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John Ritter, the Beloved Sitcom Star

Full Name John Ritter
Born September 17, 1948 in Burbank, California
Died September 11, 2003 in Burbank, California
Spouse Nancy Morgan (1977-1996), Amy Yasbeck (1999-2003)
Children 4 children – Jason, Carly, Tyler, and Stella
Parents Legendary country singer Tex Ritter and actress Dorothy Fay
Siblings 1 brother – Thomas Matthews "Tom" Ritter
Education University of Southern California
Notable Roles Jack Tripper on "Three‘s Company", Ben on "Hooperman", Paul Hennessy on "8 Simple Rules"
Awards Golden Globe Award, Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Net Worth $20 million
Social Media Facebook Page, Twitter Account

John Ritter was an Emmy-winning actor and father known for his comedic roles in hit sitcoms like "Three‘s Company", "Hooperman", and "8 Simple Rules". With his physical comedy chops, flawless timing, and lovable charisma, Ritter left an indelible mark on television history.

Early Life and Family

Ritter was born in Burbank, California in 1948 to legendary country singer Tex Ritter and actress Dorothy Fay. His grandfather was the famous singing cowboy star John Ritter. He caught the acting bug early, appearing in school plays alongside future stars like David Schwimmer.

Ritter married Nancy Morgan in 1977, and they had three children together – Jason, Carly, and Tyler Ritter – before divorcing in 1996. He married actress Amy Yasbeck in 1999, and they had one daughter, Stella Ritter, born in 1998. Tragically, just a year after Stella‘s birth, Ritter received the shocking news that he had an undiagnosed congenital heart defect.

Breakout Role on "Three‘s Company"

Ritter‘s big break came in 1977 when he landed the role of Jack Tripper in the sitcom "Three‘s Company" opposite Joyce DeWitt and Suzanne Somers. As the bumbling but good-natured ladies man pretending to be gay so he could live with his female roommates, Ritter‘s physical comedy chops made him an overnight star. Fans connected with his lovable, huggable personality. Ritter‘s flawless comedic timing and chemistry with his costars turned the show into a massive hit that ran for 8 seasons.

"There‘s no doubt that my dad‘s work on ‘Three‘s Company‘ really defined his career. That role showcased his talents fully – the joking, the physical comedy, the double takes. It really is legendary." – Jason Ritter on his father‘s defining role

Ritter won a Golden Globe award and earned an Emmy nomination for the role that made him famous. Jack Tripper became one of the most iconic sitcom characters ever, and "Three‘s Company" a touchstone 70s/80s sitcom.

Later Television Roles

Ritter continued headlining hit shows throughout the 80s and 90s, including "Hooperman" (1987-1989) where he played Officer Hal Hooperman. Though the show only ran two seasons, Ritter won acclaim for his dramatic range playing a widowed cop.

His next iconic television role came in 2002 when he starred as Paul Hennessy, a protective father of teen girls, in "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter". Ritter shone once again, blending his signature comedic flair with heartfelt family moments. He earned 2 posthumous Emmy nominations for the role.

"I‘ll always remember dad‘s work on ‘8 Simple Rules‘. He really relished that part – it combined his comedic and dramatic talents brilliantly. And we got to work together, which was a dream come true." – Jason Ritter reflecting on working with his dad.

Other notable shows Ritter appeared on as a guest star include "Ally McBeal", "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Scrubs", and "Felicity".

Film Career

While television is where he shined brightest, Ritter also appeared in over 25 films throughout his prolific career. Highlights include:

  • Problem Child (1990) and Problem Child 2 (1991) where he starred as Ben Healy opposite a mischievous child.
  • Stay Tuned (1992) a spoof of television alongside Pam Dawber.
  • Sling Blade (1996) as the gay manager of a department store.
  • Bad Santa (2003) his final film role opposite Billy Bob Thornton.

John Ritter‘s Shocking Death

On September 11, 2003, John Ritter died suddenly just days shy of his 55th birthday. While rehearsing an episode of 8 Simple Rules, he became ill and was taken to the hospital. The cause of death was an aortic dissection – a tear in the aorta artery wall – that resulted in massive internal bleeding.

Ritter had unknowingly lived his entire life with a congenitally malformed heart, making him susceptible to the dissection. The tragic loss stunned Ritter‘s family, friends, and the entire Hollywood community. Stars praised Ritter‘s immense talent and iconic roles while lamenting his untimely passing.

Why We Love John Ritter

  • His comedic brilliance: Ritter had a knack for slapstick, subtle humor, improv – every shade of comedy. His skills were unparalleled.
  • His heart: On screen, Ritter radiated warmth and humanity. He made you feel like you really knew the man underneath the laughs.
  • His authenticity: Ritter disappeared fully into roles. Unlike some TV stars, he always felt like he was living genuinely in the moment.
  • His passion: Ritter clearly loved what he did. His joy for entertaining was evident in every lively performance.
  • His spirit: By all accounts, Ritter matched his friendly on-screen persona off screen too – brightening people‘s days with humor and care.

John Ritter‘s Impact and Legacy

While Ritter‘s brilliant career was unfairly cut short, he made his mark on pop culture history:

  • His role as Jack Tripper on "Three‘s Company" made the show a touchstone 70s/80s sitcom. His comedic work influenced later stars like Zach Braff and Donald Faison.
  • He helped pave the way for other physical comedy actors, proving it could be smart and hilarious.
  • With "8 Simple Rules", Ritter showed the family sitcom genre still had legs and helped set the stage for future hits like "Modern Family".
  • As an actor, Ritter modeled being both hysterically funny and warmly sympathetic. He was proof you could make ‘em laugh and cry.
  • Off screen, Ritter exemplified a positive spirit. His legacy is a reminder to be kind and enjoy each moment.

Though gone too soon at 54, John Ritter‘s hilarious performances will live on forever in television syndication reruns and fans‘ hearts. The beloved comedic icon left his mark on TV history.

John Ritter: By the Numbers

  • Nominated for 10 Emmy Awards during his career
  • Appeared in over 25 Broadway plays and musicals
  • Starred in over 50 television series
  • Featured in over 25 films
  • Married for 19 years to Nancy Morgan until 1996
  • Married for 4 years to Amy Yasbeck until his death in 2003
  • Fathered 4 children – Jason, Carly, Tyler, and Stella
  • Had 1 brother – Thomas "Tom" Ritter
  • Died tragically at only 54 years old
  • Has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

John Ritter: Frequently Asked Questions

What character did John Ritter play on Three‘s Company?

Ritter played Jack Tripper, the klutzy but kind-hearted culinary student living with two female roommates. His antics trying to pretend to be gay were hysterical.

What awards did John Ritter win?

Ritter won a Golden Globe Award for Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for playing Jack Tripper on Three‘s Company in 1984.

How many kids did John Ritter have?

John Ritter had four children – Jason, Carly and Tyler with first wife Nancy Morgan, and Stella with second wife Amy Yasbeck. Jason Ritter followed in his dad‘s acting footsteps.

What was John Ritter‘s cause of death?

Ritter tragically died from an aortic dissection – a tear in the wall of the major artery carrying blood from the heart to the rest of the body. This tear led to major internal bleeding.

What was John Ritter‘s last role?

John Ritter‘s final role was playing Paul Hennessy, the father of teenage daughters, in the sitcom 8 Simple Rules alongside Katey Sagal.


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