Tough Pigs Anthology

February 2003

 

 

Ernie vs Bert

-- Round 4 --

A Fine Mess

 

 

 

 

 

Yeah, I know, it's been a while, but how about a couple more Ernie and Bert sketches? These are from the early-to-mid 70's:

 

[ Bert wraps a big present as Ernie enters. ]

 

Bert

 

Ha, ha... boy oh boy.

 

Ernie

 

Hi there, Bert. What've you got there?

 

Bert

 

Oh, hi, Ernie. I just wrapped this present here...

 

Ernie

 

A present? A present, Bert? Oh, wow, what a surprise! Oh boy, am I surprised, Bert. Gee, you just shouldn't have done it.

 

Bert

 

Oh, Ernie, oh, no, what it is, see, Ernie...

 

Ernie

 

No, don't tell me what it is, you'll spoil the surprise. Let me just guess what it is. Y'know, I bet it's a new football!

 

Bert

 

Oh, no, Ernie...

 

Ernie

 

You just knew I wanted a new football, don't you, Bert?

 

Bert

 

No, Ernie...

 

Ernie

 

Just one second, Bert, I'll be right back.

 

[ Ernie dashes off screen and rummages around. Ernie starts flinging junk around; some of it hits Bert in the face.]

 

Bert

 

No, no, let me explain, you see... Ernie...

 

[ Ernie comes back in, wearing his football helmet and singing the Northwestern fight song. ]

 

Ernie

 

Go, Northwestern... Okay, I've got my football helmet on, I'm all ready to open my new football.

 

Bert

 

No.

 

Ernie

 

No?

 

Bert

 

It's not a football.

 

Ernie

 

Not a football.

 

Bert

 

No. Take that silly helmet off, it's not a football!

 

[ Ernie takes his helmet off, and throws it casually over his shoulder. Bert watches it crash to the floor. ]

 

Ernie

 

Okay, don't tell me what it is, I will guess what it is, if it's not a football.

 

Bert

 

Okay, okay. I've had it. 

 

Ernie

 

It's just the right size for... a CAKE! 

 

Bert

 

No!

 

Ernie

 

It's a CAKE, Bert! I know that's what it is, it's a cake! Just one second, Bert, I'll be right back.

 

 

 

[ Ernie hurries off and starts throwing stuff around again. ]

 

Bert

 

Ernie... oh, Ernie, look, it is not...  [ Something flies through the air and hits Bert right in the face. ]  Okay, that does it... Ernie!

 

 

 

[ Ernie enters, with a bib and a fork. ]

 

Ernie

 

Okay, I got my napkin on, I have my fork, and I'm all ready to eat my cake. So...

 

Bert

 

Ernie... hold it.

 

Ernie

 

What?

 

Bert

 

It is not a cake. Ernie, old pal...

 

Ernie

 

Well then, I'll just keep guessing then, huh?

 

Bert

 

No, you don't have to keep guessing, Ernie, because...

 

Ernie

 

No, don't tell me what it is, Bert, because you'll spoil the surprise. I'll just guess it. Okay? Don't worry. Hey, I know what it is, it must be a new lamp to put by my bed, so I can read! I knew it! Okay, just one second, Bert, I'll be right back...

 

[ Ernie rummages around some more; junk flies by Bert's head. ]

 

Bert

 

Ernie, Ernie, I'm trying to tell you... what was that? Ernie, look...

 

[ Ernie enters, with a book. ]

 

Ernie

 

I've got it -- this is going to be the first book that I'm going to read with my new lamp, Bert.

 

Bert

 

It's not.

 

Ernie

 

It's not?

 

Bert

 

It's not a lamp.

 

Ernie

 

It's not a lamp?

 

Bert

 

No. It's not a lamp. It's not a football. It's not a cake. I am trying to tell you, now please stop guessing!

 

Ernie

 

You're right, Bert. You're absolutely right. 

 

Bert

 

Finally.

 

Ernie

 

Because if I guess what it is, I'll spoil the surprise, right?

 

Bert

 

Right.

 

Ernie

 

I'll just open it.

 

Bert

 

Well, not really, see, what it is...

 

[ Ernie reaches for the present and starts tearing it open. ]

 

Ernie

 

Okay... da dum dum...

 

Bert

 

Ernie, Ernie! Please don't open it! You don't know what you're doing! Look, you don't understand, see, what that present is... Ernie...

 

[ Ernie opens the present, and pulls out a pink pillbox hat, with pink flowers on top. ]

 

Ernie

 

Hey. Gee, it's a... it's a hat. 

 

Bert

 

Yeah.

 

Ernie

 

With a veil.

 

Bert

 

Yeah.

 

Ernie

 

And flowers on top, too.

 

Bert

 

Right. Right. 

 

Ernie

 

Well, see, Bert... I really am surprised.

 

Bert

 

Yeah?

 

Ernie

 

Yeah.

 

Bert

 

Well, uh, you know who else is going to be surprised, Ernie?

 

Ernie

 

Who?

 

Bert

 

My Aunt Matilda!

 

Ernie

 

She is?

 

Bert

 

Yeah, when she finds out that YOU opened the surprise present I bought for HER!

 

Ernie

 

... Gee, Bert. Did you buy one of these for her, too?

 

[ Ernie puts on the hat and exits. Bert moans, and collapses on the floor. ]

 

  

 

 

[ Ernie is standing around, humming to himself, when Bert enters. ]

 

Ernie

 

Hum, toot toot, ba dum bum bum...

 

Bert

 

Hey, Ernie.

 

Ernie

 

Oh, hi, Bert! 

 

Bert

 

Hi.

 

Ernie

 

Oh boy, am I glad to see you.

 

Bert

 

You are?

 

Ernie

 

Yes, because I have a very important note for you.

 

Bert

 

Oh, you do, a note!

 

Ernie

 

Yes, a note. It's a little hand written note, and I have it, and it's for you.

 

Bert

 

Where is it?

 

Ernie

 

Well, it was in my pocket a minute ago.

 

Bert

 

Well, find it. Get it.

 

Ernie

 

Let's see. Maybe I put it in my toybox. Just a minute.

 

 

 

[ Ernie starts rummaging through the toybox. ]

 

Bert

 

Your toybox. Okay.

 

[ As Ernie goes through the box, he throws toys over his shoulder -- a truck, a ball, a baseball glove -- tossing them behind him, narrowly missing Bert. ]

 

Bert

 

Hey, Ernie... hey, watch it, you know, take it easy.

 

Ernie

 

I had it around here somewhere, Bert. 

 

Bert

 

Hey, if it's a very important note, I'd like to have it. You know. Come on. 

 

Ernie

 

Yeah, well, I had it right here... [ He keeps tossing toys. ]

 

Bert

 

Ernie... you're making a mess of this place trying to find the note.

 

Ernie

 

Yeah, well...

 

Bert

 

Who wrote it?

 

Ernie

 

I did, Bert.

 

Bert

 

You did?

 

Ernie

 

Yeah.

 

Bert

 

Then why don't you just tell me what you said in it?

 

Ernie

 

Well, if I could remember what I said in it, I wouldn't have to write it down, Bert.

 

Bert

 

I guess that -- [ A toy hits Bert in the face. He does a slow burn. ]

 

Ernie

 

I have it around here somewhere...

 

Bert

 

ERNIE!!!

 

Ernie

 

Rubber Duckie, have you seen my note?  [ He squeezes Rubber Duckie. ]  You haven't seen it either, huh?

 

Bert

 

Hasn't seen the note. Good. Good. Okay. Just get the note, Ernie, okay? 

 

Ernie

 

Yeah, well, it's around here somewhere.

 

Bert

 

You're throwing things around the apartment, Ernie! You're making a mess here!

 

Ernie

 

Maybe it's... it must be in the clothes hamper if it's not in the toybox. 

 

Bert

 

Yeah. Clothes hamper... What's a note doing in the clothes hamper?

 

[ Ernie starts looking through the clothes hamper, tossing random items of clothing behind his shoulder. ]

 

Bert

 

Come on, will you cut it out? Is the note important? Is it that important, really?

 

Ernie

 

Yeah, it's very important, Bert.

 

Bert

 

Well, it better be, because you're making a real mess of this apartment. Look at all this junk... My pants!

 

 

 

[ Ernie tosses a sheet over his shoulder, it comes to rest on Bert's shoulder. Bert brushes it off. ]

 

Bert

 

Okay, Ernie. Cut it out. HOLD it!

 

Ernie

 

Wait a minute!

 

Bert

 

Ernie! Ernie! Will you find the note, please!

 

Ernie

 

Here it is, Bert! I found the note! Would you believe that. Here.

 

Bert

 

Finally!

 

Ernie

 

Here, I'll let you read it.

 

Bert

This better be important.

 

Ernie

Oh, it is, Bert. It's very important.

 

Bert

Okay. It says... 

 

Ernie

What's it say?

 

Bert

"Dear Bert... It's your turn to clean up... the apartment... Love, Ernie."

 

[ Ernie laughs, and exits. Bert sighs. ]

 

 

 

Color Commentary:

 

   This whole exercise is very valuable for me, personally, because I never really realized until now exactly how hostile Ernie is. 

 

   According to Chuck Jones in his book Chuck Amuck, Bugs Bunny cartoons always had to involve some sort of justification for Bugs to get mad. Bugs was such a powerful figure, so easily dominating any situation, that they always had to start the cartoon with him being peaceful and calm, sitting in his rabbit hole, not bothering anybody. Then Yosemite Sam comes along, or Elmer Fudd stops by with a gun, or they bulldoze the forest and put up an opera house over his hole, or what have you, and Bugs is forced to get involved. And even with provocation, it usually takes a minute for Bugs to really warm up; he'll usually tap the offender on the shoulder, ask what's up, and try to patiently explain that he's just trying to live there in peace. It's only after they take a swing at him that he yells, "Of course, you realize that this means war!" And then it's all over for the bully. 

 

   And that makes sense, because otherwise Bugs would be the bully, and that would be intolerable. I'd always figured Ernie and Bert worked the same way.

 

   But no. In these sketches, just like the ones I posted in Round 3, Bert has done absolutely nothing to incur Ernie's wrath. In fact -- by any reasonable standards -- Bert is impossibly, unrealistically patient with Ernie. He even calls him "Ernie, old pal," after two minutes of getting hit in the face with flying trash. Bert could not possibly act in a more exemplary way in these sketches. 

 

   And Ernie is just straight-up messing with him, there's no way around it. Not only does he ignore Bert's impassioned pleas, trash the apartment, and steal Aunt Matilda's hat -- he also clearly throws stuff directly into Bert's face. Half the fun of these sketches is that Ernie (and the off-screen stagehands) are clearly and deliberately aiming at Bert's pointy head, just because it's funny to watch stuff twang off Bert's nose. In the second sketch, you can actually see Ernie keep throwing clothes at Bert until he manages to get something to drape on Bert's body for a second. (He misses Bert's head when he tosses the sheet, which is clearly frustrating to both Henson and Oz.)

 

   So, Ernie's picking on Bert for no reason, and there's just one thing that keeps him funny and not despicable... and that's his boundless enthusiasm. No matter what he does, you can't help but love a guy who gets that excited about a new bedside lamp. He dives into every moment, committing fully to whatever it is that's happening just then. It's just endlessly engaging. 

 

   So he steals hats. Nobody's perfect.

 

 

Next in the Anthology:

Bert finds his passion in

Part 5: Something Exciting

 

Ernie vs Bert Contents

 

 

Danny@ToughPigs.com

 

 

Tough Pigs Anthology Contents

July 2002 -- The Decline and Fall of Gorch, part two: The Fall

June 2002 -- The Decline and Fall of Gorch, part one: The Decline

May 2002 -- Giant Frogs!

April 2002 -- April Frog's Day

March 2002 -- The Muppets Take Madison Avenue

February 2002 -- Kermit and Piggy : That Magnificent Hankering

January 2002 -- Off the Street

December 2001 -- It Feels Like Christmas

November 2001 -- Muppets: 1, Host: 0