10 Happy Little Facts About The Joy of Painting

Bob Ross Inc.
Bob Ross Inc.

The smooth jazz intro. The calm, welcoming voice. The larger-than-life hair. The low-budget production values. The constant encouragement that even you can create the same fan-brushed “happy little trees” as the jovial onscreen instructor. We’re talking about none other than the long-running PBS series The Joy of Painting, which, 35 years after its debut, continues to both engage and relax audiences via digital outlets like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and YouTube.

It was a simple enough premise: Each half-hour episode would feature host Bob Ross demonstrating—in real time—how to create a bucolic landscape (popular vistas included mountains, streams, and forests) using a specific palette of oil paints that would become as iconic as Ross himself. (Seriously, The Joy of Painting could’ve been renamed Titanium White or Prussian Blue and devoted fans would’ve just gone with it.)

Although the series ceased production in 1994—several months before Ross’s untimely death from lymphoma at age 52—The Joy of Painting is showing zero signs of fading into obscurity. Not only is the show ridiculously easy to access, but it also spawned a 2011 documentary, Bob Ross: The Happy Painter (where celebrities like Jane Seymour and Brad Paisley are outed among the Bob Ross acolytes), merchandise galore (including a Funko POP! toy), and a veritable YouTube rabbit hole of hilarious parodies.

So pull up an easy chair and get ready to chillax with these 10 facts about The Joy of Painting, where mistakes didn’t exist, only happy accidents.

1. BEFORE THE JOY OF PAINTING WITH BOB ROSS, THERE WAS THE MAGIC OF OIL PAINTING WITH BILL ALEXANDER.

Sometimes, all it takes to surpass your mentor is a gentle voice and one wild coiffure. Much as history likes to peg Bob Ross as an innovator, his art-for-the-masses television show was nothing new by the time The Joy of Painting premiered in 1983. For nearly a decade prior, PBS stations had been airing a similar series called The Magic of Oil Painting, hosted by German painter Bill Alexander. Ross himself was intrigued by the show and its signature “wet-on-wet” technique, and soon began studying under Alexander.

But this student-teacher relationship would eventually dissolve into a rivalry once Ross’s series took off and Alexander was relegated to a footnote in TV history. In a 1991 article in The New York Times, Alexander, who died in 1997, had harsh words for his onetime protégé.

"He betrayed me," Alexander said of Ross. “I invented ‘wet on wet.’ I trained him and he is copying me—what bothers me is not just that he betrayed me, but that he thinks he can do it better.” (For the record, Alexander did not invent the “wet on wet,” or “alla prima” method; it has been in existence for more than 500 years.)

2. FOR A SIGNIFICANT PORTION OF HIS LIFE, BOB ROSS WAS THE EQUIVALENT OF R. LEE ERMEY’S VICIOUS DRILL SERGEANT IN FULL METAL JACKET.

Who would’ve thought that the same guy who became a celebrity off his soft-spoken, hippie-dippy demeanor also spent nearly 20 years in the military barking orders to his subordinates? After joining the Air Force at the age of 18, Ross rose to the rank of First Sergeant, or, as he called it in a 1990 interview with The Orlando Sentinel, “the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work.”

But Ross knew deep down he wasn’t cut out for a career as a hard-ass: “The job requires you to be a mean, tough person,” the Florida native told the Sentinel. "And I was fed up with it. I promised myself that if I ever got away from it, it wasn’t going to be that way anymore.” He was right: While stationed in Alaska, Ross discovered his love for painting, and by the time he retired from the Air Force in 1981, a far more fulfilling job lay ahead.

3. ROSS’S ICONIC HAIRDO WAS INITIALLY A COST-CUTTING MEASURE.

Nope, Ross wasn’t trying to make an ironic fashion statement with his outdated hair. He was just a guy looking to save a few bucks while pursuing a painting career after leaving the Air Force. According to Annette Kowalski, Ross’s longtime business partner, the eventual Joy of Painting host got his hair permed as a way of avoiding regular hair maintenance. “He got this bright idea that he could save money on haircuts,” Kowalski told NPR in 2016. “So he let his hair grow, he got a perm, and decided he would never need a haircut again.”

What Ross didn’t count on was his perm’s, well, permanence: Once that look became part of his company’s logo—and The Joy of Painting—there was no turning back, and per Kowalski, it was a thorn in Ross’ side. “He could never, ever, ever change his hair, and he was so mad about that,” she said. “He got tired of that curly hair.”

4. THAT POUFY BROWN HAIR CAN NOW BE PART OF YOUR BREAKFAST.

We're not sure how Ross would’ve felt about having his face charred onto folks’ morning toast, but it’s now an option for The Joy of Painting fans and people with breakfast idiosyncrasies. For the price of $40, you can own a toaster that will burn Ross’s immediately recognizable visage onto a couple of slices of bread.

5. SINCE THE JOY OF PAINTING IS ARGUABLY AN EARLY FORM OF ASMR, THE SHOW IS ENJOYING A 21ST-CENTURY REBOOT AS A RELAXATION APP.

In June 2018, it was announced that episodes of The Joy of Painting would be reborn as versions of “Sleep Stories” on the Calm sleep and meditation app. It was the first time that Bob Ross Inc., which manages Ross’s estate, had agreed to license audio of the series, citing the high likelihood of the painting guru’s approval.

“We asked ourselves, ‘What would Bob do?’” Joan Kowalski, president of Bob Ross Inc. (and daughter of Ross’s business partners Walt and Annette Kowalski), told the Times. “Using his voice to help put people to sleep? Well, he would love that.” This couldn’t have been a better marriage of commerce and tranquility, because Ross, his comforting voice and The Joy of Painting had been honorary members of the ASMR (“autonomous sensory meridian response”) community for years.

6. IF YOU’RE A JOY OF PAINTING COMPLETIST, THEN YOUTUBE IS YOUR BEST SOURCE FOR EPISODES.

The addition of The Joy of Painting to Netflix in 2016 was the cause of both excitement and confusion for viewers. The reason for the excitement was obvious, but the confusion was due to Netflix’s decision to repackage the episodes as two separate, differently named series: Chill With Bob Ross and Bob Ross: Beauty Is Everywhere. Don’t let these catchy titles fool you though, because they’re just fancy names for 52 episodes of The Joy of Painting.

However, if after binge-watching all of Bob Ross that Netflix (and Hulu and Amazon Prime; several seasons are available to subscribers) have to offer, and you still have an irrepressible hunger for more seascapes and woodland vistas, head on over to the official Bob Ross YouTube channel, where you will be able to watch all 403 episodes of The Joy of Painting—for free.

7. WANT TO TEACH THE BOB ROSS TECHNIQUE? YOU’LL HAVE TO BECOME A CERTIFIED ROSS INSTRUCTOR FIRST.

If you live and breathe The Joy of Painting and enjoy preaching Bob Ross’s happy little trees gospel, then perhaps becoming a Certified Ross Instructor is in your future. But don’t think that this program will be as laid-back as a Joy of Painting episode—quite the opposite. The official website for Bob Ross Inc. warns prospective students that “training is intense,” a sentiment echoed by this 2015 HuffPost article. One instructor called the experience “grueling,” emphasizing that the program is “fast-paced and pretty hard. If you are not paying attention, you get lost.”

8. THE JOY OF PAINTING HAS INSPIRED MULTIPLE PARODIES, INCLUDING A DEADPOOL 2 TEASER.

As lovable as Bob Ross is, his style and folksy manner do lend themselves to satire. But when sifting through the innumerable spoofs available on YouTube, anyone can see that they’re made out of love, not disdain—even this NSFW “Joy of Tattooing” clip—for The Joy of Painting.

In late 2017, 20th Century Fox hopped on the R-rated The Joy of Painting parody bandwagon when the studio released a Deadpool 2 teaser featuring star Ryan Reynolds doing an impeccable Bob Ross impression—entirely from beneath his masked bodysuit. While most of the jokes are unprintable, let’s just say Reynolds’s take on how Ross cleaned his paintbrushes was nothing short of genius.

9. THE JOY OF PAINTING IS AT THE CENTER OF A NEW TREND: PAINT-ALONGS AT LOCAL LIBRARIES.

It sounds like something that might have happened during The Joy of Painting’s 1980s heyday: Crowds of people gathering at the library to watch Bob Ross paint wispy clouds while putting their own brushes to canvas. But this analog activity is a very real craze happening right in the digital depths of 2018. Back in July, The Washington Post reported that across the United States, there are now six-month-long waiting lists at certain local libraries just for the privilege of watching an episode of The Joy of Painting—and painting along with the show’s bushy-haired master.

This latest Bob Ross renaissance can be chalked up to the divisive headlines permeating the country, at least according to one Salt Lake City librarian who helps organize these paint-alongs. “In these times when everything seems so controversial and everyone fighting with each other and all of this bad news all the time—it’s very uplifting to hear [Ross’ positive quips],” Jen Scott told the Post. “People feel this connection with Bob Ross—that he’s their friend.”

10. BOB ROSS BAR CRAWLS ARE ALSO A THING, APPARENTLY.

The New York Times brought this phenomenon to the world’s attention back in 2015, when it reported on a now-defunct annual Chicago event that saw attendees dressing in curly wigs, facial hair (both men and women, mind you), jeans, and oxford shirts to traipse around various watering holes in honor of Bob Ross. Although the Windy City Bob Ross Bar Crawl has ceased operation (the last post to its Facebook page was in September 2017), others have since popped up in the Cleveland area and in Macon, Georgia.

7 Things You Might Not Know About Mario Lopez

Angela Weiss, Getty Images for Oakley
Angela Weiss, Getty Images for Oakley

While several of the actors featured in the 1990s young-adult series Saved by the Bell have fared well following the show’s end in 1994, Mario Lopez is in a class by himself. The versatile actor-emcee can be seen regularly on Extra, as host of innumerable beauty pageants, and as the author of several best-selling books on fitness. For more on Lopez, check out some of the more compelling facts we’ve rounded up on the multi-talented performer.

1. A WITCH DOCTOR SAVED HIS LIFE.

Born on October 10, 1973, in San Diego, California to parents Mario and Elvia Lopez, young Mario was initially the picture of health. But things quickly took a turn for the worse. In his 2014 autobiography, Just Between Us, Lopez wrote that he began having digestive problems immediately after birth, shrinking to just four pounds. Though doctors administered IV hydration, they told his parents nothing more could be done. Desperate, his father reached out to a witch doctor near Rosarito, Mexico who had cured his spinal ailments years earlier. The healer mixed a drink made of Pedialyte, Carnation evaporated milk, goat’s milk, and other unknown substances. It worked: Lopez kept it down and began growing, so much so that his mother declared him “the fattest baby you had ever seen in your life.”

2. HE STARTED ACTING AT 10.

A highly active kid who got involved in both tap and jazz dancing and amateur wrestling, Lopez was spotted by a talent scout during a dance competition at age 10 and was later cast in a sitcom, a.k.a. Pablo, in 1984. That led to a role in the variety show Kids Incorporated and in the 1988 Sean Penn feature film Colors. In 1989, at the age of 16, he won the role of Albert Clifford “A.C.” Slater in Saved by the Bell. By 1992, Lopez was making public appearances at malls, where female fans would regularly toss their underthings in his direction.

3. HE COULD PROBABLY BEAT YOU UP.

Lopez wrestled as an amateur throughout high school. According to the Chula Vista High School Foundation, Lopez was a state placewinner at 189 pounds in 1990. (On Saved by the Bell, Slater was also a wrestler.) He later complemented his grappling ability with boxing, often sparring professionals like Jimmy Lange and Oscar De La Hoya in bouts for charity. In 2018, Lopez posted on Instagram that he received his blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Gracie Barra Glendale instructor Robert Hill.

4. HE TURNED DOWN PLAYGIRL.

Lopez’s active lifestyle has made for a trim physique, but he’s apparently unwilling to take off more than his shirt. In 2008, Lopez said he was approached to pose for Playgirl but declined. The magazine reportedly offered him $200,000.

5. HE WAS MARRIED FOR TWO WEEKS.

Lopez had a well-publicized marriage to actress Ali Landry, but not for all the right reasons. The two were married in April 2004 and split just two weeks later, with Landry alleging Lopez had not been faithful. Lopez later disclosed he had made a miscalculation during his bachelor party in Mexico, cheating on Landry just days before the ceremony.

6. HE APPEARED ON BROADWAY.

Lopez joined the cast of Broadway’s A Chorus Line in 2008, portraying Zach, the director who coaches the cast of aspiring dancers. (It was his first stage appearance since he participated in a grade school play, where he played a tree.) His run, which lasted five months, was perceived to be part of a rash of casting choices on Broadway revolving around hunky performers to attract audiences. The role was thought to be the start of a resurgence for Lopez, who had previously appeared on Dancing with the Stars and has been a co-host of the pop culture newsmagazine show Extra since 2007.

7. HE BELIEVES HIS DOG SUFFERED FROM POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION.

In 2010, Lopez and then-girlfriend (now wife) Courtney Mazza had their first child, Gia. According to Lopez, his French bulldog, Julio César Chavez Lopez, exhibited signs of depression following the new addition to the household. Lopez also said he used his extensive knowledge of dogs to better inform his voiceover work as a Labrador retriever in 2009’s The Dog Who Saved Christmas and 2010’s The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation.

The Legend of Cry Baby Lane: The Lost Nickelodeon Movie That Was Too Scary for TV

Nickelodeon, Viacom
Nickelodeon, Viacom

Several years ago, rumors about a lost Nickelodeon movie branded too disturbing for children’s television began popping up around the internet. They all referenced the same plot: A father of conjoined twins was so ashamed of his sons that he hid them away throughout their childhood. (This being a made-for-TV horror movie, naturally one of the twins was evil.)

After one twin got sick the other soon followed, with both boys eventually succumbing to the illness. To keep the town from discovering his secret, the father separated their bodies with a rusty saw and buried the good one at the local cemetery and the evil one at the end of a desolate dirt road called Cry Baby Lane, which also happened to be the title of the rumored film. According to the local undertaker, anyone who ventured down Cry Baby Lane after dark could hear the evil brother crying from beyond the grave.

Cry Baby Lane then jumps to present day (well, present day in 2000), where a group of teens sneaks into the local graveyard in an effort to contact the spirit of the good twin. After holding a seance, they learn that the boys' father had made a mistake and mixed up the bodies of his children—burying the good son at the end of Cry Baby Lane and the evil one in the cemetery. Meaning those ghostly wails were actually the good twin crying out for help. But the teens realized the error too late: The evil twin had already been summoned and quickly began possessing the local townspeople.

MOVIE OR MYTH?

Parents were appalled that such dark content ever made it onto the family-friendly network, or so the story goes, and after airing the film once the Saturday before Halloween in 2000, Nickelodeon promptly scrubbed it from existence. But with no video evidence of it online for years, some people questioned whether Cry Baby Lane had ever really existed in the first place.

“Okay, so this story sounds completely fake, Nick would NEVER air this on TV,” one Kongregate forum poster said in September 2011. “And why would this be made knowing it’s for kids? This story just sounds too fake …”

While the folklore surrounding the film may not be 100 percent factual, Nickelodeon quickly confirmed that the “lost” Halloween movie was very real, and that it did indeed contained all the rumored twisted elements that have made it into a legend.

Before Cry Baby Lane was a blip in Nick’s primetime schedule, it was nearly a $100 million theatrical release. Peter Lauer, who had previously directed episodes of the Nick shows The Secret World of Alex Mack and The Adventures of Pete & Pete, co-wrote the screenplay with KaBlam! co-creator Robert Mittenthal. Cry Baby Lane, which would eventually spawn urban legends of its own, was inspired by a local ghost story Lauer heard growing up in Ohio. “There was a haunted farmhouse, and if you went up there at midnight, you could hear a baby crying and it’d make your high school girlfriend scared,” he told The Daily.

BIG SCARES ON A SMALL BUDGET

Despite Nickelodeon’s well-meaning intentions, parent company Paramount wasn’t keen on the idea of turning the screenplay into a feature film. The script was forgotten for about a year, until Nick got in touch with Lauer about producing Cry Baby Lane—only this time as a $800,000 made-for-TV movie. The director gladly signed on.

Even with the now-meager budget, Cry Baby Lane maintained many of the same elements of a much larger picture. In a bid to generate more publicity around the project, Nickelodeon cast Oscar nominee Frank Langella as the local undertaker (a role Lauer had originally wanted Tom Waits to play). All the biggest set pieces from the screenplay were kept intact, and as a result, the crew had no money left to do any extra filming.

Only two scenes from the movie ended up getting cut—one that alluded to skinny dipping and another that depicted an old man’s head fused onto the body of a baby in a cemetery. The story of a father performing amateur surgery on the corpses of his sons, however, made it into the final film.

The truth of what happened after Cry Baby Lane premiered on October 28, 2000 has been muddied over the years. In most retellings, Nickelodeon received an "unprecedented number" of complaints about the film and responded by sealing it away in its vault and acting like the whole thing never happened. But if that version of events is true, Nick has never acknowledged it.

Even Lauer wasn’t aware of any backlash from parents concerned about the potentially scarring effects of the film until The Daily made him aware of the rumors years later. “All I know is that they aired it once,” he told the paper. “I just assumed they didn’t show it again because they didn’t like it! I did it, I thought it failed, and I moved on.”

But the idea that the movie was pulled from airwaves for being too scary for kids isn’t so far-fetched. Though Cry Baby Lane never shows the conjoined twins being sawed apart on screen, it does pair the already-unsettling story with creepy images of writhing worms, broken glass, and animal skulls. This opening sequence, combined with the spooky, empty-eyed victims of possession that appear later, and multiple scenes where a child gets swallowed by a grave, may have made the film slightly more intense than the average episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?

IMPERFECT TIMING

Cry Baby Lane premiered at a strange time in internet history: Too early for pirated copies to immediately spring up online yet late enough for it to grow into a web-fueled folktale. The fervor surrounding the film peaked in 2011, when a viral Reddit thread about Cry Baby Lane caught the attention of one user claiming to have the so-called “lost” film recorded on VHS. He later uploaded the tape for the world to view and suddenly the lost movie was lost no longer.

News of the unearthed movie made waves across the web, and instead of staying quiet and waiting for the story to die down, Nickelodeon decided to get in on the hype. That Halloween, Nick aired Cry Baby Lane for the first time in over a decade. Regardless of whether the movie had previously been banned or merely forgotten, the network used the mystery surrounding its origins to their PR advantage.

“We tried to freak people out with it,” a Nick employee who worked at The 90s Are All That (now The Splat), the programming block that resurrected Cry Baby Lane (and who wished to remain anonymous) said of the promotional campaign for the event. “They were creepy and a little glitchy. We were like, ‘This never aired because it was too scary and we’re going to air it now.’”

Cry Baby Lane now makes regular appearances on Nickelodeon’s '90s block around Halloween, which likely means Nick hasn’t received enough complaints to warrant locking it back in the vault. And during less spooky times of the year, nostalgic horror fans can find the full movie on YouTube.

The mystery surrounding Cry Baby Lane’s existence may have been solved, but the urban legend of the movie that was “too scary for kids’ TV” persists—even at the network that produced it.

“People who were definitely working at Nickelodeon in 2000, but didn’t necessarily work on [Cry Baby Lane] were like, ‘Yeah I heard about it, I remember it being a thing,'" the Nick employee says. “It’s sort of like its own legend within the company.”

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