John Pinette, the chubby comedian who portrayed a hapless carjacking victim on the final episode of Seinfeld, has died at age 50. His manager says he died from a pulmonary embolism, reports The Hollywood Reporter. Pinette was a Boston native who worked as a janitor to pay for college, earning an accounting degree before switching to comedy in the 1980s. He started out at local clubs, eventually touring with Frank Sinatra and appearing on The Tonight Show. He also made several appearances on The View. In recent years, he hosted the H2 comedy cooking show All You Can Eat and was a regular performer at Canada’s Just for Laughs festival. Pinette’s self-deprecating jokes about his weight were a staple of his act, and he lost more than 200 pounds in the last few years.
He was preparing for a new comedy tour this year and a one-man show called They Call Me Slim. He also replaced Harvey Fierstein in the national tour of Hairspray, playing Edna Turnblad’s mother.
Pinette was born in 1964 in Malden, Massachusetts. He worked as a janitor to support himself while studying at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, where he earned an accounting degree. After a short career in accounting, he discovered his natural talent for improvisational humor and began regaling co-workers with quips. He later performed at open mic nights at Boston comedy clubs.
He had a number of small roles in films, including Junior, Dear God and The Punisher. He was also a frequent guest at the Just for Laughs comedy festival and starred in a Comedy Central special called I’m Starvin’ (2006). He also toured as a stand-up comedian and appeared in the musical theater production of Hairspray.
His agent, Nick Nuciforo, says that he was a brilliant, incredibly funny man who should be remembered for the comedian he was and not his size. He was a kind and generous person who will be missed, Nuciforo adds.
Pinette’s death was a shock to many fans, as he had only recently announced that he was postponing his next comedy tour due to health problems. He was due to begin the trek on April 10. He is survived by his wife, Jennifer, and son, Jacob.