He May Be the Creepiest and Kookiest Addams; The Uncle Fester Breakdown
From stand-in for the comic artist to modern explosion enthusiast, Uncle Fester is everybody’s favorite spooky uncle.
One of the three weirdest members of the Addams Family–Cousin Itt and Thing exists, after all–Uncle Fester is immediately recognizable, endlessly odd, and always delightful. But what’s his deal? What’s his history? And what makes him a key part of the creepiest and kookiest family that we all love to love?
Since the beginning, Uncle Fester has been a barrel-shaped, bald man with a hunch of varying severity. He has dark, sunken eyes and is often seen with a deranged smile. He’s likely modeled after a mix of the classic mad-scientist’s-assistant style character and the mad scientist’s monster, and in many ways, his personality and quirks match this theme entirely. But in many other aspects of his characterization, Uncle Fester is a complete departure from the trope.
The Addams uncle has a number of bizarre behaviors and habits. For example, his shower is always set to the custom, “scalding” setting, and he has a tendency to be magnetic and have metal objects stick to him. Uncle Fester also has an especially hard head, allowing things like cannonballs to bounce off of his head seemingly harmlessly and putting his head in a vice for fun. And of course, one of Uncle Fester’s most famous quirks is his ability to light bulbs in his mouth with nothing but the built-up electricity in his body. He claimed to possess 110 volts at one point.
Uncle Fester is also always portrayed as a doting and caring family member. Despite his odd behaviors and generally menacing look, Fester is always endlessly loving to Morticia and Gomez as well as his niece and nephews. Often he can be seen playing with the children. Even if “playing” in the Addams family looks a little more like crimes against humanity to most other families.
It is also unclear who Fester is related to. In some versions, he is Morticia’s uncle and the children’s great-uncle. In others, he is Gomez’s older brother.
The Comics, Television, & Movies
Fester originated in the 1938 Addams Family New Yorker comics by Charles Addams. Charles Addams later revealed that Fester was supposed to represent himself. The early comics were fairly light in plot and dialog, and Fester was an unnamed character until later in the family’s development.
In 1964 the original Addams Family sitcom brought the characters to television for the first time. In this series, Fester- played by Jackie Coogan- spent a short time not entirely sure which side of the family he came from, but eventually recalled his past as Morticia’s maternal uncle. Throughout these series, he had a series of normal sitcom plotlines and adventures.
Conversely, the Addams Family and Addams Family Values movies of the early 90s also feature a plot where he has forgotten his past. Only this time he later remembers being Gomez’s older brother. Also by this point, he was not only unopposed to being hurt but seemed to be completely unfazed or even enjoy being electrocuted or blown up.
Since then Fester has been played by Stubby Kaye, Christopher Lloyd, Rip Taylor, Patrick Thomas, Michael Roberds, Nick Kroll, and Devin Chamberlin on Broadway. He will be played by Fred Armisen in the upcoming series, Wednesday.
Did you know how many people have played Fester over the years? What is your favorite of his quirks or abilities? Which version of the Addams Family is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!