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

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

Arthur Stanton Eric Johnson (January 20, 1929 – July 3, 2019) was an American comic actor who was best known for his work as a regular on television's Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In.


Early life

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. 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 with a degree in radio journalism.[1]

Following brief military service in Korea (he was discharged due to a duodenal ulcer he had suffered since childhood),[2] 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. [1]

Early television and film roles

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. 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 titled "The Whole Truth" (1961). 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). 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). He was a member of the regular cast of the 1962–1963 situation comedy Don't Call Me Charlie!, portraying Corporal Lefkowitz. 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 first season, airing on June 2, 1965. Also in 1965, Johnson played a rare dramatic supporting role in the film The Third Day as Lester Aldrich, who turns out to be the downtrodden husband of the sleazy nymphomaniac Holly. 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 appeared in the Season 3 episode of Lost in Space titled "Princess of Space" (1968). Johnson also starred in an episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery titled "The Flip-Side of Satan" (1971).


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 oblivious to the fact that World War II was long over, as he skulked while hidden behind a potted plant. He would then invariably comment on a preceding gag 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 German) 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)
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] Alas, both bride-to-be and groom-to-be walk out of the church just before the wedding vows are spoken.

Years after Laugh-In ended, the two characters were the subject of 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 work

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. From 1976 to 1980, Johnson was a regular celebrity guest judge on The Gong Show.

In 1976, Johnson voiced 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 "YEEEEotcha!" ("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 film 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). He also 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 life

Johnson lived in Southern California with his wife, Gisela. He was a non-Hodgkin's 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;[9] he was 90. His ashes were scattered off Hawaii. Gisela Johnson survives him.



Year Title Role Notes
1954 Best Foot Forward Chuck TV movie
1956 Miracle in the Rain Monty
1959 The Wild and the Innocent Barker Uncredited
1960 The Subterraneans Arial Lavalerra
1965 The Third Day Lester Aldrich
1965 That Funny Feeling Paul
1967 The President's Analyst Sullivan
1968 P.J. Jackie
1971 Arnold's Closet Revue TV movie
1974 Twice in a Lifetime Ron Talley TV movie
1977 Charge of the Model T's Doc Bailey
1977 Once Upon a Brothers Grimm Selfish and Mean TV movie
1977 Bunco TV movie
1978 Bud and Lou Eddie Sherman TV movie
1979 Love At First Bite Renfield
1980 Condominium Introduction TV movie
1980 The Love Tapes Harlan Devane TV movie
1983 Making of a Male Model Marty Sampson
1984 Cannonball Run II Pilot
1985 What Comes Around Malone
1985 Alice in Wonderland The Dormouse
1987 Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers Farquard / Skull Ghost Voice, TV movie
1988 A Night at the Magic Castle Harry Houdini
1989 Tax Season Mr. Goldberg
1990 Evil Spirits Lester Potts
1992 Evil Toons Mr. Hinchlow
1992 Munchie Prof. Cruikshank
1995 Captiva Island Witherspoon
1995 Captiva Island Ernie
1998 The Modern Adventures of Tom Sawyer Grumpy Old Man (final film role)


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 Succeeds 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) Unknown episode/episodes
1969 Love, American Style Harvey Season 1, Episode 2: "Love and the Living Doll"
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 voices 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 Additional voices / Devil Smurf / Custodian of Avalon (voices) 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 (voice) 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 (voices) 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 Unknown voices 2 episodes
1991 Pros and Cons Landers Season 1, Episode 4: "It's the Pictures That Got Small"
1991 Yo Yogi! Lou / Top Cat (voices) 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 (voice) Season 2, Episode 2: "A Bright and Shiny Future"
1994-1997 Animaniacs Newt / Delivery Guy / German Dog (voices) 3 episodes
1996 Mad About You Arte Johnson Season 4, Episode 12: "Dream Weaver"
1997 Adventures from the Book of Virtues John's Please (voice) Season 1, Episode 9: "Respect"
1998 The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries Tommy Tettrazinne (voice) Season 4, Episode 5: "Casino Evil/Happy Bathday to You"
2005 Justice League Unlimited Virman Vundabar (voice) Season 2, Episode 2: "The Ties That Bind"


  1. ^ a b Slotnik, Daniel E. (July 3, 2019). "Arte Johnson, 'Very Interesting' Comic Actor, Is Dead at 90". The New York Times. Retrieved July 5, 2019.
  2. ^ "From Beautiful Downtown Burbank": A Critical History of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, 1968–1973. Erickson, Hal (2000). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, pg. 74, ISBN 978-0-7864-4049-8.
  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,
  6. ^ Hal Erickson (2012). "Berlin Correspondent (1942)". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Baseline & All Movie Guide. Archived from the original on November 5, 2012. Retrieved October 12, 2011.
  7. ^ "Arte Johnson / Television Academy". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
  8. ^ "Coslough Johnson / Television Academy". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
  9. ^ 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 links

This page was last edited on 26 October 2021, at 02:44
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