He was internationally known for writing, directing, and starring in the Chespirito (1970-1973, 1980-1995), El Chavo del Ocho (1973-1980), and El Chapulín Colorado (1973-1979) television series. The character of El Chavo is one of the most iconic in the history of Latin American television, and El Chavo del Ocho continues to be immensely popular, with daily worldwide viewership averaging 91 million viewers per episode.
He is also a nephew of late president Gustavo Díaz Ordaz since Chespirito's mother was the president's cousin.
Roberto Gómez Bolaños was born in Mexico City. His father, Francisco Gómez Linares (c. 1892 – 7 September 1935), was a painter and a cartoonist from the city of Guanajuato, Guanajuato, who died of a stroke at the age of 43. His mother, Elsa Bolaños Cacho (4 April 1902 – 22 December 1968), was a bilingual secretary (fluent in both Spanish and English) from the city of Oaxaca, the youngest child of Ramón Bolaños Cacho, a military doctor, and his Zacatecas-born wife, María Aguilar. Mexican President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz Bolaños was his first cousin once removed. He has an older brother, Francisco (1926-2010), a younger brother, Horacio Gómez Bolaños, who would portray the character Godínez in El Chavo del Ocho, and an even older half brother, product of one of his father's liaisons with another woman.
Before becoming an actor, Gómez was an amateur boxer. He studied engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), but did not graduate, as he admitted to having a misconception of what engineering actually did. He wrote a number of plays, and contributed dialogue for scripts of films and television shows in Mexico, as well as some character acting work before he became famous. His stage name, "Chespirito", was given to him by a producer during Gómez Bolaños' first years as a writer, and was concocted from the Spanish phonetic pronunciation of William Shakespeare — "Chespir" — combined with "ito," a diminutive commonly used in Mexican Spanish, ergo Shakespearito, meaning "Little Shakespeare".
Chespirito was discovered as an actor while he was waiting in line to apply for a job as a writer, and soon he began writing and starring in his children's comedy shows. Chespirito's first show was Los Supergenios de la Mesa Cuadrada, a sketch comedy show that premiered in 1968; the show also starred Ramón Valdés, María Antonieta de las Nieves and Rubén Aguirre. Los Supergenios was later renamed Chespirito y la Mesa Cuadrada, and later Chespirito; characters like El Chavo, El Chapulín and Dr. Chapatín were introduced in this show (1972, 1970 and 1968 respectively).