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‘You Can Call Me Ray’ Comedian Was 85

Bill Saluga, the comedian best known for his cigar-smoking, zoot-suit-wearing character Raymond J. Johnson Jr. and his famous catchphrase “You can call me Ray…,” has died. He was 85.

The comedy legend passed away on March 28 in hospice care in Los Angeles after spending eight months in the hospital, his friend Bill Minkin told The Hollywood Reporter. His death was said to be caused by complications of heart failure and arthritis.

Born on September 16, 1937, in Youngstown, Ohio, Saluga started out as a doorman at The Bitter End nightclub in New York before taking to the stage as part of the improv comedy group Ace Trucking Company. The group, which featured George Memmoli, Michael Mislove, Patti Deutsch, and Fred Willard, found success in the 1960s and 70s, even appearing on Tom Jones‘ 1971 ABC variety special.

Saluga’s most popular character was Raymond J. Johnson Jr., who began his sketches with his trademark line, “You can call me Ray, or you can call me Jay, or you can call me…” He would then continue to list every possible permutation of his name before ending with “…but you doesn’t has to call me Johnson.”

He frequently performed the character on talk shows, including appearances on Redd Foxx, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The David Steinberg Show, and The Gong Show. The character gained further recognition in the late 1970s after being used in commercials for Miller Lite and Anheuser-Busch.

In later years, Saluga appeared as an usher on an episode of Seinfeld and played Richard Lewis‘ uncle on three episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm in 2005. He also sent up his Johnson persona in episodes of The Simpsons in 2002 and King of the Hill in 2010.

His other TV credits include Mad About You, Blossom, Home Improvement, Sisters, and Murphy Brown.

This story originally appeared on TV Insider

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