The Prinze of Comedy
By: Linnea Crowther
5 years ago
Born 58 years ago today, the comedian and actor was a self-styled "Hungarican" (half Hungarian, half Puerto Rican), but identified largely as Puerto Rican, often referencing his ethnicity in his stand-up act. As he joked about common perceptions (and misconceptions, perhaps) of Puerto Ricans, Prinze used his ethnicity to his advantage.
Prinze's onstage success led to an appearance on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, where he was discovered by TV producer James Komack. Komack was creating a new show and thought Prinze would be perfect for one of the title roles – and so began Prinze’s three-year stint on what would be his final gig, Chico and the Man.
Prinze struggled with depression and became increasingly dependent on drugs. As the third season of Chico and the Man was drawing to a close, he died by suicide, shooting himself in the head. He was just 22 years old. The show limped along for a fourth season, but it wasn't the same without its title character, the funny heart of the show.
Freddie Prinze is gone but he left us his comedy – and he left a new generation. His son Freddie Prinze Jr. was just eight months old when his father died, but he's followed in Dad's footsteps as a successful actor.