlines involved Ernie wanting to play a game with Bert who wants to do something else; he continues playing until he gets Bert in but when Bert finally wants to continue playing the game Ernie is tired of playing and wants to do something else.
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 Live performer, Taylor Morgan. Morgan said to the Macon Telegraph 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." However, Bert's twin brother Bart is depicted as a traveling salesman, which would mean Bert (and probably Ernie) are both adults.
In Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, Ernie decided to buy Bert a cigar box to store his paper clips in. However, as he did not have any money, he traded his own Rubber Duckie for it. At the same time, Bert decided to get Ernie a soap dish to put his Rubber Duckie in, so that it wouldn't keep falling into the tub, but had to trade his paper clips for it. However, Mr. Hooper could tell that neither of them really wanted to give up their prized possessions, so Mr. Hooper gave them their things back as presents.
Ernie and Bert introduced a montage of Sesame Street clips in The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years. Ernie also narrated a Christmas pageant, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, in A Muppet Family Christmas. In that same special, Ernie and Bert had a conversation with Doc, making them the only Sesame Street characters (not counting Kermit the Frog) to have interacted with Doc.
In Sesame Street: 20 and Still Counting, he and Bert got a new video camera, and he talked Bert into using the camera to record footage of Sesame Street so that they could watch Sesame Street on television.
Ernie is a "Live-Hand Muppet," 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, although sometimes the right arm is simply stuffed and pinned to the puppet's chest or the second puppeteer will perform both arms. Other puppets of this type include Cookie Monster, Fozzie Bear, Beaker, and Bunsen Honeydew.
Sesame Street is localized for some different markets, and Ernie is often renamed. For instance, in episodes that are aired in Portugal, Ernie's name has been changed to Egas, in Brazil his name is Ênio, in Spain he is renamed "Epi", in Latin America his name is "Enrique", on Egyptian Alam Simsim (Sesame World) Ernie's name is given as "Shadi" (rhyming with Bert's which is "Hadi"), in Russia he also known as Yenik (Еник), in Turkey he is named "Edi", in Israel he is called "Arik" (אריק) and in Norway he is known as "Erling".
Rumors concerning Ernie
- "A rumor spread that Ernie would be dying in an upcoming episode." The rumor began shortly after Henson's death in 1990. Several reasons are cited – including no one else being available to assume the role and helping children learn the concept of death and dying (a concept Sesame Street had previously addressed after Mr. Hooper's death in 1982) – with several plotlines detailing how he would die. However, Steve Whitmire took over the role of Ernie, just like he did with Kermit.
- "It is claimed that Ernie and Bert are a couple". A further rumor was the pending marriage of the pair, indeed an Internet petition advocated this possibility. Sesame Workshop however issued a press release claiming that Bert and Ernie are not a gay couple.
- Whitburn, Joel, "Top Pop Singles: 1955-2006", 2007.
- macon.com Archived March 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
- Mikkelson, Barbara & David P. "Toe Tag Ernie: Muppet Death Rumor" at Snopes.com: Urban Legends Reference Pages.