Wednesday, 25 July 2012

443: Gay Bert and Ernie 1

Christopher Street
National Lampoon’s White Album (1979/1980?)

Like Batman and Robin, another male duo in children’s entertainment subject to longstanding gay rumours is the opposites-attract pair of roommates Bert and Ernie from “Sesame Street”. The naïve portrayal of two men living together arouses speculations that this is really a gay relationship, although nobody ever makes these points about their inspiration from “The Odd Couple”.

This parody is the earliest instance I can find of gaying up Bert and Ernie. Of course in these democratic days of the internet when everybody has access to the means of production, the public is no longer restricted to consuming only those few comedy offerings which have been sanctioned by the media gatekeepers, so knock yourself out searching Youtube. Although in the specific matter of gay Sesame Street parodies, to be honest, they aren’t going to be much worse or much better than this offering on what was a rather poor late period National Lampoon LP by a load of unknowns. I can’t even find concrete confirmation as to whether this record was released in 1979 or 1980, and don’t know who wrote or performed this specific sketch. (LP Written by: Alice Playten, Tony Scheuren, Lynn Goldsmith, Marc Rubin, Ted Mann, Tony Scheuren, Lynn Goldsmith, Marc Rubin, Steve Goodman, Sean Kelly. Performers: Alice Playten, Michael Simmons, Rodger Bumpass, Tia Brelis, Tony Scheuren, Shelley Barre, James Widdoes, Sylvia Grant, Steve Collins, Garry Goodrow, Rhonda Coullet, Rory Dodd.)

The fun-loving, goofy Ernie and the uptight, easily-irritated Bert become emblematic of certain types of gay couples. Compare this relationship to the near contemporary portrayal of the two gay roommates played by Cheech and Chong. Ernie becomes the equally genial Eddie, and his muppet-voice easily acquires a distinct lisp. Bert’s frustrations with Ernie are transformed into the bitchy hissy-fits of a jealous lover. And again, again, again, again, and yet again, the sissy-name of choice “Bruce” is dragged out.

Some attempts are made to also include a few Sesame Street-format counting gags (Numbers: 2+1 equals 3, and Letters: KY). There’s one heavy-handed reference to a “closet” and a taste for Judy Garland and canapes, which could have been unthinkingly knocked out with no effort anytime in the previous decade, but otherwise it’s a view of the late 70s heavily-sexualised gay social scene (saunas, slave bracelets, threesome, getting reamed, and “meat racks”). Other than just gesturing at large capital cities in general, the Castro in San Francisco and Christopher Street in New York city were the gay ghettos that the general public might be able to identify. As a contrast to this sketch, there’s also the “To Think That I saw It on Christopher Street” in National Lampoon magazine. You get Big Blonde as a shrieking sissy with a “big basket of goodies”, and if Herman the Fag refers to anything in the original programme I don’t know. Given that it’s the late 70s I expected a Coke Monster joke, but instead it’s the Ka-Ka Monster, because scat is as freaky-gay as you can probably get sexually without explicitly making any fisting jokes, which as this is about puppets would have seemed like an open goal. But there you go, it’s not a great sketch, as I’m sure I’ve said somewhere in the preceding.

Christopher Street
Where all kind of people meet;
To love one another
Get into your brother
By the back door”

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