'Sesame Street' scribe reveals LGBTQ inspiration for writing Bert and Ernie

"Sesame Street" Muppets Ernie, left, and Bert pose for photographs during a press conference on Jan. 7, 2013 on the 40th anniversary of the show's premiere in Germany. [Georg Wendt/DPA/Zuma Press/TNS]
"Sesame Street" Muppets Ernie, left, and Bert pose for photographs during a press conference on Jan. 7, 2013 on the 40th anniversary of the show's premiere in Germany. [Georg Wendt/DPA/Zuma Press/TNS]
Published September 19

It’s a question that’s been bandied about for decades: Are Sesame Street dynamic duo Bert and Ernie more than just roommates? Or are they instead engaged in a lifelong love affair?

A recent interview with Mark Saltzman, a playwright and former writer for Sesame Street, has finally offered some insight into the issue, even as Sesame Workshop feels otherwise.

Saltzman revealed to Queerty that even though Bert and Ernie were never officially gay, he was often inspired by his longtime relationship with film editor Arnold Glassman when writing the roommates’ dynamic.

“And I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were (lovers),” said Saltzman, who wrote for Sesame Street from 1985 to 1998.

After explaining that between his own personality as a jokester and his partner’s organizational obsessive-compulsive disorder, he could write only what he knew.

“I don’t think I’d know how else to write them, but as a loving couple,” the seven-time Emmy Award winner said.

When asked for comment by the Los Angeles Times, Sesame Workshop, the parent company of Sesame Street, reiterated that the Muppets are simply that and have no discernible sexual preferences.

“As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves,” the statement read.

“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.”

In thinking back to his time on the series, Saltzman recalled a singular disappointment.

“It was always diversity, diversity,” he said. “It’s a shame (Sesame Street) wasn’t leading the (LGBTQ) charge.”

Advertisement