Bert and ernie

Bert and Ernie are two roommates on the popular U.S. 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.


Bert and Ernie were built by Don Sahlin from a simple design scribbled by Jim Henson, creator of The Muppets. In a classic pairing, Ernie appears chubby while Bert appears quite skinny (in a similar way to Abbott and Costello or Laurel and Hardy).[1]

Initially, Henson performed Bert and Oz performed Ernie, but after just one day of rehearsal, they switched characters. According to writer Jon Stone, the relationship between Ernie and Bert 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.Template:Citation needed


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Bert was initially performed by Frank Oz. Since 2001, Muppeteer Eric Jacobson has been phased in as Bert's primary performer. (Oz, however, does continue to perform the character occasionally.)

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. Other versions of this puppet includes Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy.

Bert has a major role in the movie Sesame Street Presents: Follow that Bird when he and Ernie go to search for Big Bird in an airplane. Eventually Bert and Ernie find Big Bird nearby a farm field, but just before they can reveal themselves to Big Bird, Ernie turns the plane upside down and begins to sing "Upside Down World" with Bert eventually joining in singing. Just when Bert finally begins to enjoy himself, Ernie turns the plane back up, finds Big Bird gone, and blames it all on Bert.

Bert, though intelligent, is also boring and easily frustrated. Famous for his unibrow, when the puppeteer raises his unibrow he does a perfect ba-limp. 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 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 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 W. 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. A third goldfish is Talbot's wife, Melissa. Bert has a twin brother, Bart; a nephew, Brad; and an Aunt Matilda.


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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 well-known for taking baths with his rubber duckie, and for having trouble trying to learn to play the saxophone because he would not "put down the duckie". Children can visit Ernie at Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.

In the film Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird, Ernie and Bert go to search for Big Bird in a plane. When Bert spots Big Bird, nearby a farm field, Ernie turns the plane upside down and begins to sing Upside Down World with Bert beginning to join in singing. However when Ernie turns the plane back up, Big Bird is gone and Ernie blames it all on Bert.

A running gag for the series involves Ernie presenting a hare-brained idea and Bert trying to dissuade him. Bert loses his temper while Ernie refuses to listen, and some element of truth in Ernie's idea adds to Bert's frustration. Another Ernie gag is that he refers to his bathtub and bath time as "Tubby time" before his performance of his song Rubber Duckie. His catchphrase for his comic duo with his roommate Bert, is "Hi Bert!"

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.

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.[3]

Comedy routines

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.

One example Bert and Ernie skit is the popular "banana in my ear" joke:

Ernie: Hi, Bert!
Bert: Hey, Ernie, you know that you have a banana in your ear?
Ernie: What was that, Bert?
Bert: (more loudly) I said, you have a banana in your ear, Ernie. Bananas are food. They are to eat, not to put in your ear!
Ernie: What did you say, Bert?
Ernie: I'm sorry, you'll have to speak a little louder, Bert! I can't hear you! I have a banana in my ear!

(Later Bert comes back)

Bert: Ernie!?
Ernie: Oh! Hi Bert!
Bert: You still have that banana in your ear!
Ernie: What?
Bert: (more loudly) I said you still have that banana in your ear!!!
Ernie: (hears him) Yeah Bert! I know!
Bert: You know!? Ernie why is that banana still in your ear?!
Ernie: Listen Bert. I use the banana to keep the alligators away!
Bert: ALLIGATORS!? Ernie there are no alligators on Sesame Street!
Ernie: Right! Then it is a good job then isn't it Bert?! (chuckles while Bert sighs)

This is very reminiscent of the "flies in my eyes" gag in Joseph Heller's novel Catch 22. This joke, however, was not included in the motion picture adaption.

Rumors controversies, and misconceptions

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.[4]

Characters named Bert and Ernie appear in the film It's a Wonderful Life as a policeman and a taxi driver, respectively, but those behind Sesame Street claim that it's 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 cop and the cabdriver."[5]

Bert and Ernie live together in an apartment in the basement of 123 Sesame Street. Bert and Ernie sleep in separate beds, though they still share a bedroom. Sesame Workshop states that the two are not homosexuals,[6] 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.

Even more disturbing to some is the fact that while clearly adults who share an apartment, Ernie and Bert have no visible means of support and no reference is made to any form of employment, income, or attempts to find work.


  • 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".
  • 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'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, with many episodes ending with Ert getting hurt.
  • 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're referred to as "Ernesto e Berto".
  • Mexico and all Latin America, Plaza Sésamo, Bert is "Beto", while Ernie is "Enrique". In addition, Ernie's cousin Ernestine is referred to as "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 are referred to as "Bernt og Erling"
  • 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 ve Büdü".

External links


  1. Template:Cite journal
  2. Template:Cite book
  3. Whitburn, Joel, "Top Pop Singles: 1955-2006," 2007.
  4. BBC News - Bert in the frame with Bin Laden
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  6. Template:Cite web