Mary Arline (queen_of_kithia) wrote,
Mary Arline

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YoB&E: Day 98--Bert & Ernie go fishing again

ss second fishing trip
This time Ernie uses the conventional fishing method

Aside from just being a really funny sketch, this is something of a momentous landmark.

According to several reputable sources, this is the first sketch that Steve Whitmire performed as Ernie after Jim Henson passed away. I sense sort of a hesitancy on the part of the writers in this sketch, in that both Bert & Ernie seem to be on their best behavior, going out of their way to be nice and not fight with one another. That's not a criticism, by the way; just an observation. As funny as Bert & Ernie are when they fight, I like them even better when they don't fight, so I love Ernie's consideration and sensitivity to Bert's feelings in this sketch, and I love how hard Bert is trying not to get angry at Ernie for something that really isn't his fault. It seems to me that, perhaps, the writers were so happy to have Ernie back that they wanted to show him in as positive a light as possible.

Since Steve Whitmire was also the one chosen to perform Kermit after Jim Henson passed on, one might think it was a foregone conclusion that he would play Ernie too, but it wasn't. The Henson family approached Steve about performing Kermit relatively soon after Jim Henson died; if I recall correctly, they did a tribute special honoring Jim in November 1990, six months after his passing, and Steve performed Kermit in that special for the first time. But it was the Sesame Street people who decided that they wanted him to also play Ernie, and that wasn't until 1993. (Which was 20 years ago, as unbelievable as that seems.)

I have nothing but respect and admiration for Steve Whitmire. I often think that he must have the greatest and most terrible job in the world, simultaneously. It was very difficult for him to take on characters that Jim had played. I mean, you can imagine the pressure that he must have felt, taking up the mantle of Jim Henson, a man known and beloved around the world for the special sensibility that he brought to his characters. To try to replicate that peculiar brand of magic under the critical eyes of the worldwide audience would have been difficult enough. But there was more to it than that. Jim was also Steve's hero, mentor and friend, and performing Kermit in particular brought up all his memories of working with Jim and all his grief over Jim's death. I've always been grateful to Steve for what he's done--even at the beginning, even when I was put off by the difference in Kermit's voice (which was a lot more noticeable at first), I was always grateful to him for trying--but once I learned what a struggle it was for him, I appreciated it even more.

About 14 years ago, Steve Whitmire gave an amazingly comprehensive interview, describing his entire career up to that point in fascinating, heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking detail. You can read it here, and I heartily recommend it. It's rather lengthy but well worth it.

So, as far as my project goes, this doesn't mean that I've exhausted the pool of sketches with Jim Henson as Ernie; there are still plenty of sketches with Jim as Ernie that I haven't used yet and that I want to use. It just means that, from now on, sketches with Steve Whitmire as Ernie are fair game and are going to be added into the mix as well.

Which is something of a relief to me, in that lately I've been scrolling and trolling along the Sesame Street website looking for sketches, and I've been having to keep saying, "Nope, I've already done this one...nope, I can't do that one yet because it has Steve as Ernie." At times, it's even felt a little bit like a chore. I mean, obviously, I made up these rules myself and I've only been making things harder on myself by following them, but I think lifting that self-imposed restriction on myself is going to invigorate the project and make it even more fun for me.

I just noticed something else: the boat in this sketch is oddly stationary throughout the whole thing. Whereas in the other fishing sketch, the boat bobbed up and down as though it were really floating on water. Huh.
Tags: year of bert & ernie
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