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Arte Johnson
Arte Johnson
Credits
Role Cousin Edgar
Biographical Information
Full Name Arthur Stanton Eric Johnson
Birthdate January 20, 1929
Birthplace Benton Harbor, Michigan, United States
Death Date July 3, 2019 (age 90)
Death Place Los Angeles, California, United States[1]
Series Affiliations Coslough Johnson (twin brother)

Arte Johnson played Samantha's Cousin Edgar in the first season episode, "Cousin Edgar" (1965).

Biography[]

Early Life[]

Arthur Stanton Eric Johnson was born on January 20, 1929, in Benton Harbor, Michigan. His father was a lawyer, and Johnson spent most of his young years in Chicago. He entered Austin High School at age twelve and the University of Illinois at sixteen, where he graduated with a major in radio journalism.

After college, Johnson migrated to New York, where he wrote for a calendar company, and then served a stint in the Army. Back in New York, he landed a publicity job at Viking Press (he worked with John Steinbeck getting out the 1952 novel "East of Eden"), but was disenchanted with the publishing world.

Acting Career[]

During a walk during his lunch hour at Viking, he came upon an audition across the street from Carnegie Hall. He talked his way in, charmed songwriter Jule Styne and landed a part as a sixty-five year-old Frenchman in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes".

He followed that by replacing Roddy McDowall as bespectacled Army inductee Ben in Broadway's "No Time for Sergeants", then did a "Hamlet on skates" routine with Bea Arthur in the off-Broadway hit "Shoestring Revue". His knack for improv comedy also landed him nightclub gigs, and he exchanged material with Jonathan Winters.

Johnson came to Los Angeles in 1955 as a singer and appeared on such shows as It's Always Jan, Make Room for Daddy, Sally, The Twilight Zone, The Red Skelton Hour, The Andy Griffith Show and McHale's Navy and in the films Miracle in the Rain (1956), The Subterraneans (1960), The Third Day (1965) — as a neurotic killer — and The President's Analyst (1967). His versatile vocal creations led to work in scores of commercials over the years.

Producer George Schlatter was impressed with his humorous characterizations and impersonations and asked Johnson to try out for "Laugh-In", which debuted in September 1968. Johnson cracked up "Laugh-In" audiences with his portrayal of Wolfgang, a former German storm trooper who muttered "Verry interesting" to the most cracked proposals (or, "Verry interesting … but stupid"). He said he got the idea for the character while watching Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan battle the Nazis in the 1942 movie "Desperate Journey".

In the 1970s for NBC, Johnson headlined his own special, "Verry Interesting"; starred in the telefilm "Call Holme", a comedy mystery that utilized his propensity for disguises and accents; and served as master of ceremonies for the quiz show "Knockout".

Later, he played a magazine photographer on Aaron Spelling's "Glitter" and Yakov Smirnoff's father on NBC's "Night Court", used his vocal talents for audiobooks by Dave Barry and others and returned to Broadway to play several characters in a revival of "Candide" for Harold Prince.

Family[]

His twin brother, Coslough Johnson, was a comedy writer who worked on The Monkees, Laugh-In and The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour and on several cartoons - Arte voiced characters in some of those. He married Gisela Johnson in 1968.

Death[]

On July 3, 2019, Arte Johnson died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles of heart failure following a three-year battle with bladder and prostate cancer. He was 90. He was survived by his wife, Gisella.[2]

References[]

  1. Arte Johnson on the Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on January 4, 2020.
  2. Barnes, Mike and Byrge, Duane. "Arte Johnson, Master of Manic Characters on 'Laugh-In,' Dies at 90", obituary, The Hollywood Reporter, July 3, 2019. Retrieved on January 4, 2020.
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