After former Sesame Street writer Mark Saltzman revealed he always wrote Bert and Ernie as if they were gay, the popular children’s program has issued a response.
Please see our statement below regarding Bert and Ernie. pic.twitter.com/6r2j0XrKYu
— Sesame Workshop (@SesameWorkshop) September 18, 2018
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In an interview published earlier today, Saltzman recalled how the writers’ room got a laugh out of a little boy reportedly asking his mother if Bert and Ernie were lovers. “And that, coming from a preschooler was fun. And that got passed around, and everyone had their chuckle and went back to it,” he told Queerty. “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 also revealed that part of the Bert and Ernie dynamic reflected his 24-year relationship with his life partner Arnold Glassman, a film editor who passed away in 2003. Apparently, more than one person who knew them compared the two to the Sesame Street pair.
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“Yeah, I was Ernie,” he shared. “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.”
Saltzman won seven Emmy Awards for his 15-year-long stint writing scripts and songs for Sesame Street. He joined the famed PBS children’s show in 1984 after befriending Allana Reed Hall, who was the original Olivia on Sesame Street. He became one of the main writers for the show, especially for Bert and Ernie.
Frank Oz, the iconic voice behind Muppets like Fozzie Bear and Miss Piggy, also addressed the issue:
It seems Mr. Mark Saltzman was asked if Bert & Ernie are gay. It’s fine that he feels they are. They’re not, of course. But why that question? Does it really matter? Why the need to define people as only gay? There’s much more to a human being than just straightness or gayness.
— Frank Oz (@TheFrankOzJam) September 18, 2018
Sesame Street airs on PBS and is available via HBO Go.