Comedian and actor Arte Johnson, Emmy-winning star of 1960s and ’70s comedy sketch show “Laugh-In,” died July 3 in Los Angeles of heart failure. He was 90 and had been battling bladder and prostate cancer.
On “Laugh-In,” he was most familiar as Wolfgang, the heavily accented German soldier who thought World War II was still going on. His catchphrase “Very interesting…” was one of many that caught on from the hit show. Johnson won one Emmy for the show and was nominated two more times.
Appearing on the NBC series for its full run from 1968 to 1973, his other well-known character was as the dirty old man Tyrone F. Horneigh who sat down on a park bench and made off-color remarks to Ruth Buzzi. In a 1970 episode, the two were set to be married appeared in a wedding scene with Tiny Tim as best man. Thought the character probably wouldn’t have worked in modern times, he and Buzzi reprised their characters in the 1977 cartoon series “Baggy Pants and the Nitwits.”
Born in Benton Harbor, Mich., he started out performing in New York nightclubs and was then cast in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” onstage. Moving into television, he appeared in early series including “Sally” and “Hennessy,” as well as in the “Twilight Zone” episode “The Whole Truth” as a car salesman who punches a used car lot owner.
His other TV appearances during the 1960s and ’70s included “Bewitched,” “Lost in Space,” “The Partridge Family” and “The Donna Reed Show.”
While the bulk of Johnson’s roles were on television, his film roles included the Gore Vidal character in Jack Kerouac’s “The Subterraneans,” as a federal agent in “The President’s Analyst,” as Dracula’s comic sidekick in “Love at First Bite.”
Later in his career, he made numerous gameshow appearances on “The Match Game,” “Wheel of Fortune” and “The Gong Show,” guested on “Murder She Wrote” and “Night Court” as well as on “General Hospital.”
Johnson also did extensive voice work for cartoons including “Justice League Unlimited,” “The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo,” “DuckTales” and “Animaniacs,” and later narrated numerous audiobooks.
He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Gisela, and his brother, Coslogh, TV writer on “Laugh-In” and many other shows. Donations maybe be made to Actors & Others for Animals, Best Friends and/or to cancer research.