Frank Potenza, a former New York City police officer who turned to comedy as “Uncle Frank” on his nephew Jimmy Kimmel’s latenight talkshow, died early Tuesday. He was 77.
A statement from ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” said Potenza was “beloved by his co-workers and considered an uncle to all.”
“His kindness and humor will be missed by everyone he touched,” the statement said. It did not include further details.
The show is on hiatus until Sept. 6, and ABC did not have any immediate information about an on-air tribute to Potenza.
Kimmel asked the silver-haired Potenza to join his fledgling show as a guard and cast member in 2003.
On “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” the uniformed Potenza was paired in comedy bits with Guillermo Rodriguez, a real-life parking lot security guard for the show. The two men also joined with Veatrice Rice, another show security guard, in a clueless discussion about news events. Rice died in 2009.
Potenza and his former wife, Conchetta “Chippy” Potenza, were sent by Kimmel on comic “adventures” such as working on a dairy farm and learning self-defense.
“Thank you for your kind words about a very kind man — my Uncle Frank — who passed away this morning,” Kimmel said in a Twitter posting.
A native of Brooklyn and a Korean War veteran, Potenza served as a police officer for 20 years before working as a guard in Las Vegas and at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. Then Kimmel asked him to move to Los Angeles to work with him.
Potenza is survived by his three daughters and a newborn granddaughter, according to the show’s statement.