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PERFORMER Paul Benedict
DEBUT 1971

The Mad Painter was the title character in a series of live-action films on Sesame Street. Produced for the program's third season, and continuing to be shown up to and including Season 19, the film inserts used comedic slapstick to teach number recognition, emphasizing the symbolic representation of the numeral, and how it is drawn, in contrast to the Baker Films, which stressed counting and quantity.

The painter character is an eccentric whose hobby is painting numbers between 2 and 11 in various public and private places. Armed with a set of numbers, he would begin each skit by announcing the number he intended to paint. Streets, umbrellas, purses, cakes, windows, stools, rubber balls, slices of bread, sailboats, and bald heads were all grist for the painter's mill. The painter's thoughts were heard in voice-over. Sometimes after he painted his number, something would either smudge it or wash it away, and sometimes he painted his number without anything bad happening to it and/or he wouldn't get in trouble.

Occasionally, the numerical graffiti artist would suffer the consequences of his peculiar obsession, and elude irate citizenry in a comic chase. Still, he continued his campaign, gaining notoriety in newspapers (the film for 8 includes the blaring headline "PAINTER STRIKES AGAIN!").

Two recurring targets were a young woman, portrayed by Stockard Channing, and a bald, mustachioed man (Jerome Raphel). The action in the segments was punctuated by a jaunty piano accompaniment, reminiscent of silent film scores, as composed by Robert Dennis. Eliot Noyes Jr. directed the series.[1]

In Episode 2330, Gladys the Cow refers to the character as painter Picasso Van Dyke.


Picture Summary / First Appearance Description
Number 2
Episode 0309
The painter paints a number 2 on the sail of a boat, enraging the owner.
Number 3
Episode 0343
The painter sees Channing having a picnic. He uses mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup to paint 3s on her sandwich bread.
Number 4
Episode 0344
The painter paints a number 4 on Channing's umbrella.
Number 5
Episode 0345
The painter's quest to paint a 5 leads to a zoo and a gorilla. He finds something to paint his 5 on, and it's a big yellow ball. Even the gorilla helps him out, and they give each other a high five.
Number 6
Episode 0335
The painter paints a 6, with icing, on a birthday cake. The baker finds the cake, offers the painter a slice, and then hits him in the face with the rest of the cake.
Number 7
Episode 0314
The painter, outside an elevator, paints a 7 on a bag held by the bald man riding the elevator, but the elevator closes while the painter isn't looking. The same thing happens when he paints a 7 on a bag carried by Channing. When it opens again, he sees a football player inside, wearing a shirt with the number 7 on it. The painter, happy to see the 7, gets into the elevator with the football player.
Number 8
Episode 0326
The painter pops out of a pool, in a scuba suit, to render an 8 on the pool owner's bald head. As soon as the bald man notices the 8, he chases the painter in and around the pool in a fast-motion scene.
Number 9
Episode 0338
The painter paints a 9 on a road, where his precious number falls prey to an industrious street cleaner.
Number 10
Episode 0328
The painter paints a 10 on a stool, on which the bald man then sits. When he gets up, the 10 is on the seat of his pants!
Number 11
Episode 0329
The painter gets his comeuppance again. He attempts to paint an 11 on a door in a doctor's office, but the doctor (Channing) keeps appearing to call the waiting patients. Though he finally paints an 11 on the door's glass pane, a janitor washes it off, and the nurse yanks the painter into the office.

Book appearances[]


  1. ↑ Lenburg, Jeff. Who's Who in Animated Cartoons. 2006