Why Rocky Rococo?
The people story.
Rocky Rococo is more than our namesake. He’s the character that catapulted our brand, bringing our pizza to life throughout the last 45 years we’ve been in business.
Rocky is firmly rooted in college culture. The name ‘Rocky Rococo’ comes from a character performed by a Los Angeles comedy troupe, Firesign Theater, which was enormously popular on college campuses when Roger Brown and Wayne Mosely founded the restaurant in 1974.
Rocky came to life first through the hand of Madison cartoon artist Dave Muldowney who, as a student at University of Wisconsin, walked into the Gilman Street location the year we opened and proclaimed “I know what Rocky looks like.”
As it turns out, he did. He drew Rocky and that pen and ink cartoon became the company’s logo. He went on to design what would become the Rocky Rococo mascot for decades to come.
That was just on paper before Jim Pedersen came to Madison and embodied him.
Pedersen, who died in 2016, played Rocky for 40 years. He trained as a comedian in Chicago where he worked at Second City with John Belushi and Bill Murray on stage.
Pederson took the character of Rocky beyond anything the founders ever imagined and defined our brand for generations of our customers. Pedersen had an unparalleled wit. He developed jingles, recorded songs and raps and hosted “Master Pizza Theater,” which aired in Madison through the 70’s and 80’s.
With his white jacket, round-rimmed sunglasses, fedora and Italian accent, Rocky was easily recognized around town as an engaging and friendly purveyor of our pizza. He became a “Madison icon” according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
“He was the public face of our business, he was the persona of it. A lot of people thought he was the founder, made pizzas and was the heart and soul of the business. He had a big impact on the business,” said Roger Brown, in a 2016 Wisconsin State Journal article.
His spirit lives on today through our pizza.