J. Wellington Wimpy
|J. Wellington Wimpy|
|Created by||E. C. Segar|
|Portrayed by||Charles Lawrence
Maurice LaMarche (current)
Paul Dooley (1980 film)
William Baldwin (animated film)
J. Wellington Wimpy, generally referred to as Wimpy, is one of the characters in the long-running comic strip Popeye, created by E. C. Segar and originally called Thimble Theatre, and in the Popeye cartoons based upon the strip. Wimpy was one of the dominant characters in the newspaper strip, but when Popeye was adapted as an animated cartoon series by Fleischer Studios, Wimpy became a minor character; Dave Fleischer said that the character in the Segar strip was "too intellectual" to be used in film cartoons. Wimpy did appear in Robert Altman's 1980 live-action musical film Popeye, played by veteran character actor Paul Dooley.
The character seems to have been inspired by more than one person whom Segar had encountered. Wimpy's personality was based upon that of William Schuchert, the manager of the Chester Opera House where Segar was first employed. "Windy Bill", as he was known, was a pleasant, friendly man, fond of tall tales and hamburgers.
Additional sources suggest that Segar composed the character's name from the names of two other acquaintances. According to fellow cartoonist Bill Mauldin, the name was suggested by that of Wellington J. Reynolds, one of Segar's instructors at the Chicago Art Institute. In a brief 1935 interview in The Daily Oklahoman, H. Hillard Wimpee of Atlanta indicated that he was connected to the character, having worked with Segar at the Chicago Herald-Examiner in 1917. It became a custom in the office that whoever accepted an invitation for a hamburger would pay the bill. According to Wimpee, after seeing the character in the newspaper, he wrote Segar in 1922 about Wimpy, "afraid of being connected with what [Segar] was doing with [the character]." He said Segar replied, "'You haven't seen anything yet.'"
Wimpy is Popeye's friend. In the cartoons, he mainly plays the role of the "straight man" to Popeye's outbursts and wild antics. Wimpy is soft-spoken, very intelligent, and well educated, but also cowardly, very lazy, overly parsimonious and utterly gluttonous. He is also something of a scam artist and, especially in the newspaper strip, can be notoriously underhanded at times.
Hamburgers are Wimpy's all-time favorite food, and he is usually seen carrying or eating one or more at a time – e.g. in Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor he is seen grinding meat or eating burgers almost the entire time – however, he is usually too cheap to pay for them himself. A recurring joke involves Wimpy's attempts to con other patrons of the diner into buying his meal for him. His best-known catchphrase started in 1931 as "Cook me up a hamburger. I'll pay you Thursday." In 1932, this then became the famous "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today". This phrase is now commonly used to illustrate financial irresponsibility and still appears in modern comedies such as The Drew Carey Show and The Office. The initial part of the phrase was even the title of season 4's episode 6 of Cheers, 'I'll Gladly Pay You Tuesday'.
Wimpy had other frequently used lines in the original comic strip. On some occasions, Wimpy tries to placate someone by saying "I'd like to invite you over to my house for a duck dinner." He then moves away quickly to a safe distance and yells, "You bring the ducks!" Another such line was, "Jones is my name...I'm one of the Jones boys" – an attempt to defuse a hostile situation with a mistaken identity. To deflect an enemy's wrath, he would sometimes indicate a third party and say "Let's you and him fight", starting a brawl from which he quickly withdrew.
In popular culture
- During World War II, "Wimpy", in reference to the character, was the nickname given to the Vickers Wellington bomber.
- Wimpy is also the inspiration and name of the large chain of Wimpy hamburger restaurants which was founded in Chicago in the 1930s and opened in the UK in 1954; it has maintained operations overseas since 1967. Their UK website states, "The name Wimpy is believed to have come from Popeye's friend J Wellington Wimpy who loved hamburgers as much as Popeye loved spinach." (However, the Popeye's restaurant chain does not correspondingly specialize in spinach. It serves chicken.)
- Wimpy made a cameo appearance (as an in-gag to both his facial features; in the context of beef related heart disease and affinity for hamburgers) in the Family Guy episode "McStroke"
- Wimpy has appeared in two episodes of the Adult Swim animated series Robot Chicken, often using his "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday" line to buy hamburgers. Often it fails. Voiced by Scott Adsit.
- In the Good Eats second season episode "Daily Grind" (aka "A Grind is a Terrible Thing to Waste"), Alton Brown prepares the "perfect burger" (as well as meatloaf & meatballs) for a character named "J. Wellington Whimpy" (misspelled, but looking mostly like the version of Wimpy played by Paul Dooley in the Popeye film) played by then cast regular Steve Rooney.
- In the final Pooch the Pup cartoon called She Done Him Right, a dog character looking like Wimpy is seen playing a slot machine.
- Wimpy's famous catchphrase gives the name to the hamburger review website A Hamburger Today.
- In Italian, Wimpy is known as "Poldo Sbaffini"; his surname is a reference to his scrounging habits. The Italian name was also adopted in the Greek editions as Πόλντο. In Spanish, Wimpy is "Pilón", Spanish for "pestle", which may refer to the character's body shape. In Sweden Wimpy is called Frasse and, unlike in the American version where he eats hamburgers, he instead eats parisare, a similar Swedish dish.
- Fred Grandinetti, Popeye: an illustrated cultural history, pp. 5–6
- Bill Mauldin, The Brass Ring, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1972
- "'Wimpy' Comes To Town – But Don't Let Atlanta Know Anything of This". The Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City). November 12, 1935. p. 1.
- Fred R. Shapiro, The Yale book of quotations
- Tim Weiner (August 15, 1999), The Nation; Hunting for That Elusive Surplus, The New York Times
- Bill Singer (November 2, 2009), Intelligent Investing: Regulating Wall Street By J. Wellington Wimpy, Forbes, archived from the original on July 31, 2012
- Robert Trigaux (November 12, 2009), Florida's economic failings land it on worst 10 list, St. Petersburg Times
- Transcript of GOOD EATS episode featuring "Whimpy"
- "The Walter Lantz Cartune Encyclopedia: 1933". The Walter Lantz Cartune Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 3, 2011.
- Serious Eats: A Hamburger Today