Sesame St S6: Bert and Ernie #2

"Cups and Saucers"

“Cups and Saucers”

Today: the final batch of Sesame Street Season 6 clips, all of which include Ernie and most of which feature Bert, as well. I particularly love the twist at the end of “Cups and Saucers”, in which Ernie is counting a pile of 4 cups and 4 saucers, stacked one on top of the other. Bert comes in, absolutely terrified that Ernie is going to break them while counting, and his panicky reactions as Ernie points to and touches each, one at a time, is priceless. Ernie then can’t help having a little fun with his good old buddy, so when he prepares to take them to the kitchen he bobs back and forth precariously, pretending to nearly drop them and psyching Bert out. Bert yells that he’s going to break them, but Ernie assures him that’s not going to happen. He’s already glued them all together! Ba dum dum siss. 


As with squishing Bert’s floppy arms when Bert’s brother, Bart, visited, it makes a fun meta joke out of the fact that the pile of cups and saucers is a prop. I had expected it to be one solid piece to facilitate the Ernie-weaving-back-and-forth-without-actually-dropping-and-breaking-the-cups aspect of the sketch but hadn’t realized that Ernie, in the context of the scene, had literally done so as well. Nicely played. 


Our next one, “Ernie Plays Baseball” is reminiscent of the phone call one from the last post because, once again, Ernie is crying over a baseball game canceled due to rain, only this time it is one he was meant to be playing in himself:



Again, Bert here takes the parental role of trying to help Ernie calm down and get over his disappointment. It’s one of those touching sketches in which Bert takes Ernie’s sadness seriously and, rather than being annoyed by him, genuinely wants him to feel better. And so he comes up with the constructive idea of suggesting Ernie imagine he’s at a baseball game. And because it’s Ernie, his imagination proves to be almost too vivid. He imagines hitting a home run that sends the ball flying so high, it lands in the ocean.


Then, moments later, when the rain stops and the sun comes out, and Bert announces that he can play baseball after all, Ernie tells him he can’t because the ball is under all that water! There are some sketches where Ernie’s imagination literally alters the world around him due to his innate Ernieness. This is a cute, more down-to-earth case in which he simply confuses his fantasy for reality, leaving Bert more befuddled than upset or driven crazy.


And in “Bert’s Drum Set”, neither of them is driven crazy whatsoever. This might be my favorite Bert and Ernie sketch from Season 6, because the humor comes from an entirely different source than usual. It isn’t about Ernie being devilishly playful, thoughtless, or silly, and it isn’t about Bert trying to maintain sanity in the face of Ernie’s behavior. Instead, it’s simply about cooperation, the two coming together to make beautiful music, with a number of different subtle points woven in along the way.


"Bert's Drum Set"

“Bert’s Drum Set”

If anything, as the sketch opens, Bert is the one who comes across looking sillier, as he brags about how great he is on the drums, calling himself the “most far-out hepcat and swinging person of them all,” and then proceeds to play a repetitive, monotonous beat with no variation whatsoever, as he cries out in ecstasy, “Oh, groove with me, baby!” and “You gotta have soul!” Which is all just so Bert, from the misapplied “cool” phrases to reveling in something so boring. But while the sketch might be gently teasing Bert, it isn’t mean about it. Rather than telling Bert how lame his drum-playing is, Ernie simply suggests that he try some different beats, demonstrating two others to Bert. But Bert rejects them, saying that they’ll just never agree on this. He’ll have to play drums his own way, and Ernie will have to play his.


What’s interesting is the sketch allows Bert to validate his own personality–he may be a bit of a stick-in-the-mud but he’s proud of who he is and won’t change to suit other peoples’ idea of fun–but at the same time shows him he’s wrong in thinking that just because he has one way of doing things and Ernie another that the two can’t meet in the middle. In fact, Ernie suggests that they both try doing their two types of drumming at the same time to see what happens, and it results in an excellent blend of sounds. And as Bert starts to realize this, Ernie encourages him to go slightly out of his comfort zone by picking the tempo up a bit, and although Bert’s a little worried about going faster, he tries it, and ends up elated by the results. And in a lovely and funny final punchline, Bert calls out, “Gracious, that was really cold–I mean, cool!”


Which I love because, again, we’re laughing a bit at Bert’s idosyncracies but in an entirely loving way, and more importantly, Bert learned something about cooperation and how two different people with their own distinct abilities can work together to create something new. And, again, entirely through kindness, Ernie was able to nudge Bert into pushing himself a little. But it’s all handled very subtly and so you get an actually rather complex emotional arc packed into less than 3 minutes of TV.


"Ernie's 'Guess What I Am' Game"

“Ernie’s ‘Guess What I Am’ Game”

And after a number of relatively down-to-Earth sketches, it’s time to go a bit more surreal with “Ernie’s ‘Guess What I Am’ Game”, which starts out with a fairly normal set-up but ends up taking a last-minute left turn into “the world is magically tuned to help Ernie mess with Bert” territory. At first, Ernie is–as he is wont to do–simply interrupting Bert, who’s in the middle of reading a story from his pigeon-themed book, Feathered Fairy Tales. But Ernie wants to play a game. A frustrated Bert finally concedes after some reluctance, and Ernie proceeds to pretend to be various things so that Bert can guess what he is acting out, namely a dog and a duck. Then, Ernie tells him it’s his turn, and Bert starts saying, “Chugga! Chugga! Toot! Toot!” over and over. Ernie acts like he can’t quite figure out what Bert is doing, even though he clearly can, and encourages him to continue going a little longer.


I figured the joke was simply going to revolve around Ernie forcing him to continue to be ridiculous longer than necessary, but it takes a turn into the entirely absurdist when suddenly a train conductor appears and mistakes Bert for an actual train. Bert cries out that he’s not a train, Ernie responds, “You’re not?!” and Bert replies, “No, I am!” referring to the game, when the conductor pounces on Bert. Suddenly passengers appear and they all attempt to ride him! What makes this sketch so magical is that, short of having psychic powers, Ernie can’t possibly have known what Bert was going to pretend to be so couldn’t have possibly planned for this in advance. It’s just yet another example–as I’ve spoken of in previous posts–of the world going out of its way to reward Ernie and hinder Bert, even if it seems like the very fabric of time and space seems like it has to alter itself to make that happen!

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