Art Metrano, the stand-up comedian who played the stuck-up Lt. Ernie Mauser in the “Police Academy” films, died at his home in Florida on Wednesday at the age of 84, according to media reports.
Metrano got his big break in comedy in 1970 when he appeared on “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson” as the renowned magician “The Amazing Medrano.” His act simply involved him waving his fingers around while singing corny showtunes, yet left Carson laughing so hard that NBC’s lat- night host brought him back for several more appearances. The routine would inspire a clip gag on “Family Guy” decades later, though Metrano filed a lawsuit against the show’s producers claiming that his routine was used without his permission.
Along with stand-up and appearances on various comedy and variety shows, Metrano took on roles on episodes of shows like “Bewitched” and “Ironside,” and even took on a dramatic role in Sydney Pollack’s 1969 film “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” In 1982, he played rock band manager Rico Mastorelli on the “Happy Days” spinoff “Joanie Loves Chachi.”
But his most famous performances came in the mid-’80s with “Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment” and “Police Academy 3: Back In Training” as Lt. Mauser, a ruthless cop determined to climb up the ranks of the 16th Precinct by any means possible. Hated by the cadets, Mauser becomes the target of several slapstick pranks, including having his eyebrows waxed off.
In 1989, Metrano’s career suddenly came to a standstill when he fell off a ladder and was seriously injured. Three of his vertebrae were fractured and Metrano was left a quadriplegic. But the comedian turned the tragic accident into a return to comedy with a one-man show called “Jews Don’t Belong on Ladders…An Accidental Comedy,” which helped raise funds to aid patients with spinal cord injuries.
Over the course of the 1990s, Metrano underwent extensive rehabilitation to regain use of his arms and legs with the aid of crutches, which worked well enough to allow him to take on small TV roles and guest appearances. This included a return to “Police Academy” as Lt. Mauser in an episode of the film franchise’s spinoff TV series in 1997. Metrano retired from acting in 2001 and from comedy in 2008.