TV: Writer Says Bert and Ernie Are a Couple

Image credit: Sesame Street Twitter

The relationship between Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie have always been an easy target for comedians, but now it appears that those jokes may not have been so far removed from the truth.

The revelation comes from Queerty‘s interview with Mark Saltzman. Saltzman is a writer who has spent 15 years with The Muppets, as well as writing scripts and songs for Sesame Street. In the Queerty interview, the Emmy-winning writer reveals that he never knew how to write Bert and Ernie as anything else other than a couple.

“I remember one time that a column from The San Francisco Chronicle, a preschooler in the city turned to mom and asked ‘are Bert & Ernie lovers?’ And that, coming from a preschooler was fun,” he recalls. “And that got passed around, and everyone had their chuckle and went back to it. And 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.”

Saltzman is himself gay, and was in a relationship with acclaimed editor Arnold Glassman until Glassman’s death in 2003. Glassman has edited films like Frailty and The Celluloid Closet. In fact, Saltzman even says that aspects of his relationship often showed up in Bert and Ernie’s.

“That’s what I had in my life, a Bert & Ernie relationship. How could it not permeate? The things that would tick off Arnie would be the things that would tick off Bert. How could it not?” he shares.

Aside from writing Bert and Ernie as a couple, Saltzman also talked about working with other gay members of the Sesame Street crew, namely Richard Hunt and Kevin Clash. He also shared fanboy moments with jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie and the legendary Patti Labelle.

What do you guys think about these new revelations about Bert and Ernie? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

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  1. Hunter0500

    Until either or both of them make their orientation or relationship public, there should be no speculation or jokes. They deserve the same respect as anyone else.

  2. Elbridge Gerry

    What he said was he told their story through his lens, which was gay. He didn’t say they were gay. Of course, everyone is going to use this to beat people with another cudgel in the name of the Glorious Cause. Little kids just think Bert and Ernie are friends. And that is all it should be.

    Oh, also, “The Celluloid Closet” is a pretty good documentary. I highly recommend it. I like it a lot. Though its central thesis no longer really exists in media anymore. If anything, gays are over-represented in television and film.

  3. Jeffrey

    It is extremely sad and should show us why society thinks of us as second class or in this case no class.
    Instead of looking at what they did or do (I have not watched sesame street in a long time.) which is help teach manners, abc, or 123 we worry about what is happening in the bedroom.
    We get excited that the writer is gay but not the positive effect he is having on children.

    If you think that this a win for the gay community maybe I should think about going straight.

  4. Danny

    Until I heard the insinuations about a Bert and Ernie back in the “90’s I already too old for Seasame St ,I had always saw them like the “Odd Couple” . With one being sensible,proper and neat -Bert, and the other being loud,silly and sloppy -Ernie. So over all it’s how one perceives them, my guess whoever else joined in supporting the idea of the Bert/Ernie being a gay couple,was it probably reminded them alot of the relationship with their partner.

  5. Dontay Staples

    I will always see them as brothers or step brothers. I never thought of them as being gay or lovers because I thought they were kids.

  6. kris

    as far as i am concerned i use to watch sesame street when i was a kid i never thought anything odd or different with Bert and Ernie. i just thought they were best friends i never thought anything else nor should anyone else they have been beloved characters for a long time why put sexual orientation into this its ridiculous they puppets for christ’s sake leave them alone

  7. kris

    i watched Sesame street as a kid i never thought anything about Bert and Ernie i just they were friends that lived together and that Bert was the winy one between them. he’s always complaining about something .and that Ernie really loves rubber duckies . i do not think they should have a sexual orientation period. your’e just adding fuel to the fire. they are puppets leave it at that. i don’t want them to get less of the spot light in the show because of this

  8. jeff

    hello everyone, there are so many other important issues going on in the world, so I ask myself why are we discussing bert and ernie,
    I watched Sesame street when I was a kid, I’m 52 now, and even then I knew they weren’t real, so again I ask why are we wasting time giving a shit about something that’s no real,

  9. MuscleMarine

    Ummmmmmm…. They are fictional characters people…. This guy is an idiot for putting this out there. Like what is your point?? and then he says how can his personal life not affect these characters… Well if you are a professional writer, you are hired to think objectively and outside of your own life…. If that was the case a straight writer could never write a part for a gay person, and vice versa. Jeez theses attention seeking people in the world need to quit. What is the motive here???’s sad because this guy is way too old to be such an attention whore that he would tarnish fictional cartoon characters.. Kids should not be thinking about the sexuality of thier cartoons..just the comedy behind them. Now it will be hard not to think about this. Another old Rich prick ruining it for everyone…jEEZ. oh and Sesame street released a statement saying they are fictional characters and have no sexual orientation. SMH. THIS GUY IS A CLOWN

  10. Lamar

    Wow, man, kids aren’t looking at this through the same (lens) that adults do, nor should they have to. They don’t understand the dynamics of homosexuality as “we” tend to and you know what I mean; they shouldn’t have to be exposed to those dynamics either, let them be kids while they’re kids. Damnit, man, we live in such an over-sexed society, we can’t even raise decent-healthy kids anymore, we’re exposing kids to way too much, way to soon!

    We’re talking PRE-Schoolers! What business, has Saltzman; blurring the lines between his “personal gay life” with the educating of the most innocent-precious of our country?!!! See, this is ‘why’ the fear-witch-hunt of gay teachers, we’re feeding that fucking frenzy, yo!

    I’m sorry that he lost his mate, he should have taken a grievance leave, to get it together, man,
    It’s no wonder our American kids are packing fucking guns; committing mass murder and such, they’re little-people, not adults.

    There’s nothing wrong with being gay, its how you live it, handle it, quit drowning people in it for fucking crying out loud! We’re going over-board with this “agenda?” It’s starting to seem like another American obsession, obsession is illness. . . are we as a “minority or fringe-group” that damaged? If so, how much of the ‘onus’, is really on us, they way ‘we’ live our lives, among each other? “Respect,” I think first and foremost, our kids, deserve the respect, that they’re JUST LITTLE KIDS!!!

  11. bjjj

    It’s a kids show, Only the adults are the ones that question trying to figure out if Bert and Ernie are gay, straight, friends, etc. A couple: couple of friends, acquaintances, gay, bi, straight? I don’t think the kids that watch it care one way or another.

  12. Hunter4B

    TEN YEARS AGO, the SAME assertion was made in the live play: Avenue Q (an obviously thinly vieled h’omage to Sesame Street). It was funny then and talked about a lot, and it is funny now, even when the handful of homophobic self-loathers rear their ugly little keyboards to try to quash their qwerty-revolution. Pretty obvious… Bert is gay, however, his boyfriend is NOT! Grow up, it’s funny, and grow a pair, because it doesn’t really matter if they are gay or not… some of you knew when you were THREE, so having two BOY Muppets living together on TV should been loving and supportive of your lifestyle … no matter how much you might be in denial!

    • Lamar

      Well here’s something we completely disagree on, cute comment, though. I’d say I was about five or six, actually, just about all little preschool boys/girls are in general, fascinated by “big people,” (their words.) Just like little girls wear their mother’s shoes, pearls, hats and make-up (some boys do, too, lol.) You see this portrayal in the movies, right, yeah, sure you do/have.

      I’ve always heard it said, “boys will grow out of their fascination with grown men’s bodies”. . . obviously, some of do not, I didn’t…

      Preschoolers, granted, some are pretty precocious, my niece at 3-1/2 saw a tampon commercial, “uncle Pete, those are for girls aren’t they?” Yes, was my answer, but told her, “you’re such a little girl you won’t have to use them for a long time.” She also saw her mother on top of her father “goin’ at it” you know, “girl on top-style,” if you’ve seen the movie. So, got on top of her teddy-bear the same size as her, btw, and re-created what she had witnessed-sounds and all!. Of course, she had no idea of the meaning of this act. My mother witnessed this and just about passed a brick, lmao I did! “I saw mommy and daddy playing like this, grandma.”

      I say all of this, not because I’m “self-hating,” I just care about our next generation, a lot, you kill the innocents, what do have left?

    • Hunter4B

      Well, I was attempting to be satirical, because whether Muppets are GAY truly IS NOT the end of the world and was responding to those making it seem like GAYS are FORCING THE ISSUE or putting THE GAY in peoples faces. I AM WHO I AM, I am not running to get in a face and anyone HERE speaking to others similar to himself does not need to SELL ME on Being OUT or STAYING in … So, to be perfectly clear, WE ARE SPEAKING OF Bert and Earnie, TWO COTTON MUPPETS! Can muppets have sexuality? (they are dolls and therefore I doubt they have muppet penises or vaginas, and have never consummated the love act, save for having a guys arm up their body cavities, and therefore by those same values extolled here CANNOT BE GAY OR STRAIGHT). Jim Henson is dead, only HE knew if B & E were gay, he took the secret to his grave: Satirical case closed.

      I DO appreciate you Lamar, but perhaps we do disagree with this, because I do NOT believe ‘sexual orientation’ is based on dress up or an ‘in the moment action’ either. If you recall a dress up moment, it may be more based on your recollection of doing a non-normative behavior as opposed to a ‘straight toddler’ doing the exact same thing and not placing any significance on the act, and trust me, lots of kids do non-conformative things, parents panic, and it has NOTHING to do with sexuality as you put it because children do not produce hormones which drive the behavior or make those behaviors sentient one way or another.
      Most guys I know, KNEW they were different by two or three. They lived within hetero-conformative norms, and accepted it in their late teens. I absolutely KNOW that some people try on, and toy with sexuality, but I would not use the term ‘oriented’ for them, and I absolutely do not believe that you can turn someone straight or gay on a whim – I am not speaking of behavior, I am speaking of the hypothalamus and studies which have correlated links to the sexually dimorphic nucleus of the preoptic area, and that gay men’s are similarly structured to those of straight women. Therefore, I believe in brain structure and brain chemistry – most people claiming to be GAY do so because they know it and feel it in their bones (brains if you will), They are ORIENTED GAY or BI as the case may be and they are not expressing a sexual PREFERENCE, and if it were a preference, then Pence would have done better with this Make-U-Straight programs, which attempted to reprogram gays with straight mentalities. It is NOT smoking, and you can’t shock someone out of the desire (just the behavior) It is illegal in California to have such a program. Just as I tried to make the point that ALL GAY PEOPLE were once kids, many of whom were raised by straight parents, teaching straight values, and the two muppets I recall from my childhood (nor the multitude of other homoerotic fascinations that were ever present on TV and other media) NEVER reached my inner thoughts nor robbed me of my innocence … I was too busy dreaming of space exploration or being an archeologist … and not because Indiana Jones was a Hottie … the only thing making me who I am is my structure, form, and chemistry.

      Now, THE WORLD IS FALLING APART, and guys here argue about whether the topic is good, or if the guy in the photo is cute, or F-able, or ugly. Daily, I read racist, ageist, and homophobic commentary on a site created for connecting gay men, and many freely SHARE disturbingly hostile self-loathing values, undermine their brethren regularly, and steep it all in the safety of anonymity! So I will not sit an pretend that 24 comments on IF B & E are GAY is a worthy forum or blog. While I love most of your commentary, I did feel it was a bit over the top [in your 1st posted comment] to link this story to preschoolers, blurred lines, and gun violence (MAN, THAT is a HELL of a Slippery Slope there dude) caused by an overstated gay agenda?!? You are a smart guy, the “Omar Mateens” of the world are in such denial and pain, they strike outward at the parts they hate within themselves. That dude WAS self loathing. I LOVE that you embrace your sexuality, but I doubt that you ‘chose’ it. It isn’t good or bad to be gay, Being Gay, like Being Straight, just IS.

      • Lamar

        Agreed, “I did not, chose my sexual orientation” I chose to except it, as I realized; once puberty began, my fascination, became desire. As you’ve mentioned “how our brains” are indeed more wired-“structured” like that of women, as gay men. I did, play dress-up in my mothers shoes, lol, I’ve always had very long-shapely legs, and a great ass, lmao! I was very androgynous-appearing; I was discovering the looks of my own body. The way hetero-men were beginning to look at me!

        I still played Indians and cowboys boys, ect., just like other little boys, I simply had other ‘dimensions’ of my being, extremely multi-faceted. Hell, I learned boxing, Tae-Kwando, Greco-wrestling, I adapted to the depressingly-masculine world, I found myself surrounded by.

        I stand by, my comment about “our kids and guns” its a “slippery-slope” alright, not a stretch at all, not by a long shot! What the hell, are they so confused about-
        simultaneously; pissed about, what are they rebelling against, with guns/extreme violence? I think, its that they’re just not ready, for all the vast array of “dynamics or maturity” society is cramming down their throats 24-7-365, not to mention, the ‘vast’ hypocrisy of it all!

        Weather they’re toddlers watching Sesame Street or middle-school; senior students, they’re “mentally,” still, just kids. I think, for the most-part; people allowed to be kids while they’re just kids, make better adults, that are ready, to be ‘fully’ adults. I, and many others of the baby-boomers, were allowed to be kids, protected from all the mess of adults, mostly, this is something that’s disappearing, now. . .sadly.

        It’s funny and or tragic, how we somehow, in our minds, as you say basically, really, transfer our human traits to something made of cloth! Which ‘is’ what has happened in this story of the creator of the Sesame Street characters; he injected points of his lifestyle into these characters. I still stand by that, as wrong in my opinion, as having crossed a line, we can disagree, though. I still, like to read from you on here, man, I think I like ‘you’ as a choir-member 😉 I use my real name, not hiding anything of myself.

  13. Brad SF

    Mark Saltzman started writing for Sesame Street in 1981. The characters were created in 1969 and have consistently been portrayed as the non-sexual companions. I remember Bert & Ernie from its start when I was 6 in 1969 … and it was always speculated that there might be more to their relationship (but this 6 year old knew there was more). As a gay male adult, I’ve met Berts, Ernies and Bert and Ernie couples. As a child, I found them to be an example of an alternative couple rather than the funny single gay guys on tv like Paul Lynde and Jim Nabors. I wish Saltzman didn’t try to out them. The Baldwin Sisters on the Waltons had a similar relationship in the 1970’s, while I think post-menopausal sisters’ relationships would not receive the same type of speculation as Bert & Ernie.

  14. Ryan

    This reminds me of lesbians who feel the need to shove their sexuality and everything gay into other people’s faces. This was not very wise of the creator to come out publicly and say a children’s long-time beloved Muppet/cartoon are a homosexual couple. People fail to separate sex from gay/homosexual men ideas and conversations. Lesbians get high fives from straight dudes and ‘awe’s’ from straight women, but of course they nearly share lesbian type tendencies with their ‘girl friends’. The world is not liking the idea of those them as a couple, especially since it’s tied to a children’s tv show; thus gay men are projected as child molesters, aids spreaders or gay manipulators…

  15. Sean-Bottoms

    I’m 54 and I watched the very first episode of Sesame Street. Even then, in pre-school, I knew that Ernie and Bert were boyfriends. They were WAY too different to be best friends so I figured that something was up in 1969. So, I’m the kid these characters were built to talk to and what I learned is that someone doesn’t have to be like you for you to like them and love them. And I also learned that you can be yourself – messy, prissy, nerdy, clumsy – and you can still be loveable. Maybe kids today just need “puppets, so shut up about them being gay!“ but as a 5-year old, gentle-boy in 1969 America, with Stonewall happening, my mom freaking out about Leviticus, and the world changing so quickly in the coming years, the lesson of love between these two male characters was one I needed.

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