Have you ever experienced that unique moment of weirdness where you realize that a TV character whose name you will remember far longer than the names of even some of your closest friends in school was an homage to an actual living person? This moment of realization is likely to be far more common the younger you are. After all, you haven’t gotten to know that many people that the rest of the world knows. What’s really fun is when you hear the name of a TV character you know pop up in discourse that you also know has nothing to do with the show itself. How many of these characters did you realize were named after real life counterparts?
Oskar Kokoschka: Hey Arnold
Oskar Kokoschka from the Nickelodeon cartoon “Hey Arnold” is a definite nominee for most unlikable cartoon character ever. He is lazy, selfish, thieving, self-absorbed, whiny and generally despicable. Mr. Kokoschka appears in the greater majority of “Hey Arnold” episodes due to his position as a tenant in the building owned by Arnold’s grandfather. Oskar Kokoschka may be unlikable, but he’s also imminently watchable; several episodes revolve hilariously around him. The real Oskar Kokoschka could not be more different. An overachieving Austrian, the real Oskar Kokoschka is an acclaimed poet, playwright and Expressionist artist.
Agent Dale Cooper: Twin Peaks
This one is a little bit trickier since the lead FBI agent in charge of solving the murder of Laura Palmer is named after a real person more obliquely than Oskar Kokoschka. If you were a fan of “Twin Peaks” you know that Agent Cooper’s first name was Dale. What you may never have picked up on is that his middle name is Bartholomew. Shorten Agent Cooper’s full name to his first two initials and you are left with a guy named D. B. Cooper investigating a bizarre murder in roughly the same region of the country where a guy who would become known to the world as D.B. Cooper jumped out of a plane he hijacked carrying $200,000 in extorted money.
Papa Lazarou: The League of Gentlemen
I think I should probably receive little in the way of argument if I were to declare Papa Lazarou to be the single most bizarre character created by the three actors responsible for bringing most of the population of Royston Vasey to life in the British show “The League of Gentlemen.” Papa Lazarou is the ultimate sinister circus emcee with a face painted in black and white makeup, a desire for collecting wives and a penchant for addressing everyone as Dave. If there is any character on “The League of Gentlemen” whom you might expect to have absolutely no connection to anyone in the real world in any way, it would be Papa Lazarou. In fact, this genuinely unsettling character was inspired by the real life landlord of two members of the Gentlemen, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton. Not only did they co-opt Peter Papalazarou’s name, but they also tweaked his habit of directly addressing only Pemberton and constantly asking Shearsmith “Is Steve there?” whenever Reece answered the phone.