Former 'Sesame Street' Writer Says He Wrote Bert & Ernie as a Couple, But Show Says They're Just 'Best Friends'

Courtesy of Everett Collection
Bert and Ernie on Sesame Street. 

For nearly 50 years, Bert and Ernie, the two lovable puppet roommates of Sesame Street, have been at the center of a constant question regarding their personal identities: Are Bert and Ernie lovers? Whether presented as a thoughtful question about the portrayal of queer characters on television or simply as a joke, the question surrounding the puppets’ relationship has existed for decades.

Speaking with Queerty, Marc Saltzman, a former writer for Sesame Street, says that he always understood that the two Muppets were, in fact, gay. “I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert & Ernie, they were,” he said. “I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them.”

Saltzman went on to say that his own relationship with film editor Arnold Glassman served as a source of inspiration for the characters, saying that even the couple’s friends would refer to the pair as Bert and Ernie. “It was the Bert & Ernie relationship, and I was already with Arnie when I came to Sesame Street,” he said. “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.”

Despite Saltzman’s claims that Bert and Ernie are in a relationship, the creators of Sesame Street are still definitively saying that they are not. “As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends,” read a statement released on the Sesame Workshop Twitter page. “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.”

Along with discussing the rumors surrounding Bert and Ernie's relationship, Saltzman also mentioned other moments in the show with explicitly gay themes, including a character named The Sublime Miss M based on Bette Midler and the elephant Muppet Snuffalupagus being Big Bird's "secret friend" before being able to be "seen" by everyone.

Read Saltzman’s full interview with Queerty here, and read the statement from Sesame Workshop below.