Comedian and writer Jack Burns, best known for his comedy partnerships with George Carlin and Avery Schreiber, has passed away at the age of 86, as confirmed by George’s daughter Kelly Carlin. “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,” she tweeted late Sunday night.
Burn’s manager Peter Santana later released a statement, “He has been in senior care for the last two years in good spirits and surrounded by friends and cases of Diet Coke,” Santana said. “He was as sharp as a tack mentally but had not walked for two years. He achieved many great achievements but his most recent was hitting the 31 year sober mark in December. Truly a sweet and talented man.”
Burns is best remembered by comedy fans for his work in two different comedy duos. In 1959, while working for radio station KXOL in Fort Worth, Texas, he connected with fellow aspiring comedian George Carlin. Together, they formed the comedy duo Burns and Carlin. For the next 3 years, they appeared together on The Tonight Show in 1960 and played hip night clubs across America. This all culminated in the release of the album Burns and Carlin at the Playboy Club Tonight.
Following their split in the early 1960’s, Burns joined The Compass Players, which then made way for him to join the famed Second City. It was here he met Avery Schreiber, with whom he founded another comedy duo, Burns and Schreiber. The duo released some comedy albums, including In One Head, Out The Other and Burns’ and Schreiber’s Pure B.S.! In 1973, after performing together on every show from Merv Griffin to Mike Douglas to The Tonight Show, they got their own show with The Burns and Schreiber Comedy Hour. This series also included notable regular players as Fred Willard, Terri Garr, and Frank Welker, and featured guest appearances by Loretta Swift, Tina Turner, and naturally, George Carlin.
As an actor, Burns is probably best remembered for his role as Deputy Warren Ferguson on The Andy Griffith Show. He also made guest appearances on The Partridge Family, Love American Style, and Hee Haw, where he also served as head writer. In 1977, he was the first person to host Saturday Night Live under its new title (it was originally titled NBC’s Saturday Night). Additionally, he also wound up doing voice over work in the 90’s for Darkwing Duck, Animaniacs, and The Simpsons.
As a writer, he is probably best remembered for his work on The Muppet Show and the subsequent The Muppet Movie. He also worked as a writer on many variety and comedy specials in the 70’s, including for Flip Wilson, Paul Lynde, and John Ritter.
And, of course, let’s not forget the infamous brawl he got into with Andy Kaufman on the set of Friday’s, where he served as a writer and producer. The incident, which has lived on in infamy ever since it happened in 1981.
His last credit was in 2003, and he had since retired from the business.