Roberto Gomez Bolaños: Comedian who changed comedy in Latin America with his television character 'El Chavo del Ocho'


Thursday 04 December 2014 01:00 GMT

Roberto Gomez Bolaños was a Mexican comedian who wrote and played the television character El Chavo del Ocho that defined a generation for millions of Latin American children.

Known as "Chespirito", he changed comedy in Latin America, taking his inspiration from Laurel and Hardy and another Mexican comedian who made it to Hollywood, Cantinflas.

His two most famous characters were El Chavo del Ocho, with his barrel, freckles, striped shirt and frayed cap, and the naive superhero El Chapulin Colorado, or "Crimson Grasshopper". His morning show was a staple for infants, and he warmed the hearts of millions with a clean comedy style free of innuendo and smut. In a career that started in the 1950s, he wrote hundreds of television episodes, 20 films and theatre productions that drew record-breaking audiences.

His prolific output earned him the nickname Chespirito, or "Little Shakespeare", from the Spanish phonetic pronunciation of the Bard's name. "Nicknames are the most essential in life, more valuable than names," he said. He trained as an engineer but was dedicated to writing from a young age, and said he wrote for the working classes: "I always tried to be as concise as possible, to try and reach everyone, but especially the simple people, those who needed to be reached more than anyone else."

Proof of his popularity came when he opened a Twitter account with the 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!" Within two months he had a million followers.


Roberto Gomez Bolaños, actor and comedian: born Mexico City 21 February 1929; twice married (six children); died Cancun, Mexico 28 November 2014.

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