Bert and Ernie live together, play together, and sing together, but at no point during the 48-season run of Sesame Street has the obvious been confirmed. In a recent interview with Queerty, though, writer Mark Saltzman, who joined the show in 1984 (he also wrote The Adventures of Milo and Otis!), revealed television’s worst-kept secret: Bert and Ernie are more than just friends.
When asked whether he thought of Bert and Ernie as a gay couple, Saltzman responded, “I remember one time that a column from the San Francisco Chronicle, a preschooler in the city turned to mom and asked, ‘Are Bert and 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 and Ernie, they were. I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them. The other thing was, more than one person referred to Arnie and I as Bert and Ernie.”
Arnie is acclaimed film editor Arnold Glassman, Saltzman’s partner and “love of my life” who passed away in 2003. “I was Ernie… 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,” he said. “So it was the Bert and 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.” They squabble, but ultimately, they love each other, like a real couple:
“That’s what I had in my life, a Bert and 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 those two, Snuffleupagus, because he’s the sort of clinically depressed Muppet… you had characters that appealed to a gay audience. And Snuffy, this depressed person nobody can see, that’s sort of Kafka! It’s sort of gay closeted too.”
No offense, rubber ducky, but the number one in Ernie’s life is Bert.
UPDATE: Sesame Workshop has tweeted a statement about the matter. You can read the full response to Saltzman’s interview below, but the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street claims that Bert and Ernie “are best friends” and “do not have a sexual orientation.”