This week, David Reddish of Queerty published an interview he did with Emmy Award-winning writer, Mark Saltzman, who worked on Sesame Street for a large portion of his career. Mr. Saltzman spent 15 years with The Muppets and wrote scripts and songs for Sesame Street during that time. During the interview, Queerty asked whether he thought about Bert and Ernie as a gay couple. Giving his honest perspective, Mr. Saltzman said:
“I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were [gay].”
As the interview continued, he said that during the time he was working on Sesame Street he was in a relationship with Arnold “Arnie” Glassman, film editor, and drew from those experiences to write the two characters as a loving couple. He elaborated:
“The things that would tick off Arnie would be the things that would tick off Bert.”
However, he also added that he would never tell the head writer that the characters were being based on his experiences with his partner.
The characters have always had a complicated past due to the nature of their relationship. While many consider the two to be LGBTQ+ icons and adopting them as a gay couple, the show thought otherwise. When a Change.org petition was created about 7 years ago to have the men be married on the show, the show released this statement:
“[The characters are] best friends and 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.”
Now, in 2018, Sesame Workshop has tweeted the same message, maybe in response to Reddish's interview.
In a similar perspective, Gary Knell (Sesame Street Workshop boss) once said Bert and Ernie “are not gay, they are not straight, they are puppets.”
h/t: Queerty, PBS