R.I.P. Jerry Van Dyke (1931-2018)

He could have been Gilligan, but Jerry Van Dyke wanted to be his own comedic self.

That self, the younger banjo-playing happy-go-lucky, stammering brother of Dick Van Dyke, Jerry (six years Dick’s junior) managed to enjoy a lengthy TV career that started in the 1960s, peaked in the early 1990s with his Emmy-nominated portrayal of Luther on Coach, and continued into the 2010s. Jerry Van Dyke died Jan. 5 at his ranch in Arkansas. He was 86.

Jerry, bornĀ July 27, 1931, began performing stand-up comedy while still in high school in Danville, Ill., where his older brother was then a local radio DJ.

Jerry won two Air Force talent shows and toured with the military branch’s entertainment unit. He broke into television in the early 1960s, with performances on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Judy Garland Show, and The Dick Van Dyke Show.

Jerry turned down an offer to play Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island, as well as a role replacing Don Knotts on The Andy Griffith Show. Instead, he would accept the lead in two short-lived sitcoms of the 1960s, My Mother The Car, and Accidental Family. In the latter, Jerry portrayed a widowed nightclub comedian who bought a farm on which to raise his son when he was between gigs.

In real life, Jerry returned to the nightclub circuit as a comedian during the 1970s.

A new generation got to know and love him as assistant coach Luther Van Dam on the hit ABC sitcom Coach, starting in 1989. He’d receive four consecutive Emmy Award nominations for it.

And his career would come full circle with his brother, Dick, joining him as his brother in a 2015 episode of The Middle. That’d be Jerry’s final TV credit, as he spent the past couple of years sidelined at home following a car accident.

He will be missed.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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