Bert and Ernie are two roommates on the long-running television show Sesame Street. The two appear together in numerous skits, forming a comic duo that is one of the centerpieces of the program. Originated by Frank Oz and Jim Henson, the characters are currently performed by Muppeteers Eric Jacobson and Steve Whitmire, with Oz performing Bert occasionally since 2000.
History of the duo
Bert and Ernie were built by Don Sahlin from a simple design scribbled by Muppets creator Jim Henson. According to Frank Oz, Sahlin also defined their characters on the basis of their physical appearance: Ernie was an orange and Bert was a banana. In a classic pairing, Ernie appears chubby while Bert appears quite skinny (in a similar way to Abbott and Costello or Laurel and Hardy).
According to A&E's Biography, Ernie and Bert were basically the only Muppets to appear in the Sesame Street pilot episode, which was screen tested to a number of families in July 1969. Their brief appearance was the only part of the pilot that tested well, so it was decided that not only should Muppet characters be the "stars" of the show, but would also interact with the human characters, something that was not done in the pilot.
Bert was originally performed by Frank Oz. Since 2001, Muppeteer Eric Jacobson has been phased in as Bert's primary performer.
Bert, though intelligent, is also grumpy, boring and easily frustrated. He enjoys activities such as paper clip and bottle cap collecting, cooking oatmeal and watching pigeons. In one sketch, Bert reads a book called "Boring Stories" and chuckles, "Boy, these Boring Stories are really exciting!" In the book Sesame Street Unpaved, Frank Oz says, "I was never really happy with Bert's character until about a year in, when I realized... that he was a very boring character, and I'd use that weakness as a strength for him."
Bert is good friends with a pigeon named Bernice, and has even created a dance called "Doin' the Pigeon". Bert serves as President of the National Association of W Lovers, a club dedicated to the letter W. Two conventions held by the W Lovers have been shown on the show. Bert also has pet goldfish, two of whom are named Lyle and Talbot, a reference to the actor Lyle Talbot. A third goldfish is Talbot's wife, Melissa. Bert has a twin brother, Bart; a nephew, Brad; and an Aunt Matilda.
The age of Bert and Ernie is regularly discussed on forums. Nothing official has ever been said, but most consider the duo adults, as they do not appear to be highly dependent on others. Helping suggestions of the characters being young is a comment by Sesame Street Live performer Taylor Morgan. Morgan said to the Macon Telegraph that "I just kind of try to think like a 6-year-old or 7-year-old, because that's how old Bert is."