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  • Date of birth : 20/01/1929

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  • Johnson Arte

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Arte Johnson (1929)

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  Summary  

Arthur Stanton Eric "Arte" Johnson 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: "Verrrry interesting, but...'not very funny', and other variations".

  Biography  

 Early life
Johnson was born in Benton Harbor, Michigan, the son of Edythe Mackenzie (née Golden) and Abraham Lincoln Johnson, an attorney. 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, Coslough "Cos" Johnson.

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 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Johnson appeared in Ben Bagley's "The Shoestring Revue", which opened off-Broadway at the President Theater in New York on February 28, 1955, along with Beatrice Arthur, Dody Goodman, Chita Rivera, and Jane Connell. He appeared three times in the 1955-56 CBS sitcom It's Always Jan, starring Janis Paige and Merry Anders. In 1958, he 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.

Before his big breakthrough in Laugh-In, Arte made a 1965 first-season guest appearance on ABC's series Bewitched as Samantha 's Cousin Edgar. Edgar is a mute elf who is initially sent to observe and undermine Sam's marriage — all with the blessing of Endora , of course. But once he sees how happily married Samantha and Darrin Stephens are, he reverses his mischief and gives his blessing to their still-newlywed marriage. Johnson also appeared in the 1967 satirical James Coburn film The President's Analyst, putting in a comically chilling performance as a federal agent with a blindly obedient 'orders are orders' mentality.

 Laugh-In
Johnson is best known for his work on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, an American television series (1967–1973), on which he played various characters including "Wolfgang", a smoking World War II German soldier scouting the show from behind a bush invariably commenting on the preceding sketch with the catchphrase "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. Johnson reprised the role while voicing the Nazi-inspired character Virman Vunderbarr on an episode of Justice League Unlimited.

Johnson was somewhat incorrect in his recollection of the details of this movie, and his faulty recollection was subsequently misquoted and widely repeated on the Internet, further distorting the origin of the phrase. In the movie, after getting shot down and captured, an English-speaking German officer played by Raymond Massey interrogates the flyers. During the interrogation, they see through a window some nearly-assembled aircraft being transported on trucks, and the Raymond Massey character says “I see you find that view most interesting … too bad you saw that, now you can not be even considered for exchange…” but it was not spoken doubting any story told by the flyers. The flyers escape from the interrogation and begin their “journey” across Germany and The Netherlands, traveling towards the English Channel in stolen vehicles while wearing stolen German uniforms. Along the way, they have several violent engagements with German troops and commit sabotage; they are actively pursued by the Raymond Massey character and at the end commandeer a British bomber previously captured by the Germans and fly it back to England, without any German remarking, to either the flyers or to another German: “Very interesting ... ” and, the Errol Flynn character is fluent in German. It is possible that the actual source of the phrase is the movie “Berlin Correspondent” < and that Johnson had confused elements of the two movies and/or misremembered aspects of them.

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

Two 'non-medical' examples:
  • Tyrone: "You want to play moongotcha?
  • Gladys: "What's 'moongotcha'?"
  • Tyrone: "See the moon?" "GOTCHA!" 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? F. Horneigh: Would you like to go to a concert? [WHACK!
  • Tyrone F. Horneigh: Would you like to go to a funeral?
  • Tyrone F. Horneigh: Do you believe in love at first sight? F. Horneigh: Do you believe in two hearts intertwining to become one? [WHACK!
  • Tyrone F. Horneigh: Do you believe in mouth-to-mouth resuscitation?
  • Tyrone F. Horneigh: Hey, are you doing anything right now? F. Horneigh: Are you doing anything tonight? [WHACK!
  • Tyrone F. Horneigh: Are you doing anything tomorrow night? 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? F. Horneigh: Would you like to call me an ambulance?
  • 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?

Referring to an only moderately popular candy made from caramel and walnuts, Tyrone would also frequently ask Gladys, "How about 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 and the Nitwits with Tyrone as a helpful, muttering 'superhero.'

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 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. 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 , 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 a disgruntled "Firm" employee denied severance pay in an episide of Airwolf

In 1990, he appeared in an episode of Night Court.

He has performed some memorable audiobook readings, including Gary Shteyngart's Absurdistan and more than 80 other books. In 2005, he appeared in an episode of Justice League Unlimited as the voice of Virman Vundabar.

He lives in Southern California with his wife Gisela, and does voice tracks and recordings.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Arte Johnson", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.