Peeter Oja and Hannes Võrno recalled Tarmo Leinatamm, a member of their comedy troupe Kreisiraadio, which was at its peak in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Leinatamm died on Monday at the age of 57. Besides being a conductor and later a politician, he was a founding member of the comedy trio, which started as a radio show on Kuku Radio in 1993, and became even better known for TV skits, often with mockumentary elements.
"The three of us were in Tartu for studies or theater and became friends," said Peeter Oja. Oja, 54, was also friends with Leinatamm as a child when singing in a boys' choir, and Oja was later working at Vanemuine Theater in Tartu while Leinatamm was conductor.
Võrno, 45, said Leinatamm was "a brother, uncle, business partner and colleague. I wouldn't imagine my life without Tarmo."
Many of Kreisiraadio's skits were inspired by events or someone's personal characteristics, said Oja. Leinatamm was often in the role of "reporter," much like comedians regularly do on American television, such as John Oliver or Steve Carell.
Võrno said: "Back when we started doing Kreisiraadio several decades ago [in 1993], people were not so divided in to classes according to the things they owned. It was a time when there was an appreciation for men and women who knew some trade. They were the heroes of our skits. We never really did political satire and didn't have punching bags, people who have to get their licks.
"So we found characters who were worth some little humorous spin due to their oddness of their profession. We had respect for working folks, and a broad gallery of specialists who always had interesting positions. And it was Leinatamm's nature to get them to open up, he was in the reporter's role. We didn't assign roles. He was just full of that reporter's spirit and if he weren't a conductor and musician, he would definitely be a player in journalism on the order of an Urmas Ott or Vahur Kersna."
Oja: "Being a conductor was such a perfect profession for him, he had all the qualities needed to get a piece to come to life and go forward. A very symbolic profession. He was a born conductor."
Oja said there was no way of picking just one Leinatamm-related "funny story," but told the tale of how, when he took a car trip to Italy for his 50th birthday, Leinatamm also followed him in secret in his own car, and surprised Oja on a Mediterranean beach.
"I'm lying there and there was all this noise around me, buongio- and Italia Italia and all of a sudden I hear a low voice say, 'Noh, palju õnne siis.' ("Well, congratulations.")