Sesame Street writer and songwriter Mark Saltzman says the famous roommates were inspired by his own relationship with his life partner, film editor Arnold ‘Arnie’ Glassman, who he was with for over two decades until Glassman’s death in 2003.
Saltzman, who joined the show’s writing team in 1984, said people would often refer to him and Glassman as Ernie and Bert, respectively, and he didn’t have any other way to “contextualise” the characters.
“I remember one time that a pre-schooler [in San Francisco] turned to her mum and asked ‘Are Bert and Ernie lovers?’ and that, coming from a pre-schooler, was fun,” Saltzman told Queerty.
Saltzman, who won seven Emmys for his work on the children’s show, said he was already in a relationship with Glassman when he joined Sesame Street and didn’t “know how else to write” Bert and Ernie other than “a loving couple”. He said the dynamic between the duo and their individual characteristics often resembled that of his own relationship.
“I was Ernie,” he said. “And Arnie as a film editor - if you thought of Bert with a job in the world, wouldn’t that be perfect? Bert with his paper clips and organization? And I was the jokester.
“Arnie’s OCD would create friction with how chaotic I was. And that’s the Bert and Ernie dynamic.”
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