It started off with something simple.
While my students were partaking in various reward activities, I saw the front cover of Ernie’s Little Lie. As the story goes, the picture is of Ernie painting something and trying to decide whether it’s good enough for the local art contest, with its grand-prize of a watercolor paint set. That the word “lie” is in the title should give you an idea of the rest of the story. But that front cover had me wondering – what if Ernie was thinking looking at something other than a picture? What if I replaced the paintbrush with a pen? What if, instead of painting a picture, Ernie was hard at work trying to calculate his Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), of which there are many complicated formulas to crunch numbers with? What if Ernie wanted to lose weight? Why would he even want to do such a thing?
I did a little research, and the answer became obvious: Ernie is literally bigger than Bert. They’re always arguing over food, but is Ernie really eating that much more than Bert? At least on TV?
A little further research and it turns out the size disparancy is no joke: Ernie is indeed bigger than Bert, and the reasons are of no fault to Ernie himself. They are completely different puppets.
Bert is a Hand-Rod Puppet – where the puppeteer’s dominant hand in the head of the puppet, often moving the mouth and sometimes the facial features. And because the puppeteer’s other hand is controlling rods that are connected to the arms and fingers, the puppets have much thinner arms. Think Kermit, Elmo, and BERT.
Ernie, however, is a Live-Hand Puppet, which means his puppeteer will have one hand where his hands are (like a glove) and the other hand operating the head. He will also have another puppeteer using their hand to control his other hand (also like a glove). So not only does Ernie have 3 puppeteering hands moving around in his body, but he’s quite literally big-boned so that his frame looks more normal and proportionate with human hands.
Even if Ernie tried to prescribe an exercise program for the hands that control him – do some more moving, a little less resting around – it wouldn’t make much of a difference. What it really takes, more than anything, is to realize he can’t control his size, but he can control his attitude towards it. Thankfully, his facial expressions seem to only be capable of positive emotions.
I think he’ll be be just fine.