Stand-up comedian John Pinette was found dead in the Sheraton Station Square Hotel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, April 5. Pinette suffered from liver and heart disease. His personal doctor cited a pulmonary embolism as the cause of death, though an autopsy was not performed. Pinette was 50 years old.
A Boston native, Pinette left a career in accounting in the 1980s to pursue comedy. He went on to tour with Frank Sinatra and became a regular guest on The Tonight Show and The View, with self-deprecating jokes about his weight becoming a staple of his comedy routines. His film credits include Junior, Dear God, Duets, The Punisher (starring Thomas Jane and John Travolta), and his latest role in the 2010 film The Last Godfather. One of his most notable credits is his 1998 guest appearance as Howie, the overweight victim of a carjacking on the series finale of Seinfeld.
In 1999, Pinette was named Stand-Up Comedian of the Year by the American Comedy Awards and received a Gemini Award nomination in 2000 for his televised performance at Montreal's Just for Laughs Comedy Festival.
In 2004, Pinette joined the touring cast of Hairspray as Edna Turnblad, later taking on the role in the musical's Broadway production in 2005 and continuing in the role until May 28, 2006. In 2004, Pinette's stand-up material was also featured in Comedy Central's animated series Shorties Watchin' Shorties. During his 2010 comedy tour, he recorded a Comedy Central special titled John Pinette: Still Hungry.
Pinette's next performance was to take place at a California comedy club called Ontario Improv as part of a live comedy tour, scheduled for April-June in the U.S. and Canada. He postponed several performances in 2013 after checking into rehab for a prescription-drug addiction and took a break from a tour earlier this year to recover from several surgeries after losing over 200 pounds.
"I didn't give myself enough time to heal this past fall and it has caught up with me," Pinette said. "But I'm on the mend and I promise to hit the stage as soon as humanly possible."