Chic Johnson
Date of Birth
Mar 05, 1891
Birth Place:
Chicago, IL

Biography

The stocky, eternally giggling member of the Olsen and Johnson comedy team, Chic Johnson studied classical piano at the Chicago Musical College. Johnson dropped out to support himself as a ragtime pianist in various Chicago-area cabarets and vaudeville houses. When the pianist in a quartet featuring John Sigvard "Ole" Olsen quit, Johnson was hired as replacement. Olsen and Johnson abandoned the quartet to appear in vaudeville as a two-man comedy/musical act. Slowly but surely, the team added additional performers (many of them family members), zany sight gags and ridiculous props to their act, and by 1918 Olsen and Johnson had one of the top travelling vaudeville units in the country. The team continued touring the country throughout the 1920s, scoring their biggest success in Midwestern vaudeville houses, where their cacophonous brand of "anything goes" comedy seemed to score the loudest laughs. Olsen and Johnson made occasional film appearances during the 1930s, and also headlined a radio program, but big-time Broadway fame would elude them until 1938, when their musical revue Hellzapoppin made its New York debut. This now-legendary production became one of the longest-running shows in Broadway history, spawning a somewhat watered-down movie version in 1941. Olsen and Johnson followed this film with three wacky starring vehicles, Crazy House (1944), Ghost Catchers (1945) and See My Lawyer (1945), all shot at Universal studios. The team also appeared on Broadway in the Hellzapoppin follow-ups Sons O' Fun (1943) and Pardon My French (1951), and in 1949 they made their TV bow in the weekly Fireball Fun for All. Associates of Olsen and Johnson have recalled that the men maintained their harmonious relationship by seeing each other as little as possible when not performing. One of their writers remembered that, while appearing in films, Chic Johnson would often get so wrapped up in his performance that he would unthinkingly take out his dentures and gesture with them! Remaining busy into the late 1950s, Chic Johnson died of a kidney ailment while on a 1962 Las Vegas vacation; his partner Ole Olsen followed him in death one year later, at which time the comedians' families arranged for the teammates to be buried side by side. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Provided by Rovi