More than one generation thinks of Abe Vigoda as a punchline to a joke, a person whose false report of death spawned websites, late night talk show gags and stand up comedians’s bits as to whether or not he was alive or not. Well, the joke has reached is final punchline. Vigoda has passed away at the age of 94 due to natural causes.
Vigoda’s acting career began in television back in 1949 in shows such as Suspense and Studio One in Hollywood. He went on to do periodic television work, most notably in the soap opera Dark Shadows, and on the Broadway stage before he was cast as mobster Salvatore Tessio in The Godfather and its sequel, The Godfather II.
His performance in that film led him to his most famous role, that of Detective Phil Fish on the TV show Barney Miller and that show’s spin-off, Fish.
While most of his work was consigned to television, Vigoda had appeared in a number of films, including The Cheap Detective, Cannonball Run II, Look Who’s Talking, Joe Versus the Volcano, and Good Burger.
After People Magazine erroneously reporter the actor as being “the late Abe Vigoda” back in 1982, Vigoda continues existence amongst the living became a running joke for the actor, one in which he participated in for over 30 years. The topic was a notable running gag on Late Night with David Letterman, as Vigoda himself appeared on the show in person to verify he was still alive, going so far as to breathe (or, rather, snort) on a mirror to prove he was still breathing.