Sesame St S2: Bert & Ernie

After watching some of Ernie’s second season team-ups with other characters yesterday, today we’re back to the sketches with his longtime companion, his good old buddy, Bert, and I figured it would be nice to start with the rare scene in which, not only does Bert emerge happy and Ernie dejected but in which there’s actually no competition between them whatsoever. Bert’s happiness springs from Ernie being kind to him and Ernie’s lack of enthusiasm springs from simply being bored, and it all revolves around Bert’s famous bottlecap collection:



So, at the start of the sketch, a restless Ernie wants to do something exciting, like go to a parade, circus, or birthday party, but Bert proclaims he has an even better idea than any of those things: they can spend some time looking at his bottlecap collection, which he brings out and extols the virtues of, to the high heavens! This might be the most joyful we’ve ever seen Bert, and it’s quite the delightful sight to behold. Ernie, on the other hand, is even more bored than ever before and tells Bert just that, but his tall, yellow friend can’t understand how anyone would rather go to a party than look at this wonder of wonders, this miracle of miracles.


Bert then points out that one spot is missing in his collection, and that is one he has deliberately reserved for the extremely-difficult-to-find 12-ounce Figgy Fizz bottlecap…at which point Ernie makes his entire day–nay, his year–by giving him a Figgy Fizz bottlecap that he had found outside! Bert is rapturously ecstatic, thanking Ernie effusively and getting himself so worked up that he feels the need to go lie down. Ernie sighs, “Sure has been an exciting day, hasn’t it?”


This scene is wonderful for many reasons. Besides showing a side to Bert we haven’t seen up to this point–a capacity for enthusiasm every bit as intense as Ernie’s, albeit for things that would put most people to sleep–as well as containing the subtle lesson of different people finding different things interesting and exciting–perhaps most importantly it shows Ernie making Bert truly happy with no gain for himself. In fact, if anything it made his own day even worse, as Bert definitely won’t be available to do anything else with Ernie now, providing a lovely bit of balance to Ernie’s general triumphs and giving us a glimpse at the softer side of their relationship, any potential sappiness still not rearing its head due to Ernie’s glumness at the end.


This is a nice thing to keep in mind for the rest of the sketches today, which don’t turn out nearly as well for poor beleagured Bert, such as this next one:



A fairly simple and straightforward Ernie/Bert set-up but a very funny one. Bert tries to illustrate the difference between quiet and loud, first very quietly saying, “This is very quiet”. Ernie pretends not to hear him, so he repeats himself. And then whispers the phrase again, and Ernie again claims to not be able to hear him, causing an increasingly frustrated Bert to scream, “THIS IS VERY QUIET!!!” Ernie naturally responds, “That’s not quiet, Bert. That’s loud.” Wocka wocka!


Whereas Bert unwittingly walked right into that one, in our next clip, Bert sadly falls victim to Ernie’s over-enthusiasm over something even more exciting than bottlecaps, namely the mistaken belief that Bert has bought him a present!



Ernie walks in to see Bert wrapping a present and naturally assumes it’s for him, and he becomes so overwhelmed with glee that he begins going through a huge list of things it could be, at first guessing a new football and rushing to get all of his gear on to prepare to play with. When Bert tells him that isn’t it, before he can explain himself, Ernie’s already returned with napkins and a fork, in case it’s a cake. Nope. Maybe it’s a new reading lamp? Off he goes to fetch a book! Finally, before Bert can verbalize his protests, Ernie has simply torn into the gift to discover…a veiled lady’s hat. He tells Bert that he’s…surprised, to which Bert responds, “You know who else is gonna be surprised? My Aunt Matilda!” A pause as Bert catches his breath. Quoth Ernie: “Gee, Bert, did you buy one for her, too?” He places “his” new hat on his head and leaves!


And as thoughtless as it might have been for Ernie to continually steamroll over Bert and not allow him a word in edgewise, you also kind of have to love just how openhearted Ernie is. Sure, he wasn’t expecting a woman’s hat, but his buddy Bert got it for him (as far as he knows), and he’s not only gonna wear it, he’s gonna enjoy it!


The shoe-dropper keeps Ernie up.

The shoe-dropper keeps Ernie up.

This also seems to be another case where Ernie isn’t intentionally upsetting the delicate balance of Bert’s life but doing so all the same, as in “Shoe-Dropping Neighbor”, one of the classic Bert and Ernie nighttime sketches. Here, Bert is ready to go to sleep but Ernie tells him that he’s waiting for their new upstairs neighbor to drop his shoes on the floor, because every other night recently, he had woken Ernie up with the noise. After a few moments, the first shoe drops, but the second doesn’t.


After a while, Ernie is so sure that the man is actually waiting for him to be asleep specifically to bother him that he loudly announces he’s going to sleep, and then sure enough, plop! the guy drops it, and Ernie is finally ready to close his eyes. Bert, however, has dozed off in the meantime, and so Ernie wakes him up to inform him that they can go to sleep now. A frustrated Bert faints dead away on the floor, and Ernie asks him if he’s going to sleep on the floor and, if so, if he’d like a pillow. See, here, not only is Ernie not trying to bother Bert, he’s actually being rather thoughtful…in his own way!


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