Jimmy Kimmel says goodbye to Uncle Frank

Senior Television Writer
09.07.11 4 Comments


If you pay attention to latenight TV at all, you probably know that Uncle Frank, a fixture of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” from the very first episode, passed away recently. Frank Potenza was a retired New York cop and Kimmel’s actual uncle, as opposed to those friends of your parents whom you call uncle.

He was also that rare breed on television: a truly genuine person.

Many people on TV – whether on scripted shows, quasi-scripted reality TV or talk shows – are working as some kind of character, whether it’s one that’s in a script, that a reality producer encouraged you to play up, or one you honed to get ahead in showbiz as “yourself.” Uncle Frank didn’t have that kind of ability. What you saw was what you got, and there was such innocent sweetness to him that Kimmel and his writers knew they could put him in nearly any situation and it would work. This wasn’t a proud nephew’s self-indulgence: Frank was a real asset to the show. (In its fumbling early days, he was about the only part of it that worked consistently.)

So Kimmel was understandably choked up as he paid tribute to both his beloved uncle and his show’s secret weapon. His tearful monologue isn’t yet up on YouTube (though you can see it by going to the full episode at ABC.com), but here’s the Uncle Frank highlight reel they played at the end: 

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