eb2Ernie vs Bert

— Round 2 —

Share and Share Alike

I don’t know dates for most of the Ernie and Bert sketches, so I’m just going to make a guess at them. This one’s from the mid-70’s:

[ Bert is sitting in the apartment, humming to himself, as Ernie enters with a paper bag. ]
Bert


La la la la…
Ernie


HEY, BERT! Bert! Ya know what I did?
Bert


What?
Ernie


I just went to the candy store, and I bought some licorice whip candy.
Bert


( gasp! )
Ernie


Look at that.
Bert


Oh, wow! Licorice whips!
Ernie


Isn’t that nice?
Bert


I love licorice whip candy!
Ernie


I know you do, Bert, and because we’re ol’ buddies, and it’s share and share alike, I’m going to cut it in half.
Bert


Really?
Ernie


One half for you, and one half for me.
Bert


Oh, Ernie, you’re my buddy.
[ Ernie cuts the licorice whip with a pair of scissors. ]
Ernie


There we go. Okay. Here’s a half for you… right there… okay…
Bert


My half, yeah…
Ernie


And here’s a half for me.
Bert


Oh, thank you, Ernie.
Ernie


Oh, wait a second, Bert. Oh, look at that. Now, your half there is a lot longer than my half here. Right?
Bert


And your half is shorter than mine.
Ernie


Yeah. So what I should do is, I oughta cut yours off so they’ll be even. Okay, Bert?
Bert


All right, well, that’s only fair, you bought it, and…
Ernie


There we go.
[ Ernie cuts a piece off the longer half, puts it in his mouth and eats it. ]
Bert


Hey, Ernie… uh… I understand that…
Ernie


Now, let’s see if they’re even.
Bert


You cut it off, but…
Ernie


This is yours here… so we’ll just put it there… no, no, wait a second now… Now, mine here is longer than yours there. Right, Bert?
Bert


Well, let me just eat it, I don’t care.
Ernie


No, no, no, wait a second, I’ll just cut off this long one…
Bert


Well, that’s awful nice, Ernie…
Ernie


And make it short…
Bert


Well, that’s nice…
[ Ernie cuts the longer half, puts the piece in his mouth and eats it. ]
Bert


Ernie, you, uh, you keep eating the, uh, ends off the, uh, it doesn’t seem…
Ernie


Now, this one was yours, and mine is this one here…
Bert


(sigh)
Ernie


Oh, Bert… now, look at that…
Bert


Yes, well, it’s…
Ernie


That’s no good, no, see that… Now yours is longer than mine.
Bert


Mine’s a little… just a little bit longer, it doesn’t matter, Ernie…
Ernie


Yours is longer, and mine is shorter… We can’t have that, Bert, that wouldn’t be fair, would it? Okay, let me cut it off…
Bert


All right, Ernie, just cut it off, but now…
[ Ernie eats that piece too. ]
Bert


ERNIE! That’s the third piece you’e eaten now!
Ernie


Now, let’s see, here’s your piece of licorice whip candy…
Bert


Yes…
Ernie


And here’s my piece of licorice whip candy.
Bert


Oh, Ernie…
Ernie


Oh, Bert… that’s no good! Look at that!
Bert


Yes.
Ernie


Yours is little bitty and short, and mine is quite long. Right?
Bert


Mine is short, but it doesn’t matter, I’ll take anything right now!
Ernie


Oh, no, no, Bert, no, this is no good at all, let me just make this even…
Bert


No, Ernie, stop, stop right there! Look, Ernie, do me a favor.
Ernie


What’s that?
Bert


Just start all over again with a new piece of licorice whip candy, okay?
Ernie


Good idea, Bert!
[ Ernie eats one of the leftover pieces. ]
Bert


What was that I heard?
Ernie


I was just getting rid of that piece, Bert. Okay, now, here’s a whole nice new piece of licorice whip candy, Bert.
Bert


All right.
Ernie


Okay, this piece can be for you. Okay, Bert?
Bert


Oh, for me? Oh, thanks, Ernie.
Ernie


And I’ll take the little bitty short piece right here.
Bert


Great, great.
Ernie


Except that… wait, Bert! No, no.
Bert


Oh, Ernie, what now?
Ernie


See that? Now, yours is much longer than mine.
Bert


Yeah, well, you ate…
Ernie


That’s no good, Bert. What kind of an idea was that? We gotta take this one and cut it off a lot shorter, okay?
[ Bert sighs and pounds his head on the table. ]
Ernie


Okay, now… this is gonna take a little while to eat this down here, Bert…
Bert


It doesn’t matter…

Color Commentary:

Ah, the licorice whip sketch — not just really funny, but also, I think, really potent and memorable. I haven’t actually tried this, but here’s an experiment: Go find somebody who watched Sesame Street when they were a little kid, and see if they remember this sketch. Try not to lead them much — just ask if they remember Ernie and Bert dividing up a licorice whip. If it’s necessary, remind them that it involved Ernie cutting the licorice whip in half.

I admit, I just thought of this, so I haven’t actually road-tested it myself, but this is my theory: A surprising number of people will remember this sketch without very much prompting. They may actually get kind of passionate about it. They may say stuff like, “Yeah, yeah! Ernie cut the licorice whip in half, and he ate part of it, and Bert got really mad! That always cracked me up.”

Now, this is my prediction: The people who remember this sketch have older siblings.

Think about it. This sketch is all about fairness and sharing — but it makes exactly the opposite point than the one you would expect. If you look at it objectively, it’s not funny, it’s just sad — Ernie dangles Bert’s favorite candy in front of him, pretends to offer him a share, and then eats it all himself. From the point of view of anybody but a younger sibling, this sketch is just cruel, and Bert is just being victimized.

But younger siblings know better. We know what this sketch is really about, and when we were kids, we dug it, without ever really knowing why.

The real point of this sketch is that “fairness” is a sham, that the golden rule is that he who has the gold makes the rules.

Look what happens when Bert gives up on the first licorice whip. For the younger brothers and sisters, that’s the best part of the whole thing. Bert realizes that at this rate, he’s never going to get any of the licorice whip, so he stops Ernie, and he says: “Look, Ernie, do me a favor.” So does he grab the bag of licorice whips and run away with it, laughing and munching? Nope. He says, “Just start all over again with a new piece of licorice whip candy, okay?”

You see? Bert’s a square, man. He plays by the rules. Bert believes that if he’s polite and sensible and patient, then he’ll get his fair share. And when those rules are being broken right in front of him, he just doesn’t know what to do. He’s so rigid, so rule-bounded, that he actually thinks that starting all over again is going to help.

The younger brothers and sisters, we know better. We know that staying quiet and patient gets you nothing but hand-me-downs. If you want something, you have to be the one who makes the rules. And you’ve gotta grab for as much of that licorice whip as you can stuff into your mouth before somebody stops you.

Don’t take my word for it, go out and see for yourself. I predict that older siblings won’t remember this sketch at all, or they won’t remember it as fondly. But the younger brothers and sisters? We know the score.

by Danny Horn

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