The Boston comedy scene is a whole lot sadder today after the death of longtime comic and Malden homey John Pinette, who died in a Pittsburgh hotel room over the weekend.
“If you saw John’s act, you saw John,” said local comedian Tony V, who traveled the stand-up circuit with Pinette for 20-plus years. “He was no more or no less than what he portrayed on stage: a big guy with big appetites and a big personality.”
Pinette, 50, whose most memorable role may have been as the hapless carjack victim in the “Seinfeld” finale, died of natural causes stemming from liver and heart disease. No autopsy was scheduled.
“He knew that the clubs never paid people enough to open for him,” said Belmont funnygal Stephanie Peters,who often opened for Pinette on the road. “So he would pay you out of his own pocket. He’d say, ‘Here’s the money you deserve.’ He was just the sweetest guy, not to mention the funniest.”
Pinette, who once weighed in at 450 pounds, had slimmed down to 250 over the past couple of years. But his super size was the butt of his jokes and his stand-up specials, “Show Me the Buffet,” “Still Hungry” and “I’m Starvin’!” (Pronounced ‘I’m Staaahhvin’!”)
“Me and John did self-deprecating comedy because we’re fat,” Peters said. “He called me once after he had gastric bypass surgery and told me he was at the Cheesecake Factory. I said to him, ‘What are you doing at the Cheesecake Factory, you just had the bypass?’ And he said, ‘I’m going to order a whole raspberry cheesecake and lay down and put it on my chest and eat it like an otter.’ He killed me.”
A Malden Catholic grad, Pinette was in college working on an accounting degree when he started performing at open mic nights in Boston clubs in the 1980s. He was working at a bank when he was offered $100 a night to perform and he never went back to the day job.
He was a regular on the comedy circuit in Las Vegas and for years he opened for legendary crooner Frank Sinatra in Sin City. He also starred as Edna Turnblad in the Broadway production of “Hairspray” and made numerous TV and movie appearances, including a turn on the “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” He was in the midst of a live comedy tour when he died.
“With John, if you hadn’t seen him in a while and you bumped into him on the road, he’d slap you on the back hard enough to put you through a window, then he’d say, ‘Let’s go eat!’” Tony V recalled. “That was always the way with him. He was that jovial fat guy.”
Peters said she was saddened when she learned that Pinette, who loved life and loved people, died alone in a Pittsburgh hotel room.
“He was such a sweet, sweet guy, the thought of him dying alone in some hotel is so sad,” she said. “On the road, we’re so lonely, it just bums me out.”
But Tony V said Pinette appeared to enjoy life to the fullest.
“I never saw a man happier at being who he was than John was,” he said. “Maybe late at night it bothered him being him, but I never saw it — and I was up with him a lot of late nights!”