R.I.P. Art Metrano, comedian and ‘Police Academy’ star

He won Johnny Carson over with his simple but hilarious “magic” act and appeared in ‘Joanie Loves Chachi’ as Uncle Rico.

The Everett Collection

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Art Metrano was born in Brooklyn in 1936, the son of a garment maker. After playing college football in California, he decided to pursue a career in show business. The gigs came slowly at first.

He played a truck driver in the 1961 Cold War propaganda film Rocket Attack U.S.A. and started performing comedy in the Catskills. In the late Sixties, he won small roles in shows like Mannix, Bewitched and The Mod Squad. His first real film role (credited as Arthur Metrano) came in director Sydney Pollack’s grueling 1969 film They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? with Jane Fonda and Michael Sarrazin.

Though he was a working actor and comic, he hadn’t yet received his big break. That all changed after appearing on The Tonight Show. A producer for the Johnny Carson program saw him in a variety show airing on local California television. Metrano wasn’t the only actor from the regional program to make it big. The cast included Mclean Stevenson before M*A*S*H, Craig T. Nelson before Coach and Barry Levinson, who went on to direct Diner and Rain Man.

Metrano won the coveted spot on the couch next to Johnny Carson after his performance left the iconic host doubled over with laughter. It was a simple yet amusing act. Metrano pretended to be a great magician while “moving” fingers back and forth between hands and “revealing” the missing leg he had lifted up behind his jacket – all while humming “dah duh dah-dah” from the showtune “Fine and Dandy.”

After his 1970 Tonight Show appearance, Metrano took his act around the country and won larger guest spots in shows like Ironside, All in the Family and Wonder Woman. He also played a lounge entertainer in Elaine May’s 1972 comedy The Heartbreak Kid.

Metrano’s best-known roles came in the 1980s. He was Uncle Rico in the Happy Days spinoff Joanie Loves Chachi and played Mauser, the subject of many hilarious pranks in two Police Academy sequels.

In 1989, at the height of his career, Metrano suffered a huge setback. He fell off a ladder while working on his roof and fractured three vertebrae, leaving him without the use of his legs or hands for a time.

Nevertheless, he turned his hardship into comedy. His wife brought a voice-activated tape recorder to his hospital bed and eventually those tapes were turned into the one-man show Metrano’s Accidental Comedy. The stage production featured a few steps out of his wheelchair, highlighting his remarkable recovery.

Metrano continued to work through the next decade, even reuniting with Craig T. Nelson in an episode of The District. He passed away this week at his home in Florida. He was 84.

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Tresix 10 days ago
For years, I had been trying to find the title of the song Metrano had been humming. Too bad it took his death for me to learn it.
cperrynaples 11 days ago
Another great performance was History of The World Part I! In Brooks fractured history Da Vinci was at the Last Supper and he was played by Art!
JHP 12 days ago
I see this topic and they are dropping like flies
JHP 10 days ago
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JHP 12 days ago
the world got less funnier - like we needed that :(
JamesB 13 days ago
Art Metrano was special, one of many excellent talents who were sought after for "character actor" roles. His short part in 1980's "How to Beat the High Co$t of Living" was well done - Art WAS his character from how he played the role!
Jon 13 days ago
RIP, Art Metrano. He made a funny appearance on BONANZA called "Easter Bunny Crossing", where he appeared as a crook in a gang w/ Marc Lawrence (who specialized in playing crooks), Vic Tayback ("Mel"), and Len Lesser ("Uncle Leo").
AgingDisgracefully 13 days ago
He had a great Theme Song.
outlaw12 14 days ago
I remember him misty from movin on a moose and benji they were so funny.
LoveMETV22 14 days ago
R.I.P. Art Metrano. Funny in Police Academy. I wonder why the Willard Scott story about Bozo a few days ago didn't acknowledge Willard's passing which was a few days before the story.
I had not heard Willard Scott died.
Yes, on the 4th , the bozo story was posted on the 7th. I was surprised they didn't mention it in the story.
cperrynaples 14 days ago
Anyone remember when he sued Seth MacFarlane? He claimed Seth stole for him when he had Jesus do the "Fine & Dandy" act! Also, anyone remember the Richard Gere version of Breathless where he beat up Art?
I chose you to be the "guinea pig" for this question: (Hope you have no objections.)
Do you, does anyone, see a "separated at birth" photo of Art Metrano and Roy Clark? When I first saw this photo, Roy Clark popped instantly to mind. If not him, does anyone else have any other thoughts as to who AM might resemble? Thanks!
Pegs stephaniestavr5 13 days ago
I thought it was Roy Clark, also. But then, I'm remembering Art Metrano from around 1972 or so, no idea when the in use photo is from.
Now that you mention it, I see it (oh boy, do I see it). Wonder if he ever did something that required at least some knowledge of Thank God And Greyhound...
JHP stephaniestavr5 12 days ago
I wonder if Art could play the banjo

love roy clark and a friggin talent he was - and I cant stand CW music
Pegs 10 days ago
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harlow1313 14 days ago
I am sorry he has croaked.

Just thinking the title, "Joanie loves Chachi," makes me cringe.
Runeshaper 14 days ago
R.I.P. Art Metrano. I remember him best from Police Academy and he was GREAT! (-:
Moverfan Runeshaper 12 days ago
Didn't he also play Art the maintaince man on Night Court or am I thinking of somebody else?
bdettlingmetv Moverfan 11 days ago
Maybe it was Roy Clark? :D :D :D :D just joshing
Moverfan bdettlingmetv 5 days ago
No, that I would have remembered...I think...
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