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Arte Johnson

Johnson at the premiere of The Rose, November 1979
Born Arthur Stanton Eric Johnson
January 20, 1929 (1929-01-20) (age 80)
Benton Harbor, Michigan, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1954–2005

Arthur Stanton Eric "Arte" Johnson (born January 20, 1929) is an American comic actor. Johnson was a regular on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. His best-remembered "character" was that of a German soldier with the catchphrase: "Very interesting, but... ["stupid", "not very funny", and other variations].




Early life

Johnson was born in Benton Harbor, Michigan, the son of Edythe Mackenzie (née Golden) and Abraham Lincoln Johnson, an attorney.[1] He attended the University of Illinois, graduating in 1949 after working on the campus radio station and the U of I Theater Guild with his brother, Cos.

He initially sought employment in Chicago working for advertising agencies but left for New York to work for Viking Press. His first "show business" job came when he impulsively stepped into an audition line and was cast in a revival of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Before his big breakthrough in Laugh-In, he appeared in the satirical film The President's Analyst, putting in a comically chilling performance as a federal agent with a blindly obedient 'orders are orders' mentality.

In 1958, Johnson joined the cast of the short-lived NBC sitcom, Sally, starring Joan Caulfield. He played Bascomb Bleacher Jr., the son of a co-owner of a department store, portrayed by Gale Gordon.


Johnson is best known for his work on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, an American television show (1968–1973), on which he played various characters including "Wolfgang", a smoking World War II German soldier scouting the show from behind a bush (still fighting the war !) , invariably commenting on the preceding sketch with the catch phrase "Very interesting ..." followed by either a comic observation or misinterpretation, or simply "but stupid!" Johnson indicated later that the phrase came from Desperate Journey, a 1942 World War II film with Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan playing Royal Air Force pilots shot down in Nazi Germany; they managed to cross much of the country without speaking German or knowing the territory but, when captured, their Nazi interrogator doubts their story with the phrase.[2] Johnson reprised the role while voicing the Nazi-inspired character Virman Vunderbarr on an episode of Justice League Unlimited.

His other iconic Laugh-In character was "Tyrone F. Horneigh" (the last name pronounced "horn-eye" – a "clean" variant of the vulgar term "horny"), the white-haired, trenchcoat-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 two related 'leading questions,' each earning him a hard whack from a shocked Gladys using her purse. His third statement would be an appeal for medical assistance, at which time he would fall off the bench. Some examples:

  • Tyrone: "You want to go to my place, and see where I sleep?" [WHACK!]
  • Tyrone: "You want to go to your place, and see where you sleep?" [WHACK!]
  • Tyrone: "You mind if I go to sleep right here?" [moans and falls off bench]
  • Tyrone: "You want to play Post Office?" [WHACK!]
  • Tyrone: "You want to play Spin the Bottle?" [WHACK!]
  • Tyrone: "You want to play Doctor?" [moans and falls off bench]

Two 'non-medical' examples:

  • Tyrone: "You want to play moongotcha?
  • Gladys: "What's 'moongotcha'?"
  • Tyrone: [Pointing upwards] "See the moon?" [While Gladys is looking up, he grabs her knee] "GOTCHA!" [WHACK! WHACK! WHACK!]
  • Tyrone asks, "Do you believe in the hereafter?"
  • Gladys says, "Of course I do!"
  • Pleased, Tyrone exclaims, "Then you know what I'm here after!"
  • Tyrone F. Horneigh: Would you like to go to a play? [WHACK!]
  • Tyrone F. Horneigh: Would you like to go to a concert? [WHACK!]
  • Tyrone F. Horneigh: Would you like to go to a funeral?

[falls off the park bench]

  • Tyrone F. Horneigh: Do you believe in love at first sight? [WHACK!]
  • Tyrone F. Horneigh: Do you believe in two hearts intertwining to

become one? [WHACK!]

  • Tyrone F. Horneigh: Do you believe in mouth-to-mouth

resuscitation? [He falls over]

  • Tyrone F. Horneigh: Hey, are you doing anything right now? [WHACK!]
  • Tyrone F. Horneigh: Are you doing anything tonight? [WHACK!]
  • Tyrone F. Horneigh: Are you doing anything tomorrow night? [WHACK!]
  • Tyrone F. Horneigh: Well, I'll come back and see you sometime

when you're not so busy.

  • Tyrone F. Horneigh: Would you like to call me Cutie? [WHACK!]
  • Tyrone F. Horneigh: Would you like to call me Sweetie? [WHACK!]
  • Tyrone F. Horneigh: Would you like to call me an ambulance?

[falls off the park bench]

  • Tyrone F. Horneigh: Would you call my face ruggedly handsome? [WHACK!]
  • Tyrone F. Horneigh: Would you call my body sensuously attractive? [WHACK!]
  • Tyrone F. Horneigh: Would you call my next of kin?

[falls off the park bench]

Referring to an only moderately popular candy made from caramel and walnuts, Tyrone would also frequently ask Gladys, "Want a Walnetto?"

The character of Tyrone is also thought to be part of the inspiration for the gravelly voice used in the song, "Gimme Dat Ding" by the Pipkins.

Years after Laugh-In ended its run, the two characters were made into an animated Saturday-morning children's show, Baggy Pants & The Nitwits with Tyrone as a helpful, muttering 'superhero.'[3]

Arte and his brother, Cos, earned their Emmy Awards while working on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In.

Later work

In 1974, Johnson appeared in the first season of the Detroit-produced children's show Hot Fudge.

In 1976, he 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 "HEEGotcha!" or "Gotcha!" at unsuspecting folks on The Pink Panther Laugh and a Half Hour and a Half Show.[4] He also voiced the character Rhubarb on The Houndcats.

Later in 1977, he hosted the NBC game show Knockout. Instead of being introduced by the announcer (John Harlan), he would always start the show with a small monologue, then would introduce today's contestants.

In 1979 he played Renfield, the comic sidekick of George Hamilton's Dracula, in the surprise box office smash 'Love At First Bite'.

In 1985 he played "Uncle Buckle-Up" in an episode of The A-Team.

In 1985, he played a disgruntled "Firm" employee denied severance pay in an episide of Airwolf

In 1990 Johnson appeared in an episode of Night Court.[5]

In the 1990s Johnson voiced "Newt", a hunting dog on the cartoon Animaniacs, who futilely became enamored of his target, a sexy female mink named Minerva.

Arte has performed some memorable audiobook readings, including Gary Shteyngart's Absurdistan (2006) and more than 80 other books.

In 2005, he appeared in an episode of Justice League Unlimited as the voice of Virman Vundabar.


External links


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