Roberto Gomez Bolanos, creator of “El Chavo del Ocho”, dies

Roberto Gomez Bolanos, the iconic Mexican comedian born February 21, 1929, died November 28 at age 85. He wrote and played the boy television character "El Chavo del Ocho" that defined a generation for millions of Latin American children.

Known as "Chespirito" (chess-pee-REE-to), his nickname came from the Spanish phonetic pronunciation of Shakespeare "Chespir" combined with "ito", a diminutive commonly used in Mexico that seemed natural for Gomez Bolanos because of his short stature.

His two most famous characters were "El Chavo del Ocho," who lived in the homes of Latin America and beyond with his barrel, freckles, striped shirt and frayed cap, and the naive superhero "El Chapulin Colorado," or "The Crimson Grasshopper." His morning show was a staple for preschoolers, much like "Captain Kangaroo" in the United States. He warmed the hearts of millions with a clean comedy. In a career that started in the 1950s, he wrote hundreds of television episodes, 20 films and theater productions that drew record-breaking audiences.

The goofy superhero dressed in a red bodysuit and hood with antennae that helped him detect danger from miles away. He completed the outfit with yellow shorts and boots, giving him the look of a red bumblebee. The character, whose superpowers included shrinking to the size of a pill and dodging enemies, constantly repeated his signature phrases, "You did not count on my cleverness!" and "All the good people, follow me!" In 1971, Gomez Bolanos wrote and acted as "El Chavo del Ocho" ("The Boy from the Eight").

"El Chavo" proved so popular that reruns are still shown in multiple countries in Latin America and on Spanish language television in the United States. Proof of his wide popularity came when he opened a Twitter account in 2011 with a simple message: "Hello. I'm Chespirito. I’m 82 years old and this is the first time I tweet. This is my debut. All the good people follow me!" In less than two months, he had 1 million followers. By the time of his death, there were 6.6 million. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto tweeted, "Mexico has lost an icon whose work has transcended generations and borders."

His body was flown from his home in Cancun to Mexico City, for a private funeral Mass at Televisa network's headquarters and for a public tribute at the Azteca stadium. His second wife, actress Florinda Meza, as well as six children from his first marriage and 12 grandchildren survive Gomez Bolanos.

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February 23, 2018, 10:28 am
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