Stefán Karl Stefánsson, star of Lazy Town, has died aged 43 after an ongoing battle with pancreatic cancer.
The Icelandic actor and anti-bullying activist, who brought joy to many young people through his charismatic performances, was diagnosed with bile-duct cancer in September 2016.
You can watch Stefán Karl at his finest, as Robbie Rotten in Lazy Town, below:
His family have announced Stefánsson passed away due to his illness, which had advanced to a stage four cancer.
Stefánsson had seemed to be recovering after having his metastases removed in 2017, but revealed in March 2018 his cancer had returned and was inoperable.
Before his death, he tweeted this poignant message:
It’s not until they tell you you’re going to die soon that you realize how short life is. Time is the most valuable thing in life because it never comes back. And whether you spend it in the arms of a loved one or alone in a prison-cell, life is what you make of it. Dream big.
— Stefankarl (@stefanssonkarl) March 10, 2018
Unfortunately it's back and this time they can't operate on it. :-(
— Stefankarl (@stefanssonkarl) March 13, 2018
Stefánsson has received thousands of supportive messages from fans of his work online, who have immortalised him in meme history as well as in their hearts.
Roughly 10,700,000 We Are Number One memes have been published on YouTube in the last year, Stefánsson said, thanking fans for the ‘crazy’ response, adding ‘you make me laugh so hard’.
Stefán became a stalwart of Icelandic children’s programming for his role in Lazy Town, a colourful musical comedy designed to encourage young people in leading healthy and fulfilling lifestyles.
Robbie Rotten was expertly portrayed by Stefánsson as the antithesis of Lazy Town‘s superhero, Sportacus, who was on a one-man mission to help the townsfolk get fit and active.
The musical comedy, which is based on a 1991 children’s book titled Áfram Latibær! was created by Magnús Scheving, who also starred in the show as Sportacus, alongside Stefánsson.
Julianna Rose Mauriello, and later Chloe Lang, played the pink-haired sidekick Stefanie. Commissioned by Nickelodeon, and dubbed into over 30 languages, Lazy Town has aired in 180 countries, spreading its important message far and wide through the medium of sing-song.
Stefán and his alter ego, Robbie, earned his place in mainstream popular culture when he was immortalised in a hugely popular meme, ‘We Are Number One’.
Such was Stefán’s popularity online, that he and his ditty won the accolade of Meme Of The Year. The good people of Reddit even dedicated an entire SubReddit to Robbie.
You can see why for yourself below:
Stefán also appeared in a number of other children’s programmes and did voiceover work for Hollywood blockbusters such as Night at the Museum and Thor.
After news broke of his diagnosis, which was described as having ‘no apparent cure’, a JustGiving page was set up to support Stefánsson and his family through a year of expensive medical treatment, which forced the actor to stop working.
Fans and fellow actors alike have rallied to raise $150,000 to pay for his year of treatment, after friend Mark Valeti organised the fundraising efforts on the charitable online platform.
Despite the best efforts of his excellent Icelandic medical team, and Stefan’s personal heroism, there is no apparent cure. There are always experimental processes, and they will be woven into the fabric of Stefan’s care if at all possible.
Almost 10,000 contributors have donated close to the full target, at the time of writing, and the money will go to ease the financial burden on Stefán’s family, supporting them through their tragic loss.
Stefánsson himself thanked donors on his Facebook page before he died, writing:
Love and humility are unusual and so helpful through it all. I’m moved and very grateful.
His legacy is an inspired generation of creative children and hours of joy:
Stefán leaves behind a wife, Steinunn Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir, and their four children.
Our thoughts are with family, friends and fans at this difficult time.