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Monday, December 20, 2010

Steve Landesberg, R.I.P.

From Mark Evanier’s website, – sad news. One of my favorite comedians has passed.

Sorry to hear of the death of comedian Steve Landesberg. He was 65 and had been battling cancer for some time.
Most folks probably knew him because of his recurring roles on sitcoms like Barney Miller and The Golden Girls, and he was great on those shows. I remember him as a stand-up comedian at the Comedy Store in the seventies. They'd introduce him and he'd saunter up to the stage looking very rumpled and easy-going. The character he played on Barney Miller was pretty much him playing himself.
Like many comics, he'd put a little tape recorder on the stool and start it recording — "in the unlikely event that I ad-lib anything worth ever saying again." Then he'd launch into his act and the most extraordinary thing would happen. All the other comics, the ones milling around in the back by the bar, would stop and listen. They'd stop talking to each other about girls and agents and potential bookings and they'd stop and pay attention and show respect as Landesberg performed. They didn't shut up for very many other comedians and usually not guys on the way up...but they watched Steve and studied and I imagine a few wondered, "How does he do that? Just being himself like that."
It certainly wasn't that they were expecting anything new. Everyone who spent more than a few nights at the Comedy Store knew Landesberg's entire act — the joke about how everyone in Hollywood is writing a pilot, shooting or a pilot...or is a pilot. There was also his redneck character complaining about a new song he'd heard on the radio — "Spittin' on the Flag." ("Most disgusting song you ever heard. Catchy, though.") There was his dissection of Barry White lyrics. But mostly there was Steve. In an arena of backstabbing and egos and Industrial Strength Schadenfreude, he was amazingly unresented. No one thought he wasn't funny. No one thought he wasn't a fine fellow, deserving of all those jobs he got.
For some reason, I always ran into him in delicatessens in the Valley — sometimes, Art's; sometimes, Jerry's. He was always cordial. Always easy-going. Always funny without showing the slightest note of trying to be funny. It's a shame to lose a guy like that.

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