Comedian John Pinette has died of a pulmonary embolism. He was 50. A few months ago, the heavyset Pinette had posted a message to his Twitter followers announcing plans to abstain from performing for a period, telling his fans that “after losing a bunch of weight and having several small surgical procedures,” he was “physically spent.” Pinette added that we was “on the mend and… promise to hit the stage as soon as humanly possible so I can once again have the honor of making you guys, my friends and fans laugh like you’ve never laughed before.”
Despite his size—which he once described with typical self-deprecation as “somewhere between Louie Anderson and Free Willy”—Pinette had a gentle, non-aggressive stage presence, coming across as a very smart, overgrown child quizzically trying to make sense of the world around him. One of his favorite topics was his weight and the effect it had on those around him. In one of his many stand-up TV specials, he talked about his efforts to get healthier and how he had been tearing through the personal trainers: “Some quit. Some turned to drugs and alcohol.”
Pinette also did his fair share of acting, appearing in the movies Junior (1994), Dear God (1996), Duets (2000), The Punisher (2004), and The Last Godfather (2010). He also had recurring roles on the TV sitcoms Vinnie & Bobby, starring a pre-Friends Matt LeBlanc, and Parker Lewis Can’t Lose. But away from the stand-up stage, Pinette was probably best known for his guest appearance on the series finale of Seinfeld, where he played a carjacking victim the group mocks rather than come to his rescue.
In his stand-up work, Pinette preferred to make himself the butt of his own jokes, rather than insult or offend members of the audience. His greatest nightmare, he once told an interviewer, was that someone in the audience would tell him, “Please don’t do that to yourself. Please don’t say that to yourself.”
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