Percy Dovetonsils is a fictional character created and played by television comedian Ernie Kovacs. It is probably the best remembered of Kovacs' many TV incarnations. Percy was always introduced with a sweeping flourish of harp music as a "poet laureate" who appeared onscreen as a bizarre effeminate "artiste" with weirdly slicked hair (including two carefully placed spit-curls on his forehead) and extraordinarily thick eyeglasses that appeared to have eyes painted on the backsides of the lenses. He would appear seated in a chair wearing a zebra-patterned smoking jacket, and reading from an oversize book lying open in his lap. Percy would address the audience in a syrupy lisp and read his poems out of the book while sipping from a martini glass (which often had a daisy for a swizzle stick) and/or smoking through a long cigarette holder.
The poems themselves were corny or silly, with titles like "Leslie the Mean Animal Trainer" and "Ode to a Housefly (Philosophical Ruminations on a Beastie in the Booze)." While clever, the real humor of the poems lay in the delivery, Percy's appearance and mannerisms, and his obvious self-satisfaction with his creations (as evidenced by a pursed-lip smile and a quiver of the head at the end of significant stanzas).
The character has characteristics of the stereotype of homosexuals common in the 1950s and early 1960s. In one segment, he looks up abruptly from his book and says "That cameraman has the motht muthcular legth..." It was probably a Kovacs ad-lib, if one can judge from the off-camera laughter and the momentary shaking of the camera. In one of his poems, about a cowboy, one of the lines was "Are you really a gay caballero?" The term "gay" in that sense was not often heard on television at that time.
Percy would sometimes talk to the off-camera crew (who were frequently heard laughing at Kovacs' ad-libs), or to his unseen "friend," Bruce. The lisping of both names helped reinforce the supposedly effeminate nature of those two names, a fact which George Carlin would later sometimes reference when discussing gay issues.
Although a stereotype (and one which would be considered politically incorrect today), it was clear from his characterization that Percy was thoroughly comfortable with himself.
Kovacs created the character for his program Three to Get Ready on WPTZ in Philadelphia (the station that is now KYW-TV). The prop glasses he used were discovered by his associate Andy McKay at a novelty store. Kovacs was inspired by the TV poetry readings of Ted Malone.