MEXICO CITY (TIP): Roberto Gomez Bolanos, the iconic Mexican comedian who wrote and played the boy television character “El Chavo del Ocho” that defined a generation for millions of Latin American children, died November 28, the Televisa television network said. He was 85. Known as “Chespirito” (ches-pee-REE-to), he changed comedy in Latin America, taking his inspiration from Laurel and Hardy as well as Mexico’s other transcendent comedian who eventually made it to Hollywood, Cantinflas.

The cause of death was not immediately announced. His two most famous characters were “El Chavo del Ocho,” who lived in the homes of Latin America and beyond with his barrel, freckles, striped shirt and frayed cap, and the naive superhero “El Chapulin Colorado,” or “The Crimson Grasshopper.” His morning show was a staple for preschoolers, much like “Captain Kangaroo” in the United States. He warmed the hearts of millions with a clean comedy style far removed from the sexual innuendo and obscenitylaced jokes popular today.

In a career that started in the 1950s, he wrote hundreds of television episodes, 20 films and theater productions that drew record-breaking audiences. His prolific output earned him the nickname “Chespirito.” It came from the Spanish phonetic pronunciation of Shakespeare —“Chespir” — combined with “ito,” a diminutive commonly used in Mexico that seemed natural for Gomez Bolanos because of his short stature. “Nicknames are the most essential in life, more valuable than names,” the actor said in 2011.

On Friday, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto tweeted, “Mexico has lost an icon whose work has transcended generations and borders.” Born Feb. 21, 1929, he trained as an engineer, but he was dedicated to writing from a young age. Talented both on the screen and behind it, he achieved smashing success in 1970 with the creation of “Chespirito,” a television show that included segments about “The Crimson Grasshopper.” The goofy superhero dressed in a red bodysuit and hood with antennae that helped him detect danger miles away. He completed the outfit with yellow shorts and boots, giving him the look of a red bumblebee.

The character, whose superpowers included shrinking to the size of a pill and dodging enemies, constantly repeated his signature phrases, “You didn’t count on my cleverness” and “All the good people, follow me.” In 1971, Gomez Bolanos wrote and acted as “El Chavo del Ocho” (“The Boy from the Eight”), a reference to the channel that broadcast the show. “El Chavo” proved so popular that reruns are still shown in multiple countries in Latin American and on Spanish language television in the United States. Many Latin Americans, living under dictatorships during the height of the show, found his underdog triumphs heroic in the face of authority.