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Why Did Rowan Atkinson Want to Be Listed on the French-Speaking Bill During the Just For Laughs Festival?

Mr. Bean, the famous comedic character we’ve all grown to love, was the brainchild of comedian Rowan Atkinson. Mr. Bean has captivated and humored us in the early nineties. But did you know how Atkinson verified that non-English communities would positively receive his character as well?

In the 1987 Just For Laughs Festival, Atkinson insisted on being part of the French section. He wanted to test Mr. Bean’s character to a non-English speaking audience. His performance was received positively.

The Origin of Mr. Bean

Mr. Bean made his television debut in 1990, but the character’s creator, Rowan Atkinson, had been developing it for over a decade before that first show. Atkinson, taking up his master’s degree in electrical engineering at Oxford University in the eighties, was tasked to do a sketch on a one-night show in the Oxford Playhouse.

Atkinson, who was not a natural writer, had the challenge of creating a five-minute sketch in just under 48 hours. While trying to figure out what he would be performing, Atkinson found himself standing in front of a mirror. He started making weird facial expressions, and as he was doing so, the idea of a strange, surreal, and non-speaking character came about.

The character was inspired by a French comedian, as Atkinson explained. His interest in physical comedy arose when he discovered a film called Mr. Hulot’s Holiday, done by Jacques Tati. Atkinson liked the movie because it was an uncompromising comic attitude and setting that he admired.

Mr. Bean’s character was heavily influenced by Mr. Hulot’s, who was both clumsy and naive but are well-meaning even though they usually cause chaos. Another character that heavily influenced Bean’s character was Inspector Clouseau from The Pink Panther. Atkinson mentions that Peter Seller’s approach to the slapstick Inspector contributed to Bean’s brand of comedy. (Source: The Things)

Fun Facts About Mr. Bean

Mr. Bean’s character had a colorful history as the years went by. Here are a few fun facts about the character.

Mr. Bean’s Tryout

In 1987, Atkinson wanted to understand if non-English populations would accept his character’s brand of comedy. He joined the Just For Laughs Festival in Quebec, Canada. Atkinson further insisted that his performance be booked for a French-speaking audience. Atkinson validated that his near-silent comedy would translate well with non-English speaking people.

Mr. Bean was Almost Mr. Cauliflower

During the development of the character, and well into the production for television, Atkinson didn’t name it yet. Initially, the character was supposed to be called Mr. White. The show’s creators began throwing vegetable names, and Mr. Cauliflower was considered before settling for Mr. Bean.

Only 14 Episodes Were Produced

Despite its popularity, the original Mr. Bean series was only 14 episodes short. It did, however, inspire two movies, an animated series, a video game, and some books, including Mr. Bean’s Definitive and Extremely Marvelous Guide to France, a book that was published around the same time as the movie Mr. Bean’s Holiday was released.

Mr. Bean Performed at the Olympics

London hosted the Summer Olympics of 2012. Mr. Bean was called on to perform his rendition of Chariots of Fire at the opening ceremonies. (Source: Mental Floss)

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