Roy “Cooky” Brown (1932 – 2001)
Roy Brown, the man behind Cooky the Cook for 25 years on Bozo’s Circus and The Bozo Show on WGN-TV, passed away on January 22, 2001, in his adopted home town of Chicago due to a heart ailment. He was 68 years old. Inducted into the Clown Hall of Fame in 1993, Roy Brown created the lovable character “Cooky” for the Bozo Show and in 1992 received an Emmy award for his portrayal. He first joined the show as a writer, but in 1969 joined the cast. “Cooky” was born after Brown experimented with 60 different clown characters. Brown’s character originated from a cook who was responsible for cooking horrible circus meals. He developed the make-up and voice for the character as well as the costume.
Roy Brown first auditioned for the role on “Bozo’s Circus” in 1968 when producer Don Sandburg, who also portrayed Sandy the Tramp, announced that he was leaving the show. Excited by the opportunity, Brown consulted with Sandburg, who suggested Brown create a new clown character and perform this character at the audition. With only three days until the audition, Brown experimented with 60 different clown characters. Brown said the idea for Cooky originated from occasional on-air dialogue between Bob “Bozo” Bell and Ray “Oliver O. Oliver” Rayner about the horrible circus food. Brown developed a character who was responsible for cooking the wretched circus meals.
Roy Thomas Brown, the father of four sons, was born in Tucson, Arizona on July 8, 1932, but his roots were in Chicago. His mother, an artist, encouraged her young son to take advantage of all her art materials, which she kept in a studio in her home. Although his mother offered guidance and instruction, it was Brown’s choice to pursue a career as a commercial artist specializing in cartooning. At the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, Brown studied fine art painting and cartooning. Before graduating, he auditioned for the “Garfield Goose and Friend” show. Frazier Thomas, the character’s creator and host of the show, awarded Brown the job of graphic artist on the program’s “Magic Drawing Board” in 1952. He designed and drew all of the program’s openings and closings, publicity, Garfield Goose birthday cards and other paraphernalia. He also created and painted art boards that illustrated Garfield Goose’s adventures away from the castle.
As the show’s puppeteer, Brown not only brought life to the Garfield Goose puppet, he designed and constructed Romberg Rabbit, MacIntosh Mouse, Chris (Christmas) Goose and Beauregard Burnside III. He also developed puppets for WGN-TV’s “The Blue Fairy,” “Bugs Bunny and Friends,” “Dick Tracy,” “Paddleboat” and “Treetop House.” In 1965, he created a puppet version and voice characterization of the Chicago Tribune’s Cuddly Dudley for the “Ray Rayner and His Friends” show, which carried over to “The Bozo Show” in 1981. Brown received a Chicago/Midwest Emmy award for his portrayal of Cooky on “The Bozo Show” in 1992. In 1993, he was inducted into the International Clown Hall of Fame as well as the Chicago Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ “Silver Circle” for over 40 years of distinguished service in the television industry.
Upon his retirement in 1994 and while reflecting on his years at WGN-TV, Roy Brown commented, “I am the luckiest guy in the world to have worked at a job I loved and I’m going to miss it dearly.” Roy Brown made his last public appearance as Cooky on October 25, 2000, during a taping of “The Bozo Super Sunday Show.”
All photographs and much information on this page are courtesy WGN-TV’s “Bozo Timeline” – our thanks to them!