Trevor Noah reveals the tell-tale sign Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie can’t be gay
Host of US satirical news programme The Daily Show Trevor Noah has weighed in on the debate over whether Sesame Street‘s Bert and Ernie were a same-sex couple—joking that, if they were gay, Bert would have “dealt with” his monobrow.
It came after former Sesame Street’s writer Mark Saltzman told Queerty that he thought of Bert and Ernie as a gay couple in an interview.
Outlining the debate over the characters on his show, Noah said that he did not know the sexualities of Bert and Ernie—but he quipped that Bert would have pruned his distinctive eyebrow hair if he was gay.
“Now I don’t really know if Bert and Ernie are gay,” said the South African comedian. “‘Cause, I mean, on the one hand two guys living together for forty years could mean they’re gay. But, it could also just be that they live in New York and apartments are expensive.”
The 34-year old added: “And also, if they were gay, let’s be honest, that eyebrow would have been addressed by now, [it] would have been dealt with.”
Noah also pointed out that, although the Sesame Workshop said that puppets “do not have a sexual orientation,” other Muppets like Kermit and Piggy had romantic relationships on the show.
He said: “Wait, Muppets don’t have a sexual orientation? That’s weird because I know for a fact that Kermit and Piggy smash hard.”
Speaking to Queerty in an interview on September 16, writer Saltzman was asked whether he thought Bert and Ernie were a gay couple.
“I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were,” he responded.
The writer also revealed that some people in his social circle referred to himself and his partner, film editor Arnold Glassman, as Bert and Ernie.
“The things that would tick off Arnie (his partner) would be the things that would tick off Bert,” he added.
On Tuesday (September 18), responding to Saltzman’s interview, Sesame Workshop said in a statement: “As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends.
“They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves.
“Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets do), they remain puppets and do not have a sexual orientation.”
Some social media users have reacted with anger at the statement.
“This is super homophobic and unnecessarily cruel, rethink it,” one Twitter user said.
Another wrote: “I’m actually really sad and shocked at this homophobic response from Sesame Street denying the writer’s claim that Bert and Ernie are gay. Sesame Street has featured multiple romances between muppets. I guess the gays aren’t welcome on Sesame Street .”
And one person said: “Why did they feel compelled to make an official statement on this? And why now? Why not just say nothing, and let us believe what we want? Honestly, this feels like salt on an already gaping wound. Shame on you, @SesameWorkshop.”
Frank Oz, who performs as Bert on the show, also took to Twitter to deny that his character and Ernie are gay.
“It seems Mr. Mark Saltzman was asked if Bert & Ernie are gay. It’s fine that he feels they are,” Oz wrote. “They’re not, of course. But why that question?
“Does it really matter? Why the need to define people as only gay? There’s much more to a human being than just straightness or gayness.”
Still, he also noted that he never would have told the head writer that he was basing Bert and Ernie on himself and Glassman.
Bert and Ernie are considered by many in the LGBT+ community to be gay icons, with many adopting them as a symbolic gay couple.
After same-sex marriage was legalised in New York, fans set up a petition on Change.org asking for the show’s creators to have Bert and Ernie get married on screen.
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It’s not the first time producers of the show have denied Bert and Ernie are a gay couple.
In 1994, Sesame Street workshop boss Gary Knell said that Bert and Ernie “are not gay, they are not straight, they are puppets.”
Despite this, speculation about the nature of Bert and Ernie’s relationship has not died down.
In 2015, the pair were at the centre of another controversy, after a cake was ordered in Northern Ireland sporting an image of Bert and Ernie along with the words “Support Gay Marriage.”
The bakers refused to bake the cake, and said that they run their business “according to Christian values and beliefs.”