Thursday, September 17, 2009


Henry Gibson has passed away from cancer; he was 73 years old.

He first came to fame in Toobworld as the gentle poet of 'Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In' back in the 1960's, and made many appearances in other shows providing a rich registry of citizens for the TV Universe. (And "TV Universe" is meant literally, as several of his characters were aliens from other worlds.) In his later years, Gibson had a recurring role on 'Boston Legal' as Justice Clark Brown, always very funny as he sputtered "Outrageous!" at some comment made by Alan Shore in Judge Brown's courtroom.

On 'Laugh-In', one of his two most famous "characters" were as a tea-sipping priest, usually seen at the opening cocktail party, and as himself reciting a poem... by Henry Gibson. But there were other characters during his three years on the show:

Here's one of his best known poems:

"The Alligator is my pal
He could be your pal, too.
You'd like him better as a friend
Than wearing him as shoes..."

'Laugh-In' exists in Skitlandia, the alternate TV dimension for sketch comedy shows. This is why it was never a Zonk that Mr. Gibson and other alumni from the show appeared in a dream sequence on an episode of 'Mad About You'. As both Paul and Jamie were sharing the dream, it could be splained away that they were tapping into a telepathic connection with that other dimension.....

Henry Gibson created several TV characters before 'Laugh-In' came along in 1968, on such shows as 'The Dick Van Dyke Show', 'My Favorite Martian', '77 Sunset Strip', and 'F Troop'. Here he is as "macho" movie star Quirt Manly on 'The Beverly Hillbillies':

In movies like "The Blues Brothers" and "The Burbs", the sweet and gentle Henry Gibson was cast as the villain. Although his roles weren't actually villains per se, Robert Altman saw in Gibson a darker side which he helped the actor to bring forth in "Nashville" and "The Long Goodbye". On TV as well, Henry Gibson could play the bad guy with panache:

I learned of Henry Gibson's death when I got home from the theater; I had been to see a preview for "Bye Bye Birdie" (with John Stamos, Gina Gershon, and Bill Irwin). And even this rough jump-cut in my life can be summed up with a clip from Toobworld that blends both stories together:

Some of Henry Gibson's characters will live forever, and I'm talking about within the "reality" of Toobworld. Twice Gibson played leprechauns, once in an episode of 'Bewitched' and much later in a Disney TV movie, "The Luck Of The Irish". (If anything, I think the two characters are father and son rather than the same Irish imp using an alias.) And a character like Nilva on 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' hasn't even been born yet.

So we'll always have Henry Gibson in the TV Universe in more ways than just syndicated repeats.....

Good night, and may God bless.


1 comment:

Jim Peyton said...

One of my favorite roles for him was in an HBO Movie called Long Gone about a minor league baseball team. he was brilliant as an unscrupulous owner -- egged on by his son played by Teller in one of his rare speaking roles