For the former United States congressman, see Henry R. Gibson. For the percussionist, see Master Henry Gibson.

Henry Gibson (September 21, 1935 – September 14, 2009)[1] was an American actor and songwriter, best known as a cast member of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In and for his recurring role as Judge Clark Brown on Boston Legal.

Early life

Gibson was born as James Bateman[1][2] in Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Dorothy (née Cassidy) and Edmund Albert Bateman. He attended Saint Joseph's Preparatory School, where he was President of the Drama Club.[3]

Graduating from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., he served in the U.S. Air Force as an intelligence officer.[2] After his discharge, he developed an act in which he portrayed a Southern accented poet. His stage name was a play on dramatist Henrik Ibsen.[2]


Gibson's performing career began at the age of seven. He appeared in many stage and theater productions. Gibson made many appearances on Jack Paar's Tonight Show between 1957 and 1962, often reciting his poetry. His career took off when he performed in the Jerry Lewis film The Nutty Professor[2] (1963). Gibson also appeared on The Dick Van Dyke Show, reading the poem "Keep A Goin'", which he turned into a song in the Robert Altman movie Nashville (1975), starring Ned Beatty and Keith Carradine. Gibson appeared in three other films directed by Altman: The Long Goodbye (starring Elliott Gould), A Perfect Couple and Health. He also appeared in The Incredible Shrinking Woman (starring Lily Tomlin). He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Nashville and won the National Society of Film Critics award for his role of country music singer Haven Hamilton.[1]

Gibson spent three years as part of the Laugh-In television show's cast. He often played "The Poet," reciting poems with "sharp satirical or political themes".[4] Gibson would emerge from behind a stage flat, wearing a Nehru jacket and "hippie" beads and holding an outlandishly large artificial flower. He would state the "[Title of poem] — by Henry Gibson", 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 Marines!", 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. He also made recurring appearances in the 1969-1974 anthology Love, American Style.

In 1980 he played the leader of the 'Illinois Nazis' in the John Landis film The Blues Brothers. Most younger audiences associate him with this film in particular due to its popularity. He made a brief appearance in Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia as an eccentric barfly. He also worked frequently as a voice actor in animation, most notably portraying Wilbur the pig in the popular children's movie Charlotte's Web (1973). He also worked on the cartoon The Grim Adventures Of Billy & Mandy as Lord Pain.

In the 1989 Joe Dante comedy The 'Burbs, starring Tom Hanks, Gibson played the villain. Gibson reunited with director Dante a few years later when Gremlins 2 was released in 1990. He performed a cameo as the office worker who is caught taking a smoking break on camera and fired by the sadistic boss. Guest Starring in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, he played the Ferengi "Nilva" in the 1998 episode, Profit and Lace.

He had a leading role in a Season 5 episode of Stargate SG-1 entitled "The Sentinel", as the character Marul. Gibson's last roles were alongside Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn in the 2005 comedy hit Wedding Crashers, and as supporting character Judge Clark Brown on the TV show Boston Legal.

Personal life

On April 6, 1966, he married Lois Joan Geiger, who was five years his senior. The couple had three sons: Jonathan David Gibson, an executive at Universal Pictures; Charles Alexander Gibson, a director and visual effects supervisor; and James Gibson, a screenwriter.[1][2] She died on May 6, 2007, aged 77.[2]


On September 14, 2009, Gibson died of cancer at his home in Malibu, California, one week before his 74th birthday.[2] He was cremated at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Barnes, Mike (2009-09-17). "'Laugh-In' ignited a rich comic career". The Hollywood Reporter. pp. 6, 15. Archived from the original on 2009-09-22. Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 McLellan, Dennis (2009-09-17). "Actor was original cast member of 'Laugh-In'". Los Angeles Times. p. A24. Retrieved 2009-09-14. 
  3. Henry Gibson Biography
  4. Henry Gibson (I) — Biography

External links

it:Henry Gibson

nl:Henry Gibsonnds:Henry Gibsonru:Генри Гибсон fi:Henry Gibson

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