'Sesame Street' wants to clarify: Bert and Ernie aren't gay

Getty Images  Matthew Simmons

After decades of rumors and speculation, a writer for Sesame Street has confirmed that Bert and Ernie were indeed a couple. "Bert and Ernie are characters who help demonstrate to children that despite their differences, they can be good friends", a press release from the studio said back in 2003.

"I remember one time a preschooler [in San Francisco] turned to her mum and asked, 'are Bert and Ernie lovers?' and that, coming from a preschooler, was fun", Saltzman told Queerty.

Speculation over Bert and Ernie's relationship has been around nearly as long as the show itself, which first aired in 1969.

'I didn't have any other way to contextualise them.

Bert performer Frank Oz even weighed in on the debate with a Tuesday tweet, saying "They're not, of course [a gay couple]".

Then a statement from the show said they "do not have a sexual orientation".

Saltzman won seven Emmy Awards for his 15-year-long stint writing scripts and songs for Sesame Street.

Bert and Ernie have become icons in the gay community over the years, and even inspired parts of the puppet Broadway musical Avenue Q.

Two days after the interview was published, the Sesame Workshop put out a statement. Saltzman didn't start writing for the show until 1985.

The seven-time Emmy victor told Queerty in an interview published earlier this week that he always thought of the characters "as a loving couple", and often drew from his own same-sex relationship with longtime partner Arnold Glassman, an Emmy-nominated editor.

Saltzman explained to the magazine that Bert and Ernie's relationship often echoed his own.

"The things that would tick off Arnie (his partner) would be the things that would tick off Bert", he added.

"Sesame Street" Workshop head Gary Knell denied rumors in 1994. "There's much more to a human being than just straightness or gayness", he wrote on Twitter. Does it really matter?

Many Twitter users merely expressed surprise that some people thought the pair wasn't gay.

Mr Oz later replied to a comment: "I created Bert". Another person wrote, "Bert and Ernie are gay af and that is the best news of the day. And that's the Bert & Ernie dynamic".

In this week's interview, Saltzman also suggested Snuffalupagus, Big Bird's best friend, was a "gay closeted" character.

That did not prevent the pair from appearing on the cover of The New Yorker in 2013, shortly after the United States Supreme Court legalized gay marriage across the country, which Saltzman described as a "kind of vindication". How could Ernie put up with Bert's pigeons if he didn't love him in that way? "Bert with his paperclips and organisation?" he said.

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