Jarrod Fairclough – If I said ‘Ernie and’, 100% of those surveyed would say ‘Bert’. Of course they would, Ernie and Bert are one of the most successful duos in the history of television. But over the years, Ernie has been paired with a number of characters on the series, playing both the straight man and the joker. Today we’re looking at a selection of these pairings…
Ernie and Cookie Monster
Besides Bert, perhaps Ernie’s most famous friendship has been with our pal Cookie Monster. It’s an attest to the effortless chemistry that Jim Henson and Frank Oz had, as the two bounced off of each other no matter who they were performing. Because Cookie is such a wildcard of a character, it allows Ernie to be the straight man for once, displayed in the video above as the two settle in for a sleepover, only to have Cookie Monster terrified of the dark, and later suffer nightmares. In other sketches Ernie has tried to educate the audience on different things, like letters and numbers and Easter, only to have Cookie crash the lesson with his wild ways.
Ernie and Elmo
There’s some debate as to how old Ernie and Bert actually are, especially considering the child like behavior that Ernie exudes. So it’s always strange to see Ernie play the adult in the situation, but in a really nice way. In his sketches with Elmo, Ernie leads the charge, and goes from the child that bugs his friend to the adult that plays with the kid. It would be interesting to see Ernie and Elmo on the same playing field, perhaps against Bert, which actually happened to a much lesser extent in a Season 44 ‘Street Story’.
Ernie and Telly
Between Frank Oz’s last regular performances as Bert and Eric Jacobson’s take over, Sesame Street tried a couple of different pairings for Ernie, perhaps as experiments while they cast a new Muppet performer. One of these pairings was Ernie and Telly, who starred in two sketches together, one of which can be found above. Telly’s never been much of a wild card like Cookie, nor a childlike Elmo, which puts him in to the neurotic straight man role, similar to Bert. Except, unlike Bert, Telly isn’t an angry character, so rather than lose his temper with Ernie’s shenanigans, he’d instead be confused and bewildered by them. This pairing worked, but I can see why they didn’t continue them, even though Steve Whitmire and Marty Robinson have great chemistry.
Ernie and Baby Bear
Around the same time as Ernie and Telly, we got a couple of Ernie and Baby Bear sketches. Baby Bear has the benefit of being a well-rounded character, one that we’ve seen be childish and fun, but we’ve also seen him get really angry and frustrated, similar to Bert. This pairing could have worked, perhaps even become a regular thing, if given more of a chance, with Steve and David Rudman bouncing off of each other, a pairing which also works wonders when displayed with Kermit and Scooter. Instead we’re left with just a couple of sketches and the thoughts of ‘What if?’.
Ernie and Snuffy
This was a one off pairing that I really wish we’d seen more of over the years, as Ernie and Snuffy lament the loneliness of not having their best friends around. There’s a lot I could say about this pairing, but with it being a single occasion, there’s too much speculation as to what this dynamic could actually be. So instead, just sit and watch as a rare Rod-Armed Ernie and the always great Snuffy sing.