Spede Pasanen (formally Pertti Olavi Pasanen) was a Finnish artist and inventor, popular for his comedy sketches on Finnish TV. He was a “jack of all trades” and had made contributions as an actor, producer, director, screenwriter, comedian, songwriter and inventor which is why he was sometimes also referred to as a “general entertainment man”. Spede was born in April 1930 in a prosperous middle class family. At school he was more interested in sports (particularly hockey) and conducting chemical experiments in his basement rather than his studies. In fact, his nickname “Spede” is obtained from being a “speedy” hockey player at school.
In 1953, Spede moved to Helsinki to study Social Sciences at the university there. However, once again he had a more active social life than academic life. He joined the sorority there and was the Master of Ceremonies for all their celebrations and social events. At university he met Jukka Virtanen and Matti Kuusla, who would later becomes important work associates and partners.
As an actor, Spede first did small side roles but his first big breakthrough was starring in the Finnish National Ballet’s production of Cervantes’ Don Quixote in 1958. Pasanen’s audition impressed the choreographer and the ballet was a raging success in Finland and Germany. Pasanen was also a successful radio presenter. His aim was to bring fast paced comedy to the Finnish radio, inspired by American comedians Jerry Lewis and Bob Silver. He would often host live broadcasts in front of an audience which most of the other presenters feared to do. On his shows he would have skits and musical performances to entertain audiences.
As an independent film maker, Spede’s first movie is generally considered to be X-Baron (released 1964). After the success of his first movie, Spede set up his own production company called “Spede Pasanen Film Production Company” and began to plan his next film. He collaborated with an old friend named Jukka Virtanen and a young television director named Ere Kokkonen. Together they produced many successful comedies including “Milli Pill” (1966), “Nutty Finland” (1967) and “Around 7 Brothers” (1968). The 1960’s saw Spede firmly established as a successful and popular comedian. Spede became known for his wit, quirky humor and exaggerated pranks.
Other than having dozens of films to his credit as both an actor and a film maker, Spede was also known as an inventor. His inventions included a ski jumping extractor, ski boat, mobile radio record player, waterproof storage bag, wave power plant, stereo recording method, two nose car, cooking machine, motor boat and surfboard combination, motor-driven golf club cart, remote controlled talking fridge, tread car track game and a speed test game.
Spede Pasanen met his wife, Pirjo Vainimäkeen, during the production of X-Baron. He cast her as the leading actress in his movie and the following year the two got married and had a daughter. The couple started living separately by the 1980’s and in a few years had separated officially. Spede was very concerned about his privacy and would fiercely protect his personal life from the paparazzi. Once there were rumors about him being seen with Miss Finland and some gossip magazines hinted at a relationship between the two. Spede was extremely cross with the editors and threatened them not to violate his privacy. He had several other relationships until the end of his life but he chose to keep his personal life removed from the attention of the press and media. Spede died in 2001 at the age of 71, and is buried in Finland.