The world lost a beloved funnyman on Monday. He was known as one of the original writers for The Muppet Show, an actor on The Andy Griffith Show and a comedy partner to George Carlin.
The writer, comedian, and actor was 86 years old when he died.
Jack Burns had just celebrated his 31st year of sobriety in December while living in senior care. His manager, Peter Santana, told The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday that Burns had died of respiratory failure.
George Carlin’s daughter, Kelly Carlin, wrote on Twitter, “A foundational piece of the Carlin legacy has gone to the big comedy club in the sky. Jack was one of the sharpest motherf*ckers I knew. He shaped my father’s mind in unique ways. RIP Jack Burns.”
Burns was known as one half of a comedy duo with Carlin, appearing with him as a host on Saturday Night Live. They also filmed 14 comedy specials with HBO.
He also performed with Avery Schreiber in Chicago’s Second City comedy troupe, appearing on The Merv Griffin Show, Kraft Music Hall, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and many others.
Jack Burns also spent time filling roles in popular shows like The Andy Griffith Show, where he was hired to fill in as a new character to replace the departing Don Knotts. Sadly, his time on the show lasted only 11 episodes as his character wasn’t very popular.
However, he went on to act on Happy Days, Getting Together and The Partridge Family. He also voiced Ralph on the cartoon series Wait ‘Til Your Father Gets Home and had guest spots on The Simpsons and The Animaniacs.
What Burns is most known for is his role as the head writer and producer during the first season of The Muppet Show. He even appeared in one episode, with Shreiber at his side.
He spent three years writing for the show–28 episodes–and also wrote The Muppet Movie with Jerry Juhl, Muppet Video: Country Music With the Muppets and Fozzie’s Muppet Scrapbook.
In 1976, Burns was nominated for two Primetime Emmys: One for Outstanding Writing, and one for Outstanding Comedy-variety or Music Series. In 1980 he was nominated for a Hugo Award for best dramatic presentation with The Muppet Movie.