There were more tears than laughter on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” Tuesday night, as the late-night host paid tribute to his late uncle, Frank Potenza, a security guard and frequent participant on the show in routines like “Uncle Frank and Aunt Chippy’s Adventures.”
Potenza, a retired New York City police officer and former security guard at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, died on August 23 at age 77. The cause, according to Kimmel, was “a few different kinds of cancer,” though doctors weren’t sure which of them killed him.
Kimmel choked up almost immediately when he began talking about his uncle and frequent comic foil.
“Listen, I’m gonna try to do this without crying, but I’m probably gonna fail,” he told his audience. “But just turn away or something, because it’s embarrassing. It really is.”
Potenza’s role often called for him to play the befuddled uncle. While interviewing Meryl Streep, he told her she had a great future ahead of her. In one of his funniest moments on the show, Uncle Frank discussed romances gone bad with Kermit the Frog.
According to Kimmel, Potenza’s plan “was to live to 103. He wanted to be the oldest living retired police officer in New York City, not because he wanted to set a record or be in the paper; he just wanted to stick them for another 25 years of pension checks.”
“Uncle Frank loved being a part of this show,” Kimmel said through tears. “And I wanna say thanks to my co-workers who talked to him and visited him and picked him up 12 hours early for work. He loved you. And thanks to all of you who came to the show and watched, for indulging me and letting me put my crazy uncle on television.”
Kimmel showed a video montage of some of Uncle Frank’s most memorable moments.
Fans of Kimmel’s uncle responded on Twitter.
Dwayne Johnson: “My condolences @jimmykimmel. I loved Uncle Frank and was blessed to know him. Stay strong brother.”
Jordan Knight of New Kids on the Block: “Watching Jimmy Kimmel talk about his Uncle Frank who passed…very touching …and funny actually…”