PAINTER STRIKES AGAIN
January 13, 2016 10:39 PM   Subscribe

The Mad Painter was a sketch that first aired on Sesame Street in 1972. In the series, Our Protagonist (Paul Benedict, looking suspiciously like Greg Nog) decides he's going to paint a certain number, finds a surface on which to paint the numeral, paints said number, and then something funny happens. The Painter's co-stars included a young Stockard Channing, a bald mustachioed guy (Jerome Raphael), and a gorilla. Robert Dennis scores the pieces jauntily. Here they are, in numerical order: [ 2345678910*11 ]

*WHO PUTS SALT ON A BANANA!!?
posted by not_on_display (46 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
 
Solely from hearing the music, my boyfriend at the other end of the couch said, "Is that the guy making numbers with mustard?"
posted by queensissy at 11:34 PM on January 13, 2016 [20 favorites]


So, I didn't know Banksy had authorized his biographical documentary...
posted by Samizdata at 11:39 PM on January 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


a young Stockard Channing

Doesn't matter how old she is, she will always be young. She's Stockard fucking Channing.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:16 AM on January 14, 2016 [8 favorites]


The Mad Painter was right up there with Steve Austin's Sasquatch, for freaking me out when I was a kid.
posted by Packed Lunch at 2:45 AM on January 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


Awww, I haven't thought about this in years! Growing up in NY in the 70's, I used to imagine subway graffiti was done by Mad Painter-watchers. Thanks, this was a nice post to wake up to.
posted by wheek wheek wheek at 2:52 AM on January 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Take notes Mr. Nog. This is how you do crazy.
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:02 AM on January 14, 2016


When I did the Sesame Street Muppet comedy post a few months back, I considered expanding it to cover general classic Sesame Street stuff, and the Mad Painter was something that came up in that. I rejected it because I couldn't find enough.

It was weird though. The one Mad Painter sketch I saw made me realize that I had completely spaced on that entire aspect of Sesame Street. I literally hadn't thought about that guy for like 30 years.
posted by JHarris at 3:04 AM on January 14, 2016


The original antihero.
posted by duffell at 4:18 AM on January 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


The pointlessness is driving me nuts.
posted by Omnomnom at 4:41 AM on January 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Stockard Channing in that clip gave me certain... feelings... when I was little. And she looks so satisfied yet wistful at the end.
posted by schoolgirl report at 4:42 AM on January 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Fondly remember these as well as Paul Benedict as Harry Bentley on The Jeffersons. Thanks.
posted by terrapin at 4:54 AM on January 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Hey mister. Mister. Are those stained and worn paint brushes food safe, mister? Hey lady don't put that in your mouth AUGH ick.

My eight year old self was always really bothered by the "3" episode.
posted by ardgedee at 4:59 AM on January 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


salt on a banana? ewwww. TEN!
posted by terrapin at 5:02 AM on January 14, 2016


Take notes Mr. Nog. This is how you do crazy.

Does he really need any help along those lines?
posted by LeLiLo at 5:13 AM on January 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


This certainly isn't hurting my theory that Nog is a Highlander.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:59 AM on January 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


jesus christ, I didn't remember ever seeing this, but as soon as I watched it, I recalled the visceral thrill of watching the painting happen -- the streak of color being applied, that thick glob of paint (or, in the case of 3, the condiments) being spread. It felt so right, so life-changingly perfect, something in my soul clicking into place like a lens in a pair of glasses, watching the numbers being painted. I guess this is like what astronomy fans feel when they look at the stars.
posted by Greg Nog at 6:31 AM on January 14, 2016 [16 favorites]


Semper fi, Mad Painter.

*salutes*
posted by petebest at 6:34 AM on January 14, 2016


Psssst, hey... five year old me... this is future me from 2016. Yeah, you're 46 years old now. The future is pretty good, though not the way you expected. Nobody is on Mars, certainly not you, and nobody has been back to the Moon since... well, since you were three years old. There is a space station though and the people living on it send us pictures and videos (TV) and one guy even played guitar (while floating in his space station!) and sang a song, a song that came out around the time you were born written by a guy who... well, who sadly just died a couple days ago. But the song was watched by millions of people and it was kind of magical. The future is weird, is what I'm saying.

But get this... you ride a TRAIN to work EVERY DAY. You work in THE CITY. Your TRAIN goes right by FENWAY PARK every single day and you get to see all those neat tall buildings and you get to eat FRIED CHICKEN for lunch whenever you want, though it's not really that great and often makes you ill but you do it anyway because YOU CAN.

And today something magical happened. Something amazing. You were riding on the TRAIN reading stuff on your phone. Oh, wait, let me back up. A "phone" in 2016 isn't that thing on the wall with the curly cord where you stick your finger in the dial and turn the thing to call your friend Mark. A "phone" is more... well... it's hard to explain. It's like a little TV about the size of... hmmm... what's something you can relate to in 1974... oh yeah, it's about the size of, or maybe a little smaller than a pack of cigarettes. Nobody really smokes in 2016, by the way, certainly not around kids. It's awesome. But a phone is a little screen and you can watch TV or read or listen to music or play computer games (just like the Radio Shack TV Scoreboard you'll have in a couple years, only better!) and write messages to friends and do all sorts of other amazing things.

So you were reading stuff on your phone and then you discovered that you could watch... get this... you could WATCH on your PHONE while riding a TRAIN... you could watch that guy on Sesame Street, your FAVORITE THING FROM SESAME STREET, the guy who paints the numbers. You can watch that on your PHONE on the TRAIN WHENEVER YOU WANT.

You know how you always wondered if he painted a 10 and you think you saw it once but maybe you're not remembering properly because you're only five? Well, guess what? He painted a 10! You know this in 2016 because you watched it on your PHONE on the TRAIN just now.

I know you probably don't understand how this is even possible, when we don't even have bases on the Moon, but trust me... it is. You carry a miniature computer screen wherever you go and you can watch the "gonna paint a 2" guy from Sesame Street on it whenever you want.

It's pretty fucked up.
posted by bondcliff at 6:40 AM on January 14, 2016 [55 favorites]


The Mad Painter was right up there with Steve Austin's Sasquatch, for freaking me out when I was a kid.
Andre the Giant had that effect on a lot of people.
posted by plinth at 6:55 AM on January 14, 2016


ERMAHGERD STERCKERD CHERNING
posted by chococat at 7:00 AM on January 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


I could never figure out why Sesame Street, during that time, was never brought to you by the number 1. They would do the numbers sequentially, one per day, from 2 to 10, occasionally talking about 11-20, but they never did 1 that I remember, except exactly once. I distinctly remember seeing the baker guy having falling down with 1 wedding cake, and literally freaking out because the whole sketch was about 1 and perhaps the universe was changing or something. What was wrong with 1?

Love this post, thanks!
posted by Melismata at 7:31 AM on January 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


That 'paint an 8 on the guy's head' one gave me the willies when I was a kid, and it gives me the willies now. That shit is straight-up not ok.
posted by Mchelly at 7:54 AM on January 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also when I first read the post before clicking I confused these with the "Let's sing a song about [number]" ones with the baker dropping all the coconut-custard pies. And now that song's in my head, likely for the rest of the day.
posted by Mchelly at 7:58 AM on January 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


And now we need a mefi post compiling the baker guy sketches.
posted by ardgedee at 7:58 AM on January 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


I miss old weird Sesame Street.
posted by KingEdRa at 8:07 AM on January 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


The Grace Slick number songs also didn't include the number one. I guess Henson figured that everybody could count to one already?
posted by PandaMomentum at 8:17 AM on January 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


Great link, PandaMomentum! It says, "Entire series uploaded for educational commentary and comparison." I beg to differ. More like "Entire series uploaded for the EXTREME EMOTIONAL SATISFACTION of people who grew up with this."
posted by Melismata at 8:23 AM on January 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


I thought this article about the future of Sesame Street was pretty eye-opening, but decided it was too depressing for an FPP - I'll just leave it here. Gentrifying Comes to Sesame Street
posted by Mchelly at 8:24 AM on January 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Mchelly, THAT article should be a FPP.
posted by Melismata at 8:28 AM on January 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but it makes me too sad and angry.
posted by Mchelly at 8:30 AM on January 14, 2016


Wow, I don't think I've seen these in 40+ years, yet the memory balls still flicker slightly...
posted by tavella at 9:48 AM on January 14, 2016


Yeah, but it makes me too sad and angry.

Damn you Romney.
posted by sweetmarie at 10:51 AM on January 14, 2016


The Grace Slick number songs also didn't include the number one.

OMG, That was Grace Slick?! It always amazes me who pops up in these things. And that number series has been locked away unviewed in my brain for a LONG time.

but as soon as I watched it, I recalled the visceral thrill of watching the painting happen -- the streak of color being applied, that thick glob of paint (or, in the case of 3, the condiments) being spread. It felt so right, so life-changingly perfect, something in my soul clicking into place like a lens in a pair of glasses, watching the numbers being painted.

YES, this is how I felt. The "soul clicking into place" of the numbers being painted. I felt something GOOD when I saw that, and especially after he painted the number, and took the template numbers out of his pockets and matched them up to what he'd just painted. UNGH that just felt so RIGHT. And I have NO idea why. But yeah, that's kinda what got me to finally post this.

Solely from hearing the music, my boyfriend at the other end of the couch said, "Is that the guy making numbers with mustard?"

Yeah, if you can instantly recognize a piece of music you hadn't heard since you were a child, that's something. It's led me to try and dig up some of his other music. I'm going to check this out next.
posted by not_on_display at 11:16 AM on January 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


Robert Dennis's trio, The Open Window -- with Stanley Walden and Peter Schickele, of PDQ Bach fame -- released an album in 1969 that is one of my favorite things ever. You can listen to the whole thing on YouTube. (And at one point, there were mp3 downloads floating around on a few blogs -- not sure they're around any more.) It's really wonderful music -- weird, catchy, whimsical chamber-jazz-pop like that sounds like nothing else. Truly a lost classic. Some hipster indie label should really re-release it.
posted by neroli at 11:28 AM on January 14, 2016 [11 favorites]


Thank you so much for the link to the album, neroli. The third song from the album, "4AM, June, The Sky Was Green", bring to mind the some works later performed by Bibio with its airy, breathless feel.

As you say, "a lost classic". Far and away.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 12:10 PM on January 14, 2016


This whole thread and none of you internet people pointed out that the 10 on salt-banana's butt is backwards?
posted by jessamyn at 2:39 PM on January 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


NOPE the painter turned the stool around before salt banana sat on it!
posted by chococat at 2:47 PM on January 14, 2016


Oh but the serif thing on the 1 should have been upside down on his butt. Right?
posted by chococat at 2:52 PM on January 14, 2016


right!
posted by jessamyn at 2:56 PM on January 14, 2016


...hence the cutaway, so that Paul could re-paint the "10" so that it would appear correctly on Jerome's butt. Don't you guys know anything about filmmaking?

Don't know how they faked the salt-on-the-banana, though. That musta tasted awful.
posted by not_on_display at 3:02 PM on January 14, 2016


The gentrifying article is indeed depressing. "We are cutting out celebreity cameos because kids don't know who they are" = "We don't understand that Henson's original idea was that parents would watch with their kids and should also be entertained"... nope, now the tube is a digital babysitter and no self-respecting parent can stand more than 30 seconds of Elmo anyway.

I am glad I was a kid when Sesame Street was still cool. My 6.5 year old saw Sesame Street too - only because we bought the "Sesame Street Old School" sets (vol. 1 and 2!) to avoid Elmo. Sadly, I do not recall seeing the Number Painter on these sets. I'd love it if they ever released full seasons rather than selected epidoses and scattered clips.
posted by caution live frogs at 3:21 PM on January 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


jessamyn: OF COURSE it isn't mirror imaged on Mr. Mustache's butt... just like there is zero smeared paint left on the chair. Realism is less important than funny here. And it's funny to see the guy walk off with the 10!
posted by caution live frogs at 3:23 PM on January 14, 2016


I literally hadn't thought about that guy for like 30 years.

Same here. And yet, it all comes back so vividly.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:50 PM on January 14, 2016


Trigger Warning: Subliminal Elmo at the end of "5".

Also, it's a shame they canceled the series before they the final episode (rumored to be titled "12").
posted by flyingfox at 12:33 AM on January 15, 2016


Sesame Street, during that time, was never brought to you by the number 1.
The Grace Slick number songs also didn't include the number one.


That’s probably why ‘one’ is the loneliest number...
posted by LeLiLo at 10:56 AM on January 15, 2016




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