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The Number Painter

The Number Painter, also known as the Mad Painter, was a character on Sesame Street. He appeared in a total of ten skits which premiered on February 23, 1972, often repeated in episodes until 1988.

The Number Painter character was played by Paul Benedict, who went on to greater fame as Mr. Harry Bentley, the eccentric English neighbor of George and Louise Jefferson on the 1970s CBS situation comedy The Jeffersons.

In all skits, although the painter is never shown actually moving his lips, he talks either towards the camera or to whomever he encounters (usually the two supporting roles noted below) via voiceovers using the actor's actual voice.

His outfit consists of a black-and-white striped shirt, gray pants held up with suspenders, black sneakers, and a paint-splattered smock, topped with a black bowler hat. He carries a can of paint and a brush, along with a model copy of the number he intends to paint so he can check his work.

The music for all the segments was written and performed by American composer Robert Dennis.

Sketch list

A list of his sketches:

  • 2 The painter is at a marina where, after rejecting two dock poles, he chooses someone's sail to paint his 2, then quickly flees in a rowboat from the sailboat's irate owner.
  • 3 The painter encounters a woman (played by Stockard Channing) having a picnic by herself. In one of two skits where he does not use actual paint, he decides to paint 3s on slices of bread using each of her three condiments; mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup. Every time he finishes "painting" a three on a slice, the woman takes it from his hand, before he can compare it next to his three, and places it on the ridiculously large Dagwood sandwich she's building (and eventually wolfs down).
  • 4 Walking down the street, the painter encounters a woman in rain gear carrying an umbrella wondering where the rain is. She doesn't notice he chooses to paint a 4 on her umbrella. When she takes it from over her head to look at it, she and the painter get dumped with water.
  • 5 The painter is in the zoo, and decides to hop in what he finds out later is the gorilla's area. Thinking nobody is around, he finds the gorilla's yellow ball, and while painting the 5 on it, encounters the gorilla, and shakingly hands the brush to the gorilla who finishes the 5.
  • 6 In the only skit not involving paint OR a brush, the painter decides to use icing to draw a 6 on the top of a birthday cake that a baker brought into the room and put a couple of finishing touches onto before leaving again. When the baker returns later, he shows him the 6 he made. The baker then decides to cut him a slice of the cake, but before he can start eating it, the baker then picks up the rest of the cake and puts it in the painter's face, then takes the slice he cut and eats it himself.
  • 7 Outside of an elevator, the painter tries to paint a 7, assumingly, on the elevator door. He winds up painting a 7 onto a man's shopping bag, then on a woman's purse before they disappear and leave him wondering what happened to them. His luck would turn around when the next person in the elevator is a football player in full uniform whose jersey has a 7 on it.
  • 8 The painter pops up from under the water of a bald guy's swimming pool, and decides that the man's head is the perfect place to paint his 8. When the guy realizes what the painter did, in a speeded-up hilarious chase scene, he tries to get him, but the painter gets away. He wears a diving suit in this skit rather than his usual outfit, but still dons his bowler before going to work.
  • 9 The painter decides to paint his 9 on the street, but after doing so, a street cleaner truck comes by and the water from it ruins it.
  • 10 The painter decides to paint his 10 on the seat of a bar stool in the room he's in. As he shows it off, the bald-headed guy comes in and gestures for him to put the stool down, which he does. Then the guy sits on the stool and eats a banana, and unfortunately takes the 10 off the stool and has it on the seat of his overalls.
  • 11 The painter comes into the waiting room of a doctor's office and immediately decides that the window of the door leading into the actual office would be a perfect place for an 11. However, he is forced to wait until the other patients are brought into the office before he can do so. After painting the 11, he walks through the door and looks out the the cleaning guy comes in and cleans the 11 off the window. After coming back into the waiting room dejected over the loss of his 11, the nurse comes in and take him back to see the doctor.

There was no #1 skit, because Sesame Street didn't feature the number in its show at the time.

Supporting characters


Jerome Raphel appears as Mac, a bald man who had an 8 painted on his head; he angrily chased the Painter in a frenetic, fast-paced chase scene upon discovering what the Painter had done.

Mac also was the sailboat owner (#2); the baker (#6); one of the elevator passengers (#7); the road cleaner (#9); the guy who wound up with a 10 on himself when he got up off his stool; and the window cleaner (#11).

The Lady

Stockard Channing (The West Wing) appeared in four of the sketches, playing the lady at the picnic (#3); the woman holding the umbrella (#4); the woman inside the elevator having her plastic handbag painted on (#7); and finally, the nurse saying "Next" to her patients (#11).

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