Sesame Saturday: All About Ernie

Not counting Kermit, who appeared on Sesame Street but wasn’t created specifically for it, Ernie is probably my favorite Sesame Street character of all time, although it is hard for me to choose between him and Bert (they’re always at their best when they’re together). ¬†If you were to ask former classmates of mine whether I was more like Ernie or Bert in school, most of them would probably say Bert. ¬†But in my own mind, I always identified with Ernie. ¬†Certainly, Ernie is everything that I would like to be: clever, funny, easygoing, with an infectious laugh and a perpetual smile on his face.

And yet, I said before that, of all of the Muppet (and non-Muppet) characters that Jim Henson created, Kermit the Frog is the most “real” to me. ¬†So when Sesame Workshop recast Ernie in 2014, my reaction was one of mild annoyance rather than panic.

It was the episode in which Bert learns to ride his bike without training wheels (clip). ¬†At first, I was happy to see a street story featuring Bert and Ernie because that hadn’t happened since who knows when. ¬†Then Ernie opened his mouth to speak and I said to myself, “Is Ernie going through puberty? ¬†Because his voice seems to have changed.”

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Sesame Saturday: The Curious Case of Herry Monster’s Legs

And now for something completely different.

Today I was in the early stages of thinking about a new “Salient Themes” post which, if it makes it to the publication stage, will involve Herry Monster, that gruff but lovable stalwart of ’80s Sesame Street. ¬†

That reminded me that I recently read that Funko had released a Herry Monster toy (it happened almost six months ago, but I only read it recently). ¬†Which is very cool even though, like most Funko Pop figures, it has black, soulless eyes that look ready to swallow you whole. ¬†But still, Herry needs more merchandising love, so let’s take what we can get.

I sneaked a quick peek at the responses on the forum, and they were talking about Herry’s pink-striped pants and whether we actually ever got to see them on the show itself. ¬†And that reminded me: not only does Herry not wear pants on the show (as far as I know), but sometimes Herry doesn’t even have legs.

Look at this sketch in which Herry is sitting and talking with Edith Ann (Lily Tomlin) in her gigantic chair:

You could assume that he is kneeling on the chair, with his legs tucked under him (that’s probably how I interpreted it when I was a kid), but in that case, wouldn’t he have …I don’t know…knees?

In this one, Herry plays a butterfly in the school pageant about the lepidopteran life-cycle, and at the end he is  hoisted into the air on a fly system, and it is readily apparent that he does not have any legs:

Didn’t they know ahead of time that Herry was going to be flying? ¬†Why didn’t anyone think to build him any legs? ¬†This is what happens when you let someone other than Prairie Dawn run the school pageant.

So I started getting quasi-philosophical about all this, and I thought, “Well, Sesame has always been good about including people/characters with disabilities; maybe from that we’re just supposed to assume that Herry just doesn’t have any legs, and they never bring it up because it’s not a big deal.”

But then I remembered the Monsterpiece Theatre sketch “Chariots of Fur,” in which Herry and Grover run down the beach together to awesomely inspirational music. ¬†Running typically requires legs, and in this instance Herry does have them, and we get several close-ups of them:

So has Herry been to a prosthetist since the butterfly pageant? ¬†Or maybe Herry doesn’t have legs, but the character he’s playing in “Chariots of Fur” does have legs, and Herry is just that good an actor!

I just blew your minds, didn’t I? ¬†ūüėČ

 

Sesame Saturday: Ernie’s Word (and drum) Games

First, Bert and Ernie play a rhyming game:

This is probably a stupid question, but instead of Bert telling Ernie that he doesn’t want to play, why doesn’t he just stop talking?

For the longest time, I used to confuse the preceding clip with the following clip, in which Bert and Ernie play an “echo game” with the drums. ¬†I was confused when I watched the rhyming game sketch as an adult and found no mention of “A Tale of Two Breakfasts”:

I’ve said before that Bert and Ernie remind me of myself and my older sister when we were young, but this is a sketch that I specifically remember re-creating with her when I was a kid. ¬†She thought it was really funny. ¬†She’s also a percussionist, so maybe it resonated with her in that respect.

Fast forward 15-20 years, and Ernie plays a game which involves both rhyming and the drums, as well as alliteration.

You know, I just have to say, one thing I really admire about Steve Whitmire is his perfect Ernie laugh. ¬†I’ve been working on my Ernie laugh for about 35 years, and I still haven’t gotten it right.

Sesame Saturday: Ernie’s new job

The Count hires Ernie to answer his phone. ¬†It’s not as easy as it seems.

For nearly the past seven years, I worked as a medical transcriptionist for a local orthopedics clinic. ¬†Then, unfortunately, that particular job ceased to exist. ¬†(And then it sort of came back, and then it went away again. ¬†It’s a long story.) ¬†

Then I got a new job with a nationwide transcription company. ¬†Suddenly I’m processing reports in from all over the country, in all different specialties. ¬†It’s a bit like having spent seven years wading in a kiddie pool, and then suddenly being thrown into the deep end. It’s exciting, it’s frightening, it’s challenging, it’s frustrating, it’s exhilarating, and it’s bewildering, all at the same time.

It can be a bit like trying to answer the Count’s phone. ¬†But whatever else it may be, it is certainly not boring.

Sesame Saturday: Ernie prepares for a possible flood

The weatherman on the radio predicts a chance of rain.  Ernie starts by grabbing an umbrella to take to the library, but then gets carried away:

This is a somewhat unusual sketch in that usually the camera stays static during Bert and Ernie sketches, but in this one it pans along with Ernie.

The thing that makes this sketch for me is the sound of Ernie’s galoshes. ¬†Whether that was foley work or Jim Henson just literally put on a pair of galoshes, I don’t know, but the sound is hilarious.

There was once a young man of my acquaintance who went through a growth spurt and all his pant legs (trouser legs, if you prefer) were suddenly three inches too short. ¬†His classmates made fun of him and asked him if he was expecting a flood. ¬†He told me about it and I said, “Just say, ‘Yes, and when the flood comes, I will be ready and you will not, and I will laugh in your homely faces! ¬†HA, ha ha ha!'” ¬†He thought that was funny but, as it happens, schoolyard taunts go in and out of fashion like most things, and he never got to use it. ¬†So I’m using it here instead, because I thought it was a pretty good comeback, if I do say so myself.

This is all in good fun, but I see that they are having literal flooding in Oklahoma right now, and that’s no laughing matter. ¬†Stay safe, everyone. ¬†My thoughts and prayers are with you.

 

Sesame Saturday: Rebuilding my Bert and Ernie archive, one week at a time

Sesame Street is special to me. ¬†Way back in the day, before the capability to call up virtually every Muppet performance ever done with the click of a mouse, Sesame Street was the most reliable–and sometimes only–source of Muppet content available to me. ¬†Even after I learned to read and count, I continued watching it when I could–i.e., whenever I wasn’t in school–for several years.

In fact, there was a brief span of time when I had started school but my younger brother hadn’t yet–he is two and a half years younger than me–and he would watch Sesame Street while I was at school and then report to me what had happened when I got home. I don’t think I asked him to do that either; he just knew I would be interested. ¬†I remember him singing me a song that Don Music had apparently sung that day, of which the title and only lyric seemed to be “You’ll be so flabbergasted!” ¬†

(Since the advent of YouTube, I’ve been looking for that clip ever since, to no avail. ¬†I don’t suppose anyone out there has access to it, do you? ¬†If someone could get it to me, I’d be eternally grateful–just so I know that I didn’t dream it.) ¬†Thank you to reader/commenter Mike, who was able to find the clip on YouTube and was gracious enough to share it. ¬†Check it out below:

It’s always interesting to me to find out what other people’s favorite Muppet/Sesame Street characters are, and why. ¬†I think it oftentimes reveals a lot about the person because we tend to project our own characteristics and traits onto the Muppets with which we identify. ¬†For example, Street Gang author Michael Davis sees Grover as a middle child because Davis, himself, is a middle child and identified Grover’s…persistence as an expression of the middle child’s desperation for parental attention. ¬†That raises the question of who/where Grover’s other siblings are, but it doesn’t really matter; Davis needs Grover to be a middle child, and so Grover is a middle child for him. ¬†The Muppets are kind of like Batman in that respect; they can be whatever we need them to be.

As for me, my favorite Sesame Street characters are Bert and Ernie, because they remind me so much of myself and my older sister.  

For nine years, my sister was sort of in the catbird seat in our family; being the youngest child and the only girl, she had the privilege of having a bedroom all to herself, whereas the two boys had to share.  

Then I came along and ruined all that.

Not that she ever put it to me that way, but I think that may have been in her mind on occasion. ¬† Now she was no longer the only girl and had to share her bedroom. ¬†And even though she was (usually) accommodating and solicitous of me, I think she resented her loss of privacy–understandably so, I should say. ¬†Not only that, but a couple years later when my younger brother was born, my sister became the middle child. ¬†It was sort of a double-whammy.

Anyway, when I was five and my sister was fourteen, the dynamic between us could be very similar to the character dynamic between Bert and Ernie. ¬†I never meant to be obnoxious, but I hero-worshipped my three older siblings so much that I wanted to spend all my time around them, doing what they did, which wasn’t always convenient for them. ¬†To be fair, for the most part the three of them were very indulgent with me and didn’t mind me tagging along, but my sister’s patience with me would usually wear out right around bedtime. ¬†Much like in Bert and Ernie sketches, I’d be all tucked into my bed, and some sort of profoundly philosophical, preschooler sort of thought would come into my head, and I’d want to talk to her about it, and–just like Bert–she would say, “Mary, go to sleeeeep!”

I’ve felt for years now that Bert and Ernie’s comedy stylings are underappreciated, so in 2013 I embarked on an endeavor to celebrate their comedic chops by posting at least one Bert and Ernie sketch in my old blog every weekday for one year. ¬†I made a very conscientious decision to use clips from the official Sesame Street website or YouTube channel whenever possible, out of respect for their copyrights. ¬†

Well, no good deed goes unpunished, as it turns out, because sometime in the intervening four years, the official website has been revamped and all of the links I made to their website are now dead. ¬†So now I’m on a mission to find those clips on YouTube–whether they’re on the official Sesame Street channel or wherever they may be–and post them again.

In today’s selections, the comedy stems directly from the fact that Bert and Ernie are puppets:

ASIDE: ¬†While on the Sesame Street YouTube channel, I took a look at the Season 47 sizzle reel. ¬†About 30 seconds in, Grover appears to cause a snowstorm by means of a magical sneeze and says, “Snow in the fall? ¬†How is this possible?” ¬†It made me laugh out loud; clearly Grover has never been to South Dakota, where we routinely incorporate snow boots into our Halloween costumes.