Sesame St S3: Bert & Ernie

Today, we’re up to the Bert and Ernie sketches of Season 3, and as I’ve said before, the reason some of these might be familiar to you, even if you grew up later, is that they would repeat these throughout the ’80s, as well. In fact, there have been quite a few whose year surprised me. Whereas the street scenes demonstrate change, clips either within Bert and Ernie’s apartment or with only Muppets are generally timeless, because there aren’t any humans and therefore no aging or dated styles.


Our first clip today is a classic Ernie/Lefty scene that actually ends with Bert joining Ernie, which was rare, as Lefty and Bert were both performed by Frank Oz. Also, unusually, Lefty isn’t selling a letter this time around and Ernie actually buys what he’s offering, however, for another reason than one might expect:



As you see above, Lefty has a painting that he claims to be of 4 elephants, however Ernie can’t find any, only a tree. Lefty asks Ernie if he’ll buy the painting if he can prove to him that there are indeed elephants there, and Ernie agrees, confident that there’s no way he’ll have to make the pruchase. Lefty then goes on to show him how the shape of the tree’s leaves and branches form elephants in the negative space (although he doesn’t use the term). Impressed, Ernie purchases it with the express purpose of tricking Bert, however when Bert arrives, our perceptive yellow friend instantly spots them, ruining Ernie’s gag–another nice twist on the norm, which would have seen Bert losing.


As he does in this next scene:



As we see, Ernie is playing the drums and Bert asks him if he’ll let him back into the apartment after he mails his letter, as he’s not bringing his keys. Ernie, not seeming to be fully paying attention to him, agrees and continues to focus on his drums. Naturally, a few minutes later, when Bert starts knocking on the door, Ernie at first doesn’t process it and then just assumes it’s a cool beat that he can play along to, as well. Finally, Bert screams Ernie’s name from the hallway, and Ernie opens the door. “Hey, was that you knocking at the door?” he asks, and a flummoxed Bert sarcastically yells, “NO, IT WAS MY AUNT MATILDA!” She sure does come up a lot in conversation, doesn’t she? Then Ernie comes up with a great idea: he can play the drums and Bert can play the door! Bert is not pleased, to say the least, marching off.


Next, we have a classic Bert and Ernie excursion to the beach. There were a few that were filmed in this series, two of which happened this season (although the YouTube clip below has an “80s Old School” titlecard, my research indicates that this sketch premiered on January 27, 1972). This first one is another classic case of the very universe seeming to justify Ernie’s silliness and punish Bert for no good reason in particular:



Bert comes to the beach, fully prepared for a fun day in the sun. Ernie, on the other hand, only brought one thing, and it isn’t a beach blanket, a pail, a shovel, a radio (“Now I’m going to have to listen to your yucky music,” he complains, when Bert turns on his swing music station), or lunch. Bert can’t imagine what it could possibly be. And then the sky suddenly gets dark, opens up, and rain starts to pour down upon them, at which point Ernie takes out his one object: an umbrella! “You never know when it’s gonna rain, Bert!” he says. This is another sketch without overly obvious educational value. It introduces various items that people bring to the beach, and makes a comment about preparedness for any situation, but its entertainment value is what sticks out most prominently.


Then, in “The Beach: Bert is Missing”, Bert loses once more…or rather Ernie loses Bert underneath a pile of sand! He’s been digging a hole and hasn’t realize that the pile he’s tossed away has fully covered his old buddy. At first, however, he just doesn’t know what happened to him, until Sherlock Hemlock arrives on the scene and surprises us by actually solving the case correctly! As soon as Ernie realizes he’s right, he begins to dig Bert out, tossing the sand away from him. Bert sarcastically thanks him for getting him out. “Don’t thank me, thank Mr. Hemlock here,” Ernie says. But Bert asks, “Where?” and Ernie realizes that now he’s covered Sherlock with sand! He starts to dig him out furiously while Bert begs off-screen to be careful where he’s tossing the sand, implying the cycle is about to start all over again! A nifty twist on the regular scene of this sort as (a) Sherlock is actually pretty competent, and (b) ends up falling victim to Ernie, just as Bert usually does. But this is definitely a case where Ernie didn’t mean to cause either harm or prankery. He was just caught in an Ernie bubble and hadn’t been paying attention.


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