Actor John Ritter was an icon and, at age 54, he was taken from his loved ones way too soon. Even though his four kids — Jason, 39, Carly, 37, Tyler 34, and Noah, 21 — can still watch their dad’s movies when they miss him, it’s still not quite the same as having him there in person.

“I’ve been watching him in old episodes of Three’s Company, and it’s amazing how far and how weird he would go because he knew it was funny. It’s a beautiful and special quality to have,” Jason exclusively told Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. “He was obsessed with eliciting that reaction.”

 john ritter and son jason ritter

John loved to do slapstick comedy and he was great at it! “It just tickled him endlessly to be able to entertain people and make the corners of their mouths turn up,” his widow and second wife, Amy Yasbeck, told Closer. “It thrilled him to be able to change the weather inside somebody’s heart and mind. He knew it was a gift to be able to do that.”

John didn’t take his gift for granted either. He starred in many movies that had his fans constantly laughing, like 1990’s Problem Child, 2003’s Bad Santa, the TV series 8 Simple Rules (2002-2005) and, of course, Three’s Company. 

“He had a real dedication to making his children laugh,” Jason explained. “It became hard when I was a teenager and I’d be mad at him, and he could just make me laugh and forget about it.”

John valued his family more than anything. According to Amy, “it was fun and interesting” for the Burbank, California, native to spend time with his loved ones, “not just a duty to fulfill.”

john ritter and his widow

In fact, whenever John was in public and his adoring fans would hackle him for a handshake or photo, he would simply tell them that he was busy hanging out with his family and they would understand. “He was such a loving dad,” Jason gushed. “He came to all my plays in high school.”

Sadly, John later died in September 2003 from an aortic dissection on the set of 8 Simple Rules. However, his legacy lives on in Jason who has chosen to become an actor and carry on his father’s teachings in his work.

“I hope I’m making my dad proud — I’m just trying not to embarrass him,” he said. “I try to live as honestly and simply as possible. That’s what he would’ve wanted. Of course, I wish things could have been different.”

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