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Urban Legends

Ernie the Muppet Dies

The Legend

Found on the Internet January 2005

Do you know Ernie, the cute little orange muppet on Sesame Street? Well, unless we act quickly, he's going to be gone forever!

The tsunami in Indonesia was such a global disaster that the people at the Children's Television Workshop decided that they needed to do something special to teach children about the devastation. What they did is start a storyline where Ernie was vacationing with rich friends on the beach in Indonesia when the tsunami hit. The will be a special episode of Sesame Street where Burt gets a letter letting him know his roommate is dead, and the rest of the episode will be about everyone helping him deal with his loss (except for Big Bird who is in total denial, and The Count who has hurried to Indonesia to help gather statistics).

We have to stop this atrocity! It may be a great lesson for kids, but it will remove a beloved character from the show forever! Why can't they get rid of someone else, like that God-damned Elmo? Really there has to be a better way!

Send your protests to:
[address deleted]


Behind the Legend

There is a little truth in this legend, but it has become mangled to the point of incoherence. The Children's Television Workshop has no more intention of killing Ernie than it does of serving Big Bird in a Thanksgiving special. If they had wanted to kill him, they certainly could have years ago when it was revealed that Ernie was HIV positive (the episode with a misguided Burt burning all of Ernie's stuff was powerful, although Ernie being "cured" by the latest medicines rang untrue).

So what's the truth? The truth is that Ernie is being confused with the poor, homeless muppet Kenny who is killed off in many Sesame Street episodes but magically comes back to life (with no explanation) the next day. Kenny has been shot by a kid playing with a gun, stabbed while tossing and catching a knife, been run over (repeatedly) while playing in traffic, accidentally cut his own throat with his dad's saw, and once got trapped in an abandoned mine and had to eat his own leg to survive. Any time a lesson needs to be taught about death or injury, Kenny is there. He died in the World Trade Center, in combat in Iraq, in a Spanish train explosion, on Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, at Columbine and Jonestown and David Koresh's compount and Chappaquiddick, and, yes, in the Indonesian tsunami. And he's been injured uncountably often.

The sales of children's toys, such as the Christmas-time hit Tickle Me To Death Kenny, has perhaps made Kenny ubiquitous. But the fact remains: he's no Ernie.

Update: We have been notified that after Disney aquired Jim Henson Productions there was discussion within Children's Television Workshop of having Ernie commit suicide, but the idea never entered formal development.


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