This Famous Sesame Street Writer Pretty Much Confirms Bert and Ernie Are a Couple
In an exclusive interview with Queerty, illustrious TV writer (and seven-time Emmy winner) Mark Saltzman pretty much confirmed what Sesame Street fans have long wondered: that long-standing roommates and best friends Ernie and Bert are, for all intents and purposes, a gay couple. Naturally, the issue is much more nuanced than that; it's not that the two were ever explicitly depicted as such, and the studio heads never signed off on said relationship status. But behind the scenes, and in the eyes of Saltzman, that's exactly what they were.
To add context, Saltzman confirmed that he was working on Sesame Street right as the AIDS crisis reached its peak in the 1980s. At the same time, he had met the love of his life: acclaimed film editor Arnold Glassman. "All our friends were dying," Saltzman said. "I met Arnie like the day before the first case . . . Oct. 31, 1979 . . . We knew nothing. There's a cancer that's catching? Everything was so mystifying and in the meantime, there's another funeral next week. Thinking about being out at that time, it's hard to extricate that from living in the middle of an epidemic."
"That's what I had in my life, a Bert and Ernie relationship. How could it not permeate?"
Saltzman said he pitched the education department gay content, just so his conscience could rest easy. But then, he turned his attention to Bert and Ernie. "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," he continued. "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.'"
As time went on, Saltzman of course used his own experiences in his relationship as groundwork for Bert and Ernie's stories. "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?" Suffice it to say, Saltzman never revealed this to the head writer, and he never had to. There didn't have to be romance in Bert and Ernie's relationship for them to read as a couple. And, at the same time, their aromantic interactions could certainly be read as conflicts between friends.
Saltzman went on to say that other characters obviously resonated with a gay audience, but Bert and Ernie still remain intact as his personal contribution. In response to the interview, fans have expressed delight on Twitter. I mean, the LGBTQ+ community will always be looking for on-screen representation, even when it's imagined and entirely unconfirmed by the writers. But this kind of validation makes the whole thing that much sweeter.