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 be inspired by someone whom Segar encountered during his career. 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. His 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.
In a brief 1935 interview in The Daily Oklahoman, H. Hillard Wimpee of Atlanta indicated that he 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, 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 dish, 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 fiscal 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.”
- 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.
from Popeye (1980)
Olive Oyl: You won a hundred and twenty samoleans?
Wimpy: You know how many hamburgers that is?
Popeye: Where ain’t they?
Wimpy: They ain’t on the commodore’s boat.
Popeye: That’s where they ain’t? Well if that’s where they ain’t, I’ll prove to you that that’s where they ain’t.
Popeye: What are you doing, there? No childs ‘o mine will be exploiticated for ill-gotten gains.
Popeye: Yeah, that’s true. You’re gonna be president one day…
Olive Oyl: It is not ill-gotten, it’s GOOD-gotten gains. These races will clothe us, and feed us, and save us.
Wimpy: Wrong is wrong, even when it helps ya.
Wimpy: The horses are at the gates.
Olive Oyl: I think family is more important than dumb morality, hmm?
Wimpy: [singing] I’d gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.
Geezil: What is that glop you’re eating?
Wimpy: It’s a soup burger. These are difficult times. Burgers can’t be choosers.
Wimpy: Rough House? One genuine hamburger for the gentleman. I’m buying.
Rough House: Who’s paying?
Wimpy: I’m buying. He’s paying.
Wimpy: [Wimpy is serving as referee in a boxing match between Oxblood Oxheart and Castor Oyl] Gentlemen, you know the rules – there *are* no rules. This is a fight to the finish. The first man who’s dead loses.
Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves (1937)
Radio: Attention everybody! Alarm! Abu Hassan the bandit has escaped, last seen headed thataway!
Radio: [a finger popping out] Thataway!
[steals Wimpy’s hamburger]
Popeye: Whoa! Man the arms!
[starts a seaplane]
Wimpy: Popeye, Olive Oyl has collapsed completely!
Popeye: Whoa! Come on, keep your back up tight, Olive!
[makes Olive walk on fours like a camel]
[in the desert, Wimpy sees a table laden with… ]
[rushes forwards, but it disappears]
Wimpy: Oh, what a disappointment.
Popeye: Oh, Wimpy… would you care to join us, young fella? You know, that’s just one of them invisible garages that you can’t see on the desert, that’s all.
[Wimpy is unknowingly robbed of sausages, twice]
Wimpy: What, another illusion? I can’t understand it…
Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor (1936)
[a duck pops up on Sindbad’s island]
Wimpy: Ooh, luncheon!
[follows the duck with a meat grinder]
[Wimpy chases a duck but it escapes him]
Wimpy: Fowled again… I must resort to my last hamburger.
[which is stolen by the duck]
“Popeye the Sailor: Hamburger Fishing (#1.99)” (1960)
Popeye: Drops that cow! You oughts to be kind to dumb aminals.
Wimpy: I would make very kind hamburgers, sir.
Wimpy: The kind sailor gave me this spinach to make spinach burgers. Moo!
“Popeye the Sailor: Little Olive Riding Hood (#1.71)” (1960)
Wimpy: Sir, have you seen any hamburgers go by?
What — No Spinach? (1936)
Wimpy: [singing] There’s nothing in the world that can compare / With a hamburger, juicy and rare. / A hamburger lives for the pleasure it gives; / It’s a thrill on the bill of fare. / Such heavenly food deserves the best: / A home and contentment beneath my vest. / There’s nothing in the world that’s so divine / As a hamburger, tender and fine – / I adore you, hamburger mine!
“Popeye the Sailor: Popeye and the Giant (#1.83)” (1960)
Wimpy: I’d gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.
I Yam What I Yam (1933)
Wimpy: Come on in for a duck dinner. You bring the ducks.