One of the stars of the original “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” which ran for six seasons on NBC from 1968-1973, has died. Arte Johnson, who was a regular for the show’s first four seasons, died Wednesday after a three-year battle with bladder and prostate cancer, according to media reports. He was 90.
His family said Johnson died of heart failure.
One of Johnson’s trademark characters on the series was “Wolfgang,” a cigarette-smoking German soldier who would emerge from the bushes to offer his observations on the show’s various skits, typically beginning with the catchphrase “Very interesting …” Johnson reportedly claimed the phrase was inspired by a Nazi character who spoke the line during an interrogation in the 1942 film “Desperate Journey.”
Johnson was also known for playing the “Laugh-In” character “Tyrone F. Horneigh,” a “dirty old man” who wore a trench coat and constantly made unsuccessful advances on Ruth Buzzi’s character on a park bench.
Johnson received an Emmy Award for his work on “Laugh-In” in 1969, and was nominated again in 1970 and 1971.
His extensive work on television went back to the mid-1950s, and continued long after “Laugh-In” went off the air. As recently as 2005 he was still doing voice work on shows including “Animaniacs,” “The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries” and “Justice League Unlimited.”
Early in his career Johnson appeared in guest roles on many TV series, including “The Twilight Zone,” “The Red Skelton Hour,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “Dr. Kildare,” “McHale’s Navy,” “Bewitched” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” He also had a regular role as Cpl. Lefkowitz on “Don’t Call Me Charlie” from 1962-1963.
Here’s a very brief clip of Johnson delivering his trademark line on “Laugh-In” …