Sesame St S2: Ernie

Our focus today is our good, old pal, Ernie, who although he’s best known as being half of one of Sesame Street‘s longest-lasting power couples, often had a number of sketches on his own, as well. Interestingly, although with Bert, Ernie would often be the–for lack of a better word–tormentor, inflicting his unique Ernie-osity upon him and often driving our favorite fussbudget to scream, flail, faint, run away, or some combination of the above, Ernie didn’t necessarily share the same dynamic with other characters, some of whom wouldn’t put up with his fun-loving shenanigans at all (reiterating that, underneath the surface, Bert really does love him), and others of whom actually ended up placing Ernie in the traditional Bert role themselves, giving him a taste of his own medicine, so to speak.


Our first clip today is a great example of the former, a classic scene in which Ernie attempts to buy a very specific ice cream cone from the ice cream man–played by Jerry Nelson, who came on board this season–namely a chocolate strawberry peach vanilla banana pistachio peppermint lemon orange butterscotch ice cream cone:



Naturally, in the grand tradition of the long-list Sesame Street sketches such as Ernie’s 1st season encounter with the mailman, he proceeds to repeat the entire list numerous times, with the ice cream man then repeating it back to him. But when the man brings out his practically-mile-high cone, we see that he put each flavor on the cone in the order that Ernie said, which means that, from top to bottom, it’s a butterscotch orange lemon peppermint pistachio banana vanilla peach strawberry chocolate cone. And after Ernie protests that that wasn’t what he ordered, reading out the entire “correct” order, and the ice cream man insists that there’s no difference between the two, the man finally loses all his patience and gives Ernie the perfect solution: “Simple. Just eat the same cone standing on your head!” And off he harrumphs!


Ernie angers another Jerry Nelson character in “Ernie Meets Simon Soundman”, the first appearance of a classic character with a strange method of verbalization: namely he replaces some words with the sounds that the things make, opening his mouth and lip syncing to the recorded noise of a car revving up or a cow mooing or that sort of thing. Here, he arrives at Bert and Ernie’s apartment and asks Ernie for some help. He’d like to borrow his ringing phone noise. He wanted to start his engine noise and take his baby crying noise to the country to a farm to see clucking noise and mooing noise and neighing noise and oinking noise, and so on and so forth, the gist being he’s having trouble getting his car started and needs to use Ernie’s phone. He goes through the entire rigamarole twice, with Ernie eventually translating each sound into a word.


Finally, Ernie says that, sure, he can use his phone, but instead of the word “phone,” opens his mouth and lip syncs a ringing noise himself, at which point Simon becomes horribly offended, claiming that Ernie is mocking the way he speaks, and off he goes in a huff. “Gee,” Ernie says, “he didn’t have to slamming noise the door,” and laughs. In this case, Ernie really didn’t do anything wrong. Rather than being comically (and possibly deliberately) obtuse as in the first sketch, here there’s no way he could have known that simply repeating the man’s erm phraseology back to him would upset him so, though it’s no real loss to Ernie who just shrugs this one off. But it does provide a good segue to the character interactions in which Ernie loses all together in a distinctly Bert way.


Sherlock Hemlock investigates his own baseball.

Sherlock Hemlock investigates his own baseball.

Such as in yet another Sherlock Hemlock mystery, “The Case of the Broken Window,” a sketch in which Ernie is at home, minding his own business, when he’s startled by the crash of one of his windows breaking. What could have caused it? Luckily, just when Ernie needs him most, the “world’s greatest detective” appears on the case, setting the mood by saying, “The mist lies low on the meadow…gray clouds cover the moon.” “They do?!” Ernie asks. Then Sherlock declares that he’s got it! “You do?” Ernie excitedly asks. “Yes, I know what to call the case…,” Sherlock replies. “Oh, brother,” Ernie says, which is such a Bert thing to say, it’s a shame he isn’t here to see it. There’s a clear progression from Ernie’s previous meeting with Sherlock, when he didn’t know who he was yet. Now, he’s already braced for what his “investigations” are like.


Of course, Sherlock then proceeds to come up with a ridiculous hypothesis, that a small plane was flying very low, while Ernie proceeds to piece together the clues himself–a baseball on the floor, a baseball bat that just so happens to be in Sherlock’s hand, and a number 5 on the back of his jacket, indicating he’s a member of the Sesame Street Sluggers–and realizes that Sherlock must have hit the ball and broken his window while playing a ball game. This is immediately confirmed by another team member sticking his head in the window and reminding Sherlock that he has to get back to the field, because they’re still in the middle of playing! Just as in the previous clip, Sherlock naturally takes full credit for “solving” the case but unlike last time with the chicken salad sandwich, magnanimously tells Ernie that the only prize he needs is his baseball back. Ernie tosses it to him and in the process, misses and breaks his own other window!


A foolish guy who not only ruins the other’s day but for whom the other’s luck actually seems to get worse simply due to his mere proximity? Sherlock really has taken over the typical Ernie role, with Ernie thrust into that of a less-uptight-but-still-frazzled “why-me?” Bert, a subtle acknowledgment of the concept that we can have such different dynamics with different people that even our personality and how we react can significantly alter depending on who we’re with. Bert brings out Ernie’s mischievous side, but when he’s confronted by someone who can be just as infuriating as he can be with Bert, Ernie himself ends up channeling his best buddy!


Another character who tends to mess with Ernie’s day is Cookie Monster, as we see in the following set of clips. First off, we have “Ernie’s Eating Utensils,” in which Ernie explains how to use a knife, fork, and spoon, and then asks Cookie to demonstrate for us.



Of course, Cookie proceeds to toss the utensils behind him and just pour the food directly into his gaping maw! Should Ernie have expected any differently? Speaking of which, this is another great example of Sesame Street‘s lack of condescension. They don’t worry about the fact that Cookie undermines Ernie’s entire preceding message here, trusting the children watching to have absorbed Ernie’s lesson and to realize that Cookie, as always, is being silly and illustrating the opposite of what they should do.


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