The character of Mr. Bean was first developed when Rowan Atkinson was studying for his MSc at Oxford University. A sketch featuring the character was being performed at the Edinburgh Fringe in the early 1980s. A similar character called Robert Box, played by Atkinson, appeared in the one-off 1979 ITV sitcom Canned Laughter, which also featured a routine used in the film version. In 1987, one of Mr. Bean's earliest appearances occurred at the "Just For Laughs" comedy festival in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. When program co-ordinators were scheduling Atkinson into the festival program, Atkinson insisted that he perform on the French-speaking bill rather than the English-speaking program. Having no French dialogue in his act at all, program co-ordinators could not understand why Atkinson wanted to perform on the French bill. As it turned out, Atkinson's act at the festival was a test platform for the Mr. Bean character and Atkinson wanted to see how the silent character's physical comedy would fare on an international stage with a non-English speaking audience.
The name of the character was not decided after the first programme had been produced, with a number of other vegetable-influenced names, such as Mr. Cauliflower, being explored. Rowan Atkinson has cited the earlier comedy character Monsieur Hulot, created by French comedian and director Jacques Tati, as an influence on the character of Mr. Bean. Stylistically, Mr. Bean is also very similar to early silent films, relying purely upon physical comedy, with Mr. Bean speaking very little dialogue. This has allowed the series to be sold worldwide without any significant changes to dialogue.