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Arthur Stanton Eric Johnson (January 20, 1929 – July 3, 2019) was an American comic actor who was a regular on television's Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In — where he played characters including a German soldier with the catchphrase "verrrry interesting...", and an old man who habitually propositioned Ruth Buzzi's spinster character.

Arte Johnson
Arte Johnson (255844538) cropped.jpg
Johnson at the premiere of Seems Like Old Times in December 1980
Born
Arthur Stanton Eric Johnson

(1929-01-20)January 20, 1929
DiedJuly 3, 2019(2019-07-03) (aged 90)
ResidenceSouthern California
Alma materUniversity of Illinois (B.A., 1949)
OccupationActor
Years active1954–2006
Spouse(s)
Gisela Johnson (m. 1968)

BiographyEdit

Early lifeEdit

Johnson was born January 20, 1929, in Benton Harbor, Michigan, the son of Abraham Lincoln and Edythe Mackenzie (Goldberg/Golden) Johnson. His father was an attorney.[1][2] Johnson attended the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, where he worked at the campus radio station and the UI Theater Guild with his brother Coslough "Cos" Johnson, and graduated in 1949.[citation needed]

He sought employment in Chicago advertising agencies but was unsuccessful and left for New York City to work for Viking Press. In early 1954, Johnson performed in several New York nightclubs, including Le Ruban Bleu and the Village Vanguard.[3] His first job in show business came when he impulsively stepped into an audition line and was cast in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Johnson appeared in Ben Bagley's The Shoestring Revue, which opened off-Broadway on February 28, 1955, at the President Theater in New York.[citation needed]

Early television and film rolesEdit

Johnson appeared three times in the 1955–1956 CBS sitcom It's Always Jan, starring Janis Paige and Merry Anders. In 1958, he joined the cast of the short-lived NBC sitcom Sally, starring Joan Caulfield. On that program he played Bascomb Bleacher, Jr., the son of a co-owner of a department store, portrayed by Gale Gordon. He played Ariel Lavalerra in the 1960 film The Subterraneans, an adaptation of Jack Kerouac's 1958 novel of the same name. In 1960 and 1961, he appeared in three episodes of Jackie Cooper's military sitcom/drama series, Hennesey, also on CBS. In Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he played Mr. Bates in the episode "A Secret Life" (1962). He was cast in an episode of Frank Aletter's sitcom, Bringing Up Buddy. He also appeared in an episode of The Twilight Zone, ("The Whole Truth", 1961) as an underpaid car salesman who punches dishonest used car lot owner Jack Carson. Before his big breakthrough in Laugh-In, Johnson was cast for a guest role as Corporal Coogan in the anthology series, GE True ("The Handmade Private", 1962), hosted by Jack Webb. He played a bumbling navy cameraman on an episode of McHale's Navy in the first season and The Andy Griffith Show as a hotel clerk in the episode "Andy and Barney in the Big City" (also 1962).

Johnson appeared in a comedic role as Charlie, a boom-microphone operator who demonstrates to Jack Benny how to tell a joke properly, on The Jack Benny Program that aired on October 2, 1964. The joke performed in the sketch was the "ugly baby" story, later associated with Flip Wilson. He made a guest appearance on ABC's sitcom, Bewitched as Samantha's (Elizabeth Montgomery) Cousin Edgar in the final episode of the initial season, airing on June 2, 1965. A mute elf, Edgar is initially sent to observe and undermine Samantha's marriage to the non-witch/non-warlock, Darrin---all with the blessing of Endora (Agnes Moorehead). Once he sees how happily married Samantha and Darrin Stephens (Dick York) are, however, Edgar reverses his mischief and gives his (albeit quiet) blessing to their still-new marriage. Furthermore, Edgar uses his magic to help win a shoe company account for Darrin's employers.

Johnson appeared in one of the final episodes of ABC's The Donna Reed Show in 1966. He was cast in the satirical James Coburn film The President's Analyst (1967), in which he gave a comically chilling performance as a federal agent with a blindly obedient "orders are orders" mentality. He acted in the Season 3 episode of Lost in Space, "Princess of Space" (1968). Johnson played the traitorous robot space pirate Fedor helping the machines to win the war.

Johnson also starred in an episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery titled "The Flip-Side of Satan" (1971), playing ruthless disk jockey J.J. Wilson, who is forced to confront his past transgressions.

Laugh-InEdit

Johnson is best known for his work on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In from 1968 to 1973, on which he played many characters, including "Wolfgang", a cigarette-smoking German soldier who believed that World War II was still ongoing, as he scouted the show while hidden behind bushes. He would then invariably comment on the preceding sketch with the catchphrase "Very interesting ...", which Johnson claimed was inspired by a Nazi character who spoke the line during an interrogation scene in the film Desperate Journey (1942).[4] Often toward the show's close, he (as the Nazi) would offer words of affection to "Lucy and Gary" (Lucille Ball and her second husband, Gary Morton). The Lucy Show on CBS was in direct competition with NBC's Laugh-In on Monday night.[citation needed] Johnson reprised the role briefly on Sesame Street in the early 1970s[5] and while voicing the Nazi-inspired character Virman Vundabar on an episode of Justice League Unlimited.[6]

 
Johnson as "Tyrone F. Horneigh" approaching Lucille Ball in a sketch on The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour (1971)

His other prominent Laugh-In character was "Tyrone F. Horneigh" (pronounced "horn-eye," a "clean" variant of the vulgar term "horny"), the white-haired, trench coat-wearing "dirty old man" who repeatedly sought to seduce "Gladys Ormphby", (Ruth Buzzi's brown-clad "spinster" character) on a park bench. Tyrone would enter the scene, muttering a song (usually "In the Merry, Merry Month of May"), and, spying Gladys on the bench, would sit next to her. He would ask her a question, and regardless of the answer, turn it into a double entendre. She would then start hitting him with her purse and he would fall off the bench, sometimes with a plea for help.

To boost ratings in the third season, Tyrone successfully courted Gladys which led to an on-air wedding on the March 16, 1970 episode during the spring ratings sweep. Tiny Tim played best man, with Carol Channing as the bridesmaid and Henry Gibson officiating.[citation needed] (This event is included on the DVD recording of the episode. Both the bride-to-be and groom-to-be walk out of the church just before the wedding vows were to be said.)

Years after Laugh-In ended, the two characters were made into an animated Saturday-morning children's show, Baggy Pants and the Nitwits with Tyrone as a helpful, muttering "superhero".

Johnson and his brother Coslough earned Emmy Awards while working on Laugh-In.[7][8]

Later workEdit

Johnson guest-starred in two episodes of The Partridge Family ("My Heart Belongs to a Two Car Garage" and "For Whom the Bell Tolls... and Tolls... and Tolls") and the situation comedy A Touch of Grace (1973). He appeared in the first season of the Detroit-produced children's show Hot Fudge (1974) and, for one week, as a celebrity guest panelist on the game show Match Game. In the late 1970s, he was a semi-regular celebrity guest panelist on The Gong Show.

In 1976, he played the animated cartoon character Misterjaw, a blue, German-accented shark (with a bow tie and top hat), who liked to leap out of the water and shout "HEEGotcha!" or "Gotcha!" at unsuspecting folks on The Pink Panther Laugh-and-a-Half Hour-and-a-Half Show. He also voiced the character "Rhubarb" on The Houndcats and appeared as a guest on Canadian TV show Celebrity Cooks (1976) with host Bruno Gerussi. Johnson appeared on an episode of the NBC daytime version of Wheel of Fortune in September 1977, as a substitute letter-turner, both to fill-in for an injured Susan Stafford, and to promote his short-lived NBC game show Knockout, which aired through early 1978. Instead of being introduced by the show's announcer, he would start the show with a small monologue, then the announcer would introduce the day's contestants. He was cast as Renfield, the comic sidekick of George Hamilton's Dracula in the surprise hit, Love At First Bite (1979) and appeared in the all-star television disaster movie Condominium (1980). He voiced "Weerd" in The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo (1985), and played a disgruntled employee denied severance pay in an episode of Airwolf. He also voiced several other characters: Dr. Ludwig Von Strangebuck and Count Ray on two episodes of Ducktales; Devil Smurf on The Smurfs; Top Cat and Lou on Yo Yogi!; and Newt on Animaniacs.

Johnson guest-starred in the Murder, She Wrote episode, "No Laughing Murder" (1987). His character, Phil Rinker, is a guest at a wedding engagement party for the children of a legendary, but bitterly estranged, comedy team, Mack & Murray (played by Buddy Hackett and Steve Lawrence and based loosely on the genuine Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis split). After discovering that their ongoing dispute is a result of the theft of a video deal's residuals, Johnson's character is murdered but the death is made to look like a suicide.[9] Johnson appeared in an episode of Night Court (1990).

From 1991 to 1992 Johnson appeared in multiple episodes of General Hospital as Finian O'Toole. He played the old laboratory head of a team of scientists working on a serum of youth in Second Chance (1996).

He performed more than 80 audiobook readings, including Gary Shteyngart's Absurdistan (2006) and Carl Hiaasen's Bad Monkey. He appeared in the Justice League Unlimited episode "The Ties That Bind" (2005) as the voice of Virman Vundabar.

Johnson retired from acting in 2006.

Personal lifeEdit

Johnson lived in Southern California with his wife, Gisela. He was a non-Hodgkin lymphoma survivor, having been diagnosed and successfully treated in 1997. Johnson died on July 3, 2019, after being ill for three years with bladder and prostate cancer;[10] he was 90. His ashes were scattered off Hawaii.

FilmographyEdit

FilmEdit

TelevisionEdit

Year Title Role Notes
1954 Max Liebman Spectaculars Chuck Green Season 1, Episode 6: "Best Foot Forward"
1955-1956 It's Always Jan Stanley Schreiber 4 episodes
1956 The Danny Thomas Show Bob Martin Season 3, Episode 22: "Who Can Figure Kids?"
1958 Sally Bascomb Bleacher Jr. 7 episodes
1959 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars Wally Season 8, Episode 13: "Ivy League"
1960 The Red Skelton Show Joe / Census Taker 2 episodes
1960-1961 Hennesey Seaman Seymour Shatz 3 episodes
1961 The Twilight Zone Irv Season 2, Episode 14: "The Whole Truth"
1961 Westinghouse Playhouse Clerk Season 1, Episode 26: "Nan Suits Dan"
1961 Frontier Circus Charles Gippner Season 1, Episode 7: "Journey from Hannibal"
1961 87th Precinct Hotel Clerk Season 1, Episode 11: "The Very Hard Sell"
1962 The Bob Newhart Show Himself 1 episode
1962 Dr. Kildare Bud Fowler Season 1, Episode 19: "The Glory Hunter"
1962 The Andy Griffith Show Hotel Clerk Season 2, Episode 25: "Andy and Barney in the Big City"
1962 GE True Cpl. Coogan Season 1, Episode 6: "The Handmade Private"
1962-1963 Don't Call Me Charlie Cpl. Lefkowitz 18 episodes
1963 McHale's Navy Sweeney Season 1, Episode 30: "Camera, Action, Panic"
1964 The Greatest Show on Earth Mario Season 1, Episode 20: "Man in a Hole"
1964 Destry Lester Season 1, Episode 8: "Deputy for a Day"
1964 The Jack Benny Program Charlie Season 15, Episode 2: "The Lucille Ball Show"
1964 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Beatnik / Chip Broadwater 2 episodes
1964 Many Happy Returns Virgil Slamm Season 1, Episode 9: "Krockmeyer on Avon"
1965 Broadside Charlie Season 1, Episode 16: "The Stowawaves"
1965 The Cara Williams Show Fenwick Jr. Season 1, Episode 25: "Fletcher Succedes in Business Without Really Trying"
1965 Bewitched Cousin Edgar Season 1, Episode 36: "Cousin Edgar"
1966 The Dick Van Dyke Show Bill Schermerhorn Season 5, Episode 16: "I Do Not Choose to Run"
1966 The Donna Reed Show Crandall Season 8, Episode 23: "Is There a Small Hotel?"
1966 The Pruitts of Southampton Ahmed Season 1, Episode 9: "Phyllis Entertains Royalty"
1967-1971 Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In Himself 93 episodes
1968 The Joey Bishop Show Himself 2 episodes
1968 Lost in Space Fedor Season 3, Episode 17: "Princess of Space"
1968 The Legend of Robin Hood Much 1 episode
1968-1980 Hollywood Squares Himself 99 episodes
1969 I Dream of Jeannie Himself Season 4, Episode 19: "The Biggest Star in Hollywood"
1969 The Pink Panther Show Misterjaw (voice)
1969-1970 The Andy Williams Show Himself 4 episodes
1969-1977 Storybook Squares Wolfgang the Nazi / Beethoven 46 episodes
1970 Sesame Street German Soldier (Wolfgang) 1 episode
1970-1972 The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour Himself 4 episodes
1970-1972 The David Frost Show Himself 5 episodes
1970-1974 The Dean Martin Show Himself 4 episodes
1971 Night Gallery J.J. Wilson Season 2, Episode 3: "Since Aunt Ada Came to Stay/With Apologies to Mr. Hyde/The Flip-Side of Satan"
1971-1976 The Mike Douglas Show Himself 11 episodes
1972 The Houndcats Rhubarb 13 episodes
1972-1973 The Partridge Family Morris Tinkler / Nicholas Minsky Pushkin 2 episodes
1972-1975 Celebrity Bowling Himself 4 episodes
1973 The Bob Hope Show Himself 1 episode
1973 A Touch of Grace Charlie Season 1, Episode 9: "The Lodge"
1974 Here's Lucy Sir Osbird Beechman Place Season 6, Episode 15: "Lucy Is a Bird-Sitter"
1974 Salty Chuck Season 1, Episode 16: "Scape Goat"
1974-1976 Dinah! Himself 8 episodes
1974-1978 Match Game Himself 15 episodes
1975 Get Christie Love! Morton Perkins Season 1, Episode 16: "Murder on High C"
1975 The Rookies Justin Season 3, Episode 20: "S.W.A.T."
1975-1976 Tattletales Himself 10 episodes
1975-1977 The Bobby Vinton Show Himself 12 episodes
1975-1979 The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson Himself 6 episodes
1976 The Merv Griffin Show Himself 1 episode
1976 Celebrity Sweepstakes Himself 4 episodes
1976 Jigsaw John Daltry Thomas Season 1, Episode 3: "Too Much, Too Soon"
1977 Baggy Pants and the Nitwits Tyrone 13 episodes
1977-1987 The Love Boat Various characters 8 episodes
1978 Kojak Billy Butler Season 5, Episode 20: "Photo Must Credit Joe Paxton"
1978-1981 Fantasy Island Ned Plummer / Fred Catlett / Professor Dwayne Clebe / Edgar Breen 4 episodes
1979 The Dukes of Hazzard Irving Season 1, Episode 13: "Double Sting"
1980-1981 CBS Library Various characters 2 episodes
1982 The Magical World of Disney Theodore Oglivie Season 28, Episode 14: "Tales of the Apple Dumpling Gang"
1983 Fame Cliff Armbruster Season 2, Episode 14: "Star Quality"
1983 Pac-Man Additional Voices Season 2, Episode 1: "Here's Super-Pac!/Hey, Hey, Hey... It's P.J."
1983 The Dukes Additional voices 7 episodes
1983 Hotel Eddie Season 1, Episode 10: "The Offer"
1983-1988 The Smurfs Devil Smurf 9 episodes
1984 Trapper John, M.D. Dr. Augustus Bunche Season 5, Episode 13: "Play Your Hunch"
1984-1985 Glitter Clive Richlin 14 episodes
1985 Airwolf Larry Mason Season 2, Episode 20: "Severance Pay"
1985 The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo Weerd 13 episodes
1985 The A-Team Sydney / Uncle Buckle-Up Season 4, Episode 12: "Uncle Buckle-Up"
1986 Foofur Additional voices 3 episodes
1986-1988 The Flintstone Kids Additional Voices 34 episodes
1986 The New Mike Hammer Oscar Season 3, Episode 8: "Murder in the Cards"
1987 Murder, She Wrote Phil Rinker Season 3, Episode 18: "No Laughing Murder"
1987 DuckTales Count Ray / Dr. Ludwig von Strangeduck 2 episodes
1987-1988 Snorks Additional Voices 2 episodes
1988-1989 Fantastic Max Additional Voices 3 episodes
1989 The Further Adventures of SuperTed Hummingbird Season 1, Episode 2: "Dot's Entertainment"
1990 Night Court Gregor Korolenko Season 7, Episode 19: "The Glasnost Menagerie"
1990 Adam-12 Preacher Season 1, Episode 2: "Kid Kop"
1990-1992 Tom & Jerry Kids Voice 2 episodes
1991 Pros and Cons Landers Season 1, Episode 4: "It's the Pictures That Got Small"
1991 Yo Yogi! Lou / Top Cat 9 episodes
1992 Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures Albert Einstein Season 1, Episode 7: "A Stand Up Guy"
1993 Parker Lewis Can't Lose Hotel Desk Clerk Season 3, Episode 18: "A Night to Remember"
1993 Café Americain Pascal Season 1, Episode 6: "Every Picture Tells a Story... Don't It?"
1994 SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron Pop Perkins Season 2, Episode 2: "A Bright and Shiny Future"
1994-1997 Animaniacs Newt / Delivery Guy / German Dog 3 episodes
1996 Mad About You Arte Johnson Season 4, Episode 12: "Dream Weaver"
1997 Adventures from the Book of Virtues John's Please Season 1, Episode 9: "Respect"
1998 The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries Tommy Tettrazinne Season 4, Episode 5: "Casino Evil/Happy Bathday to You"
2005 Justice League Unlimited Virman Vundabar Season 2, Episode 2: "The Ties That Bind"

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Arte Johnson biography". filmreference.com. Retrieved February 14, 2016.
  2. ^ Slotnik, Daniel E. (July 3, 2019). "Arte Johnson, 'Very Interesting' Comic Actor, Is Dead at 90". The New York Times. Retrieved July 5, 2019.
  3. ^ Weekly Variety, Jan. 20, 1954; April 7, 1954.
  4. ^ "'Old Faces of 2002': Peter Marshall and Arte Johnson". USA Today. April 5, 2002. Retrieved April 25, 2010.
  5. ^ Classic Sesame Street - Arte Johnson talks about the letter Q, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZrpfckBVJ0
  6. ^ "Berlin Correspondent (1942)". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 5, 2012. Retrieved October 12, 2011.
  7. ^ "Arte Johnson / Television Academy". Emmys.com. Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
  8. ^ "Coslough Johnson / Television Academy". Emmys.com. Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
  9. ^ Murder, She Wrote episode "No Laughing Murder" on IMDb
  10. ^ Barnes, Mike; Byrge, Duane (July 3, 2019). "Arte Johnson, Master of Manic Characters on 'Laugh-In,' Dies at 90". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 3, 2019.

External linksEdit