It wasn’t announced a la, Bert & Ernie are gay lovers. But writer Mark Saltzman says yeah, that’s who they are and how he wrote them.
This is not new. Talk of Bert & Ernie being gay has been around for decades. But Saltzman said in an interview with LGBTQ website Queerty that the puppets are “a couple.”
Queerly asks, “Ok, so we have to address—that’s the big question, right? In the writer’s room, you’re all adults. Were you thinking of Bert & Ernie as a gay couple? Did that question ever come up?”
Saltzman responds: “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. 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 told Queerly that Bert & Ernie are a lot like he and his partner, film editor Arnold Glassman who died in 2003.
“Yeah, 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.”
He said Bert & Ernie were their counterparts.
“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? I will say that I would never have said to the head writer, “oh, I’m writing this, this is my partner and me.”
But Sesame Workshop says no way, Bert & Ernie are not gay, they’re just friends.
“As we have always said, Bert & Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves. Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.”
Saltzman began writing for Sesame Street in 1984.