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Ernie (Jim Henson until 1989, now it's Steve Whitmire) and Bert (Frank Oz) are like brothers. Ernie is always tricking Bert. Ernie and Bert were originally planned to be like parent/child but because Ernie (the child-like one) always tricked Bert they decided to just make them best friends.
You never talk about one without the other. Never!

Their names are NOT taken from It's a Wonderful Life. This is simply a rumor and is not true.

See also:Sesame Street