Henry Gibson

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Henry Gibson
Gibson as The Poet on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, 1969
James Bateman

(1935-09-21)September 21, 1935
DiedSeptember 14, 2009(2009-09-14) (aged 73)
Other namesOlsen Gibson
Alma materCatholic University of America
  • Actor
  • comedian
  • poet
Years active1943–2009
Lois Joan Geiger
(m. 1966; died 2007)
Children3, including Charles Alexander Gibson

Henry Gibson (born James Bateman; September 21, 1935 – September 14, 2009) was an American actor, comedian and poet. He played roles in the TV sketch-comedy series Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In from 1968 to 1971, was the voice of the protagonist Wilbur in the animated feature Charlotte's Web (1973), portrayed country star Haven Hamilton in Robert Altman's film Nashville (1975) and the Illinois Nazi leader in The Blues Brothers (1980), and appeared in The 'Burbs (1989).

Early life[edit]

Gibson was born September 21, 1935, in Germantown, Philadelphia, the sixth of seven children of Edmund Alberts Bateman (1896–1980) and his wife Dorothy (née Cassidy) (1903–1975).[1] He attended Saint Joseph's Preparatory School, where he was president of the drama club.[citation needed] Gibson had English, Irish, German and distant Dutch ancestry.

After graduating from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., he served as an intelligence officer in the United States Air Force with the 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing in France from 1957 to 1960.[1] Early in his career as a professional entertainer, he developed a comedy act in which he played a poet from Fairhope, Alabama. He adopted the stage name Henry Gibson, which is a same-sounding phrase for the name of famed Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen.[1] He also is known to have used the name Olsen Gibson.[2]


Gibson began his acting career at the age of eight years old as a touring performer for the Mae Desmond Theatre for nine years.[1] He appeared in many stage and theater productions. Gibson made many appearances on Tonight Starring Jack Paar between 1957 and 1962, often reciting his poetry. In 1962, his appearance coincided with guest-host Jerry Lewis. Lewis, charmed by Gibson's demeanor, subsequently cast him in The Nutty Professor (1963). Gibson's career took off following this film appearance.[1] That was followed in 1964 by his poetry-reciting cowboy character Quirt Manly on the popular show The Beverly Hillbillies. Around this time, Gibson appeared in an episode of My Favorite Martian.

Gibson spent three years as part of the Laugh-In television show's cast, where he was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1971. He often played "The Poet", reciting poems with "sharp satirical or political themes". Gibson would emerge from behind a stage flat, wearing suit and tie and holding an outlandishly large artificial flower. He would bow stiffly from the waist, state "[Title of poem] — by Henry Gibson" in an ironic Southern U.S. accent, again bow stiffly from the waist, recite his poem and return behind the flat. Gibson's routine was so memorable that John Wayne actually performed it once in his own inimitable style: "The Sky — by John Wayne. The Sky is blue/The Grass is green/Get off your butt/And join the Marine(s)!", whereupon Wayne left the scene by smashing through the flat. Gibson also regularly appeared in the "Cocktail Party" segments as a Catholic priest, sipping tea. He would put the cup on the saucer, recite his one-liner in a grave and somber tone, then go back to sipping tea. In 1962, Gibson had issued a comedy album on Liberty records, titled Alligator. The album was rereleased in 1968, now titled ...by Henry Gibson, following his success on Laugh-In. The liner notes perpetuated the origin story of his being a country boy from Fairhope, Alabama. The album did not reach the Billboard Top 200 in either release. In 1968, Gibson appeared on the television show Bewitched as Napoleon Bonaparte. He appeared on Bewitched in 1970 as Tim O'Shanter, a leprechaun. Around this time, Gibson also made recurring appearances in the 1969–1974 anthology Love, American Style.

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, front L-R: John Wayne, Tiny Tim, Dick Martin. Back, L-R: Ruth Buzzi, Joanne Worley, Alan Sues, Dennis Roy Allen, and Henry Gibson. John Wayne was part of a comedy routine making believe that Tiny Tim had a strong grip

During the 1960s, Gibson had appeared on The Dick Van Dyke Show reading the poem "Keep a-Goin'", which he later turned into a song in the Robert Altman movie Nashville (1975). Notably, he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his portrayal of Haven Hamilton in the film and won the National Society of Film Critics award for the role.[3] The Nashville Tennessean called Gibson "the male superstar most surely to be in line for an Academy Award" and hailed his performance as being "so real to Music Row habitués as to be frightening."[4] Gibson appeared in three other films directed by Altman: The Long Goodbye (starring Elliott Gould), A Perfect Couple, and Health.

In 1978, he appeared in The New Adventures Of Wonder Woman as the arch-villain Mariposa. Two years later, he appeared on The Dukes of Hazzard as Will Jason (Squirt) in the second-season episode "Find Loretta Lynn". The same year, he played the leader of the "Illinois Nazis" in the John Landis film The Blues Brothers; this became one of his better-known film roles. The next year, he appeared in The Incredible Shrinking Woman. He played con man Henry Beemus on "The Love Boat" S6 E11 "A Christmas Presence" which aired 12/18/1982.

In the 1989 Joe Dante comedy The 'Burbs, starring Tom Hanks, Gibson played the villain. He reunited with director Dante a year later when Gremlins 2: The New Batch was released in 1990, performing a cameo as the office worker who is caught taking a smoking break on camera and fired by the sadistic boss. 1996 saw him playing an unusual dramatic role as former train conductor Robinson in the independent film Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day with Michael Stipe. That year, he was also the voice of Adolf Eichmann in Keith Gordon's film adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's novel Mother Night. During 1999, Gibson made an appearance in Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia as an eccentric barfly who antagonizes former child prodigy Donnie Smith, played by William H. Macy.

Gibson also worked frequently as a voice actor in animation, most notably portraying Wilbur the pig in the popular Hanna-Barbera children's movie Charlotte's Web (1973). He later worked for the company again on the cartoon The Biskitts. Additionally, Gibson's voice work was featured on The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy as Lord Pain, King of the Hill as reporter Bob Jenkins, and Rocket Power as grouchy neighbor Merv Stimpleton.

Later television work included a guest role on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine playing the Ferengi Nilva in the 1998 episode "Profit and Lace". Gibson also had a leading role in a season 5 episode of Stargate SG-1 entitled "The Sentinel" as the character Marul. His last major roles were in the 2005 film Wedding Crashers as Father O'Neil, and on the television show Boston Legal as supporting character Judge Clark Brown.

Personal life and death[edit]

On April 6, 1966, Gibson married Lois Joan Geiger.[1] They had three sons together – Jonathan David Gibson, an executive at Universal Pictures; Charles Alexander Gibson, a director and visual effects supervisor; and James Gibson, a screenwriter.[3][1] Lois died on May 6, 2007, at age 77.[1][5]

Gibson died of cancer on September 14, 2009, one week before his 74th birthday.[1][3] He was cremated at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery, and his ashes were given to his family.



Year Title Role Notes
1963 The Nutty Professor College Student
1964 Kiss Me, Stupid Smith
1965 The Outlaws Is Coming Charlie Horse
1968 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Dancer Uncredited
1972 Evil Roy Slade Clifford Stool
1973 Charlotte's Web Wilbur Voice
1973 The Long Goodbye Dr. Verringer
1975 Nashville Haven Hamilton
1977 The Last Remake of Beau Geste General Pecheur
1977 The Kentucky Fried Movie United Appeal for the Dead Sketch
1979 A Perfect Couple Fred Bott
1980 The Blues Brothers Head Nazi
1980 HealtH Bobby Hammer
1981 The Incredible Shrinking Woman Dr. Eugene Nortz
1981 Tulips Maurice Avocado
1986 Monster in the Closet Dr. Pennyworth
1987 Innerspace Mr. Wormwood
1988 Switching Channels Ike Roscoe
1989 The 'Burbs Dr. Werner Klopek
1989 Brenda Starr Prof. Gerhardt Von Kreutzer
1989 Night Visitor Jake
1990 Gremlins 2: The New Batch Employee Fired For Smoking
1990 Tune in Tomorrow... Big John Coot
1992 Tom and Jerry: The Movie Dr. Applecheek Voice
1995 Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain Man Uncredited
1995 Cyber Bandits Dr. Knutsen
1996 Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day Robinson
1996 Bio-Dome William Leaky
1996 Mother Night Adolf Eichmann Voice
1997 Asylum Dr. Edward Bellichek
1999 A Stranger in the Kingdom Zack Burrows
1999 Magnolia Thurston Howell
2001 The Luck of the Irish Reilly O'Reilly TV movie
2002 The Year That Trembled Ralph Tyler
2002 Teddy Bears' Picnic Clifford Sloane
2003 The Commissioner Police Chief Jesse Curry
2004 Never Die Alone Funeral Home Director Uncredited
2005 Wedding Crashers Father O'Neil
2007 Big Stan Shorts Final film


Year Title Role Notes
1963 77 Sunset Strip Eddie Episode: The Toy Jungle
1964 The Beverly Hillbillies Mr. Quirt Manly/Henry Episode: An Man for Elly
1964 The Littlest Hobo Ansel Episode: The Great Manhunt
1964 Grindl Private Stoner Episode: Grindl, Girl Wac
1963–64 The Joey Bishop Show Henry Schultz 4 episodes
1964 My Favorite Martian Homer P. Gibson Episode: Danger! High Voltage
1965 Laredo Ranger Freddy Gruber Episode: The Pride of the Rangers
1965 Mister Roberts Insignia 3 episodes
1966 The Dick Van Dyke Show Doug Bedlork Episode: Talk to the Snail
1966 F Troop Pvt. Wrongo Starr 2 episodes
1967 Hey Landlord Leroy Episode: Aunt Harriet Wants You
1968–70 Bewitched Various 2 episodes
1968–71 Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In Guest Performer 84 episodes
1972 Evil Roy Slade Clifford Stool Television Movie
1972 Every Man Needs One Walt Television Movie
1972 Honeymoon Suite Performer Episode: First Pilot
1973 The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie Mr. Grundy (voice) Episode: The Mini-Munsters
1969–73 Love, American Style Performer 5 episodes
1975 Violence in Blue Performer Television Movie
1975 Get Christie Love! Garber Episode: Murder on the High C
1975 McCloud Cookie Watkins Episode: Showdown at Times Square
1975 Barbary Coast Dasher Episode: Sharks Eat Sharks
1975 Police Woman Otto Otterman Episode: Don't Feed the Pigeons
1976 The Bureau Chief Peter Davlin Television Movie
1977 Escape from Bogen County Abe Rand Television Movie
1977 The Night They Took Miss Beautiful Rolly Royce Television Movie
1977 Halloween is Grinch Night Max (singing voice) Television Short
1975–78 Wonder Woman Performer 2 episodes
1978 Fantasy Island Fred Wade Episode: Bet a Million
1979 $weepstake$ Sometimes 1 episode
1979 The Halloween That Almost Wasn't Igor Television Short
1979 Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill Milt Cavanaugh Television Movie
1980 The Dukes of Hazzard Squirt Episode: Find Loretta Lynn
1980 For the Love of It George Television Movie
1980 The Littlest Hobo Jeff Farley Episode: Ghost Rig
1981 The Nashville Gab Art Schmeckle Television Movie
1982 Magnum, P.I. Ronald Mills Episode: Mixed Doubles
1982 Trapper John, M.D. Dr. Brownwell Episode: Candy Doctor
1982 Simon & Simon Herbert T. Dowd Episode: Fowl Play
1983 Small & Frye Dr. Calder Episode: Endangered Detectives
1983 Quincy, M.E. Max Episode: Murder on Ice
1983 The Biskitts Downer (voice) 13 episodes
1984 The Smurfs Additional voices 1 episode
1984 High School U.S.A. Vice Principal Television Movie
1984 Cover Up Milton Episode: The Million Dollar Face
1981–84 The Fall Guy Various 2 episodes
1984 The New Mike Hammer Simon Rondale Episode: The Deadly Prey
1985 The Pound Puppies Nabbit (voice) Television Short
1985 CBS Storybreak voice Episode: A Tale of Tales
1985 The Wuzzles Eleroo (voice) 13 episodes
1986 The Twilight Zone Mayor Episode: Welcome to Winfield
1986 Knight Rider Donald Crane Episode: Voo Doo Knight
1986 Slow Burn Robert Television film
1986 Galaxy High School Doyle & Aimee's Locker (voice) 13 episodes
1987 Long Gone Hale Buchman Television movie
1987 Foofur voice 13 episodes
1989 Around the World in 80 Days Train Conductor Miniseries
1990 Return to Green Acres E. Mitchell Armstrong Television Movie
1990 Timeless Tales from Hallmark Sir Buffon Episode: The Emperor's New Clothes
1990 Newhart Tad Burrows Episode: Father Goose
1988–92 Murder, She Wrote Various 2 episodes
1990–91 MacGyver Various 2 episodes
1991 Eerie Indiana Mr. Lodgepoole Episode: The Losers
1991 Evening Shade Bud Episode: Chip off the old Brick
1991 What a Dummy Performer Episode: Tucker's on the Air
1992 Fish Police voice Episode: The Codfather
1992 Tales from the Crypt Stanhope Episode: None But the Lonely Heart
1993 Sisters Cyrus Calhoun 2 episodes
1993 Rugrats Hairdresser/Counselor (voice) Episode: Chuckie's First Haircut
1995 Santo Bugito Mothmeyer Episode: My Name is Revenge
1995 Daisy-Head Mayzie Cat in the Hat (voice) Television Short
1995 Escape to Witch Mountain Ravetch Television movie
1995 The John Larroquette Show Priest Episode: Several Unusual Love Stories
1995 Coach Ted Tilly Episode: Turtle World
1996 Mad About You Henry Gibson Episode: Dream Weaver
1996 Duckman (voice) Episode: A Room with a Bellevue
1997 Adventures from the Book of Virtues Dick's Please (voice) Episode: Respect
1995–97 Aaahh!!! Real Monsters Mayor/Husband/Maurice (voice) 4 episodes
1997–99 Sabrina the Teenage Witch Witch Judge / Judge Samuels 4 episodes
1998 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Nilva Episode: Profit and Lace
1998 Maggie Winters Hotel Clerk Episode: Angstgiving Day
1999 Providence Mr. Berry Episode: You Bet Your Life
1999 Sunset Beach Wayne Landry Episode: #1.667
1999 The Wild Thornberrys Rhino (voice) Episode: Born to Be Wild
1999 Total Recall 2070 Belasarius Episode: Bones Beneath My Skin
1999 Hey Arnold! Patty's Father (voice) 2 episodes
1999 The Amanda Show Helicopter Pilot Episode: #1.1
1999–2004 Rocket Power Merv Stimpleton / Young Merv / Reporter #1 / Townsperson No. 3 (voices) 23 episodes
2000 Early Edition Mr. Quigley Episode: Luck o' the Irish
2001 The Luck of the Irish Reilly O'Reilly Television Movie
2002 Stargate SG-1 Marul Episode: The Sentinel
2002 She Spies Dr. Meelbow Episode: The Martini Shot
2002 Charmed Sandman Episode: Sand Francisco Dreamin'
2002 Rocket Power: Race Across New Zealand Merv Stimpleton (voice) Television movie
2003 The Guardian Phil Hostetler Episode: Big Coal
2003 Becker Deputy Secretary Episode: Chock Full O'Nuts
2004 Stripperella Mr. Scrundle (voice) Episode: Eruption, Junction
2004 Cracking Up Dr. Bollas Episode: Pilot
2004 Malcolm in the Middle Frank Ralston Episode: Kitty's Back
2005 The Batman Bagely (voice) Episode: Topsy Turvy
2004–07 The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy Lord Pain (voice) 3 episodes
2004–08 Boston Legal Judge Clark Brown 24 episodes
2005–08 King of the Hill Bob Jenkins/Travis/Jenkins (voice) 7 episodes
2006 Eloise: The Animated Series Mr. Noblesse (voice) Episode: Eloise Goes to School Part 1
2007 All Grown Up! Dr. Schleprizzi (voice) Episode: Trading Places


  • The Alligator (1962)[1]
  • The Grass Menagerie (1968)[1]


  • A Flower Child's Garden of Verses (1970)[1]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Ref.
1970 Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor – Television Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In Nominated [6]
1975 Best Supporting Actor – Film Nashville Nominated
1975 Grammy Awards Best Score Soundtrack Nominated
1975 National Society of Film Critics Best Supporting Actor Won
1975 New York Film Critics Circle Best Supporting Actor Nominated


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l McLellan, Dennis (September 17, 2009). "Actor was original cast member of 'Laugh-In'". Los Angeles Times. p. A24. Archived from the original on September 23, 2009. Retrieved September 14, 2009.
  2. ^ ""Gibson, Henry 1935–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. 2007". Encyclopedia.com. The Gale Group, Inc. Retrieved February 20, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Barnes, Mike (September 17, 2009). "'Laugh-In' ignited a rich comic career". The Hollywood Reporter. pp. 6, 15. Retrieved September 16, 2009.
  4. ^ Laugh-In Star Henry Gibson Moves into His Personal Prime Time with Nashville, People; accessed July 15, 2017.
  5. ^ "Obituary: Lois Gibson". Malibu Times. May 9, 2007.
  6. ^ "Henry Gibson". IMDb. Retrieved May 1, 2020.

External links[edit]