'Sesame Street' writer says Bert and Ernie are a gay couple, but the show quickly denies it

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

P is for partners.

Sesame Street viewers have long speculated that Bert and Ernie were more than just roommates. Now, Mark Saltzman, a former writer for the show, confirms that they’re gay in an interview with the LGBTQ lifestyle and news website Queerty.

“I remember one time that a column from the San Francisco Chronicle, a preschooler in the city turned to mom and asked ‘are Bert & Ernie Iovers?’” Saltzman recalled. “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 & Ernie, they were. I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them. The other thing was, more than one person referred to Arnie & I as ‘Bert & Ernie.’”

Muppets Bert, left, and Ernie, from the children’s program Sesame Street, pictured in 2011. (Photo: AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser, file)

The Arnie that Saltzman was referring to is Arnold Glassman, a film editor and Saltzman’s life partner until he passed away in 2003. Talking about their relationship, he continued, “Yeah, I was Ernie. I look more Bert-ish. 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. So it was the Bert & 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. I wrote sketches. … Arnie’s OCD would create friction with how chaotic I was. And that’s the Bert & Ernie dynamic.”

Bert and Ernie were originally performed by Muppets creator Jim Henson and Frank Oz. Oz told Today in March that the puppets were often reflections of their puppeteers’ personalities. “We’d pick parts of ourselves and put them into the puppets,” Oz said.

While fans of the long-running TV show quickly took to Twitter to laud the development — this has been a long time in the making for the LGBTQ community icons, whose relationship status was featured in a 2013 New Yorker cover and the subject of an online marriage petition — it didn’t last long.

After Saltzman’s interview went viral, Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind the show, issued a statement saying that Bert and Ernie “do not have a sexual orientation.” It was retweeted soon after that under the show’s Twitter handle.

Oz also weighed in on Bert and Ernie’s relationship on Twitter, saying, “There’s much more to a human being than just straightness or gayness.”

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