Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Ernie

WMW Ernie

Today’s Weekly Muppet Wednesdays article is written by huge Muppet fan, Jesse. Enjoy!


Performed by…Ernie Duckie
Jim Henson (1969-1990)
Steve Whitmire (1993-present)
John Tartaglia (Play with Me Sesame, season 2)

First appearance…
Sesame Street Test Show (1969)

Most recent appearance…
Sesame Street Season 45 (2014)

Memorable quotes…
“Heeeeeeeere, fishy fishy fishy!”

Best friend(s)…
Bert and Rubber Duckie

c1ce8-ernieandbertcurtainsWhether it’s waking up his ol’ buddy Bert in the middle of the night or lying in the bathtub with his Rubber Duckie, Ernie is one of the most popular Sesame Street Muppets. An orange, red-nosed, oval-headed fellow with black hair (and a red-yellow-blue-white striped shirt with yellow cuffs), Ernie has been around with Bert since the first Sesame Street pilot episode in July of 1969, and in the first official Sesame Street episode in November 1969.

He is a jokester, but underneath the surface lies a good, truthful friend, which seems to be the reason why Bert can stand him, which he has for 40 plus years.

c4539-ernieandbertpark-bmpOne of many comparisons to Bert and Ernie is to The Odd Couple, where Ernie appears as the Oscar Madison of Sesame Street‘s dynamic duo: a laid-back, sometimes sloppy, insomniac fellow whose best friend is a rather clean, neat-and-tidy, straight-laced fellow who just wants to get some sleep.

Both Ernie and Jim seemed to be laid-back, rarely unraveled, calm fellows always looking for fun. Comparisons especially lie in the fact that Ernie seemed to be having as much fun with Bert as Jim seemed to be having with Frank Oz. What’s onscreen seemed as much fun as what’s “under the screen,” and there are many quotes and sources stating this directly. Plus, it seems many of Jim’s Muppet characters are essentially a chunk of Jim’s personality, which seems to be the case with Ernie, who seemed to be the laid-back, fun-loving chunk of Jim’s personality.

Steve Whitmire took over Ernie in 1993, after a 3-year-long silence, and it wasn’t an easy road, but Steve has long since settled in as a suitable Ernie. Whitmire himself has stated, “I feel absolutely certain that I couldn’t have even done anything I’ve done with any of Jim’s characters had I not known him.” (Sesame Street: A Celebration – 40 Years of Life on the Street, page 135)


  • “Rubber Duckie”
  • “Imagination”
  • “That’s What Friends are For”
  • “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon”
  • “Dance Myself to Sleep”
  • “Dee Dee Dee”
  • “Imagine That”
  • “Do De Rubber Duck”
  • “The Honker-Duckie-Dinger Jamboree”
  • “Put Down the Duckie”
  • “Things That I Remember”
  • “One Fine Face”
  • “D-U-C-K-I-E”
  • “But I Like You”

61114-erniecookieTypically, most of Ernie’s moments involve him trying to talk Bert into a game, such as his “Rhyming Game,” and when Bert finally plays along and gets into it, Ernie takes a break to do another activity, with Bert stuck in a rut.

Other classic Ernie moments take place at night, whenever Ernie has a song to sing or if he decides to eat his cookies in Bert’s bed, and this is where magic happens. Usually, the end will involve Ernie going to sleep towards the end, and Bert is still wide awake, trying to sleep but can’t thanks to his ol’ chum.

Both formulas have been used times so countless, even The Count couldn’t count them… okay, maybe not THAT countless (I mean, The Count is a very determined fellow), but the formulas work EVERY time and provide us with education AND laughter.

Why wouldn’t Sesame Street need Ernie?

2952b-ernieyawningErnie and his ol’ pal Bert have been a part of the Street ever since the first test pilot! Since then, the two have become an integral part of the street and without them… well, the street would look… different. They wouldn’t have the exact same companionship and “fun-lovingness” and laughter that we’ve mostly gotten from these two over the years.

In some cases, Ernie is more integral then Bert, even as Bert has been making more appearances recently, but either way, both of them are some of the formula for the show’s memories and success.

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

2 thoughts on “Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Ernie

  1. BuddyBoy600 (a.k.a. Jonathan Lhota) thinks Ernie is made from the Large Orange Live Hand Anything Muppet pattern, but Ernie is not, and never has been, an Anything Muppet. The other pattern (we don't know what it's called; Jog on Muppet Wiki coined “Large Orange Live Hand” on December 7, 2005, simply to match Large Lavender Live Hand) is more recent and really bears no Ernie similarities outside of slight coloring and shape maybe. It's mostly just perceived by the reader.

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