I’m not a television viewer now, but I have been over the years. I have a 40 year history of television viewing. I’ve always gravitated toward comedy and sit-coms. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed the talents of many comedians. Some of the funniest comedy has come from children on TV shows.
One of the dangers of children and comedy is the ‘cute’ precocious, annoying child TV star. For those of old enough to remember, the David Spade movie Dickie Roberts, Former Child Starpoked hilarious fun at the child icons of the 1970s and 1980s. It even featured child stars from the day: Alyssa Milano, Willie Aames, Fred Berry, Chris Knight, Maureen McCormick, Corey Feldman, Leif Garret, Danny Bonaduce and Greg Brady; they had a sort of Wednesday night support group/ poker night for recovering child stars. This story makes a cogent, albeit satirical, point, too, about how we have treated our child stars and what we have expected from them.
But there have been some really funny child stars on TV shows. Here are a few of my favorites.
Gary Coleman(Arnold Jackson) and Todd Bridges(Willis) fromDiff’rent Strokes were the funniest TV kids I can think of. I know Gary Coleman has had a number of issues in later life and I wonder if child stardom was part of the problem?
Bobby Hill(voiced by Pamela Adlon) on King of the Hill. Though not a real kid, Bobby’s character is one of the driest, most insightful child characters on television.
Natalie, Tootie and Blairfrom The Facts of Life. Played by Mindy Cohn, Kim Fields and Lisa Welschel respectively, this comedy about a girls boarding school was really cute! Natalie and Tootie’s snide comments about snobby Blair were spot on!
Jaleel White (Steve Urkel– Family Matters) rivals Gary Coleman as funny kid on TV. Jaleel’s persona was part Jerry Lewis, part Pee-Wee Herman and part something all his own! Urkel invented hilarious devices (Urket-bot, Boss Sauce), a cool alterego to offset his nerdiness, and a menagerie of crazy relations, notably Cornelius Eugene Urkel who coined the phrase ‘Gangsta Dawg’!
Ironically Danny Bonaduce(Danny Partridge-Partridge Family) has always been a favorite. Danny’s Wall Street Journal wisdom, know-it-all attitude and deadpan expression are perfect. My 10 year old discovered old Partridge Family reruns and now loves it better than High School Musical 3!
There are other funny kids on TV, but these stand out in my mind as the best.