Are Bert and Ernie Gay?: Sesame Workshop, Sesame Writer Are Conflicted

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Bert and Ernie. Sesame Street’s two beloved roommates who sleep in separate beds, wear giant nightcaps and generally love each other as they annoy each other. As two men living together under the same roof, Bert and Ernie has long been the subject of jokes regarding their possible homosexuality. Or… are they just jokes? Hmm! Hmm, say I! Hmm! A writer for Sesame Street, one Mark Saltzman, in an interview with Queerty said that he always saw Bert and Ernie as gay, and based their relationship on the one between him and his late partner, Arnold Glassman, with whom Saltzman was romantic partners with for over 20 years until Glassman’s death in 2003. The entire interview is incredible as Saltzman talks about being openly gay in the 70’s and 80’s, losing friends to AIDS and more. However, this was the quote that sent the internet spinning.

“I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert & Ernie, they were. I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them. The other thing was, more than one person referred to Arnie & I as “Bert & Ernie.”… I was Ernie. I look more Bert-ish. And Arnie as a film editor—if you thought of Bert with a job in the world, wouldn’t that be perfect? Bert with his paper clips and organization? And I was the jokester. So it was the Bert & Ernie relationship, and I was already with Arnie when I came to Sesame Street. So I don’t think I’d know how else to write them, but as a loving couple. I wrote sketches…Arnie’s OCD would create friction with how chaotic I was. And that’s the Bert & Ernie dynamic.”- Mark Saltzman

Bert and Ernie’s sexuality was always a matter of question, as both an immature punchline and an earnest discussion towards gay Muppets on Sesame Street. Sesame Workshop, however, as always is doubling down that Bert and Ernie are not a couple, saying that the characters are meant to show how you can relate to those who might be different than you, with Bert and Ernie being in opposition to each other in personality, but remain the best of friends, in a now deleted Tweet.

Frank Oz, who played Bert and created the character across from Jim Henson’s Ernie, also said that the character does not have a sexuality. They aren’t gay nor are they straight — they are two sweet sexless gentlemen who live together and argue over Rubber Duckies and paper clips. Frank Oz even questioned why sexuality was such an issue.

The Tweet was attacked by those who thought his stance seemed closed minded, and Oz spent some time replying to those who critiqued his opinion. He then replied with this Tweet.

So the writer of Bert and Ernie claim they are based on a relationship he’s had with another man and always imagined them as a couple. Frank Oz claims they are not so. So that is what we have– two puppets who will always have these rumors swirling about them. But Sesame Street has always been progressive with LGBTQ issues. Maybe the secret to avoiding this conversation every few years is by introducing a legitimate LGBTQ Muppet couple to the show. Hmm…


Anyway, for absolutely no real reason, here are Bert and Ernie doing a Fresh Prince of Bel Air parody.

What do you think of the Ernie and Bert conversation? Is Salzman’s take more legitimate than Oz’s? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter at @WhatsTrending.

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