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About Ole Olsen
Note: Ole Olsen is on the left in the photo; his partner, Chic Johnson is on the right.
John Sigvard "Ole" Olsen (6 November 1892 – 26 January 1963) was an American vaudevillian and comedian.
Born in Peru, Indiana, he graduated from Northwestern University in 1912 with a degree in music and hit the Vaudeville circuit. In 1914 he met Chic Johnson, who was advertising himself as the "Greatest Ragtime Pianist in the Midwest."
The two performers met when they were hired as musicians in the same band. When the band broke up "Ole" Olsen and "Chic" Johnson formed the Olsen and Johnson comedy team. They really did not have a set act but found themselves booked into a small Chicago nightclub as part of Mike Fritzol's Frolics. When it came time for their turn in the show, unannounced and not particularly welcome, the brave pair pushed a piano onstage. Johnson seated himself at the keyboard and began to plunk out a ragtime tune. Olsen joined in with his violin and started singing, making up comical lyrics as he went along. The pair began to exchange "patter", mostly insults and the soon-to-be-famous "Olsen and Johnson" team emerged.
They struggled in Vaudeville for 24 years before hitting Broadway in 1938 with the show Hellzapoppin', later successfully filmed.
Ole Olsen was married twice. He had three children with his first wife, Lillian: J. C., Joy, and Moya. They were later divorced. His son, J. C., committed suicide. Moya married William P. Lear of Learjet fame in 1942. Ole was involved in a serious automobile accident in 1950 and recuperated at the Lear home. In June 1961 Ole married Eileen Maria Osthoff, a dancer and choreographer he had known for eight years.
Ole's ambition was to make people laugh. He is remembered for the quote, "May you live as long as you want to, and laugh as long as you live". Those words are engraved on his headstone. Olsen died at the age of 70 of a kidney ailment and is interred in Las Vegas, Nevada in a grave adjoining Chic Johnson's.