‘Bonanza’ Child Star Teddy Quinn Became Famous From an Ad Lib in a Commercial

by Sean Griffin

Teddy Quinn, a famous child actor from the 1960s and ’70s, starred on the TV show Bonanza twice.

Quinn’s most memorable appearance was his title role in the episode “Tommy.” “Tommy” aired on December 18, 1966, as the fourteenth episode of the eighth season. In that episode, Quinn portrays a deaf boy that the Cartwrights bring into their home.

However, Teddy Quinn’s rise to stardom is a rather unique one. His fame can be attributed to an ad-libbed line he shouted during this commercial. The commercial for Bayer aspirin became a national sensation in 1963 because of Quinn’s cute “yeah, they are” line. And his performance in that commercial landed him dozens of roles throughout the years.

In the commercial, a little boy named Mike (played by Quinn) shows up to a front door. He asks if his friend Susie is home. Susie’s mother tells Mike that Susie has a cold. However, she reassures him that she’s fine because she took Bayer aspirin. The mother explains that when Mike gets better after being sick, his mother feels better as well. “Mothers are like that,” Mike responds. However, as if Quinn realized what his lines meant in that moment, he then says “yeah, they are.” That was the adorable ad-lib heard around the world.

The line garnered praise from people across the country. Viewers flooded mailboxes of both Bayer and the ad agency Edward Gottlieb & Associates. According to the Eugene Register-Guard, “The agency said one woman wrote, ‘I never thought I’d watch TV for hours hoping to see a commercial. It’s adorable.’” 

How the Ad-Lib Brought Teddy Quinn Success

After the success of his commercial, Quinn quickly landed other film and television roles. He started by playing an unnamed toddler in a western called 4 for Texas and starring Frank Sinatra. Then, he played a child asking for an autograph in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. Quinn performed well on television, too. He played in My Favorite Martian, The Patty Duke Show, and That Girl. Then, he landed the role of Jerry Dyke’s son in Accidental Family.

He also appeared twice on the popular show Bewitched. In one episode, he plays a boy who Samantha turns into a dog. Teddy Quinn then landed his roles in Bonanza. The popular “Tommy” episode where Quinn plays the title character was written by Mary Terri Taylor, Thomas Thompson, and Mort Thaw. He also starred in The Ballad of Josie and Necromancy.

After continuing to act in the early ’70s, Teddy Quinn switched his pursuits. He began a musical career in 1974. He eventually formed a synth group, Telekin, who had a hit song in Europe in the ’80s. Quinn’s ride as an entertainer was an interesting one. It all started with the cute ad-lib he made at four years old.