Archive for obituary

My old improv buddy has died. RIP Robin Williams.


robin williams


I won't be able to do him justice. I'm in tears. Robin Williams, someone I highly respected, adored, and worked with has died at an all-too-young 63. I'm heartsick.

I met Robin pre-fame. In fact, he used to wear a pin that said "Nearly Famous." That was about a year or so after we met, just as he was about to star in his first TV series, "Mork and Mindy." After that, his career took off.

We worked together in an improvisation comedy group called "Off the Wall," and whenever I was on stage with him, I was (happily) a mere prop. The man was a genius. A genius with a heart of gold. A generous, sweet soul who never said a bad word about anyone, and treated everyone as equals. But nobody was his equal.

This news is horrible. I'd read that he was back in rehab, but I never expected this. Nobody did.

One of my favorite memories was attending a mutual friend's Passover seder, and he was seated next to me. He was so respectful, very quiet,  but everyone was waiting for him to go into one of his brilliant riffs... which he did, finally, after someone else cracked a joke, which was tacit permission for him to blast off. He was hilarious.

And again, he was kind. That's what really mattered.

I haven't seen him for years. He became so famous that when I went backstage to see him at a concert, he was literally whisked away from me by his entourage after a big hug and few seconds of conversation. He apologized as he was dragged off.

He used to honk my boobies, making a typically Robin honking sound. His nickname for me was "Sweet Thing."

I could go on forever about him, tell you wonderful stories, but for now, let this suffice.

RIP, dear sweet Robin. We'll miss you so much.

Via Business Insider: 

The cause of death is thought to be suicide by asphyxiation.

Here's the release from the Marin County Sheriff's Office:

On August 11, 2014, at approximately 11:55 am, Marin County Communications received a 9-1-1 telephone call reporting a male adult had been located unconscious and not breathing inside his residence in unincorporated Tiburon, CA. The Sheriff’s Office, as well as the Tiburon Fire Department and Southern Marin Fire Protection District were dispatched to the incident with emergency personnel arriving on scene at 12:00 pm. The male subject, pronounced deceased at 12:02 pm has been identified as Robin McLaurin Williams, a 63 year old resident of unincorporated Tiburon, CA. [...] A forensic examination is currently scheduled for August 12, 2014 with subsequent toxicology testing to be conducted.


Elaine Stritch, Broadway actress and singer, has died. She was 89.


elaine stritchPhoto via

Sigh. RIP, Elaine Stritch. I loved her work, and I was one of the lucky ones who saw her in "Company."

Via the New York Times:

Elaine Stritch, the brassy, tart-tongued Broadway actress and singer who became a living emblem of show business durability and perhaps the leading interpreter of Stephen Sondheim’s wryly acrid musings on aging, died on Thursday at her home in Birmingham, Mich. She was 89. [...]

Ms. Stritch’s career began in the 1940s and included her fair share of appearances in movies, including Woody Allen’s “September” (1987) and “Small Time Crooks” (2000), and on television; well into her 80s, she played a recurring role on the NBC comedy “30 Rock” as the domineering mother of the television executive played by Alec Baldwin. But the stage was her true professional home, where, whether in musicals, nonmusical dramas or solo cabaret shows, she drew audiences to her with her whiskey voice, her seen-it-all manner and the blunt charisma of a star. [...]

One of Ms. Stritch’s most memorable appearances was in the Sondheim musical “Company” (1970), in which, as a cynical society woman, she saluted her peers with the vodka-soaked anthem “The Ladies Who Lunch.” It not only brought her another Tony nomination but became her signature tune — at least until, in her 70s, she became equally known for Sondheim’s paean to showbiz longevity and survival, “I’m Still Here.” It was the centerpiece of her 2001 one-woman show, “Elaine Stritch at Liberty,” and she sang it in 2010 at Mr. Sondheim’s 80th-birthday concert at Lincoln Center (Patti LuPone took on “The Ladies Who Lunch”) and at the White House for President Obama.

Much more about her life and career at the link.


"Dating Game" host Jim Lange dies at 81


jim lange dating game

Who doesn't know and love The Dating Game, whether from countless spoofs of host Jim Lange, the campy matchmaking TV program itself, or from personal pop art-infused memories of the groundbreaking "reality show's" impact on pop culture in the Swinging Sixties and Seventies? Those were the days.

Here are but two of many, many examples of what TV was like back then, starring Lange, a young Michael Jackson, and pre-Charlie's Angels Farrah Fawcett.

R.I.P. Jim Lange.

Via the Los Angeles Times:

Jim Lange was the original and best-known host of a television show that has come to be identified with the swinging late 1960s and 1970s: "The Dating Game."

"We were really the first reality show," he said in a 2002 Times interview, "paving the way for Howard Stern, Jerry Springer, 'Big Brother.'"

Not that Lange, who graduated cum laude from the University of Minnesota, was so proud of those offspring. He spent more than 50 years in radio and television and hoped to one day have a TV talk show. But Lange felt his association with "The Dating Game" stymied loftier ambitions, and he knew it would be his legacy.

"It'll be on my tombstone," he said in a 1991 San Francisco Chronicle interview.

More on Jim Lange's life and career at the link.

 jim lange dating game with Farrah Fawcett


R.I.P. Sid Caesar


sid caesar, carl reiner, imogene cocaSid Caesar with Carl Reiner, Imogene Coca


Damn. I had a few personal connections to Mr. Sid Caesar, someone I was lucky enough to meet once upon a time. I even taught about him and his amazingly talented cohorts in my comedy class.

He was a pioneer, a brilliant man. What a loss. Via Variety:

Sid Caesar, one of the first stars created by television via his weekly live comedy program “Your Show of Shows,” has died at 91. TV host Larry King announced the news on Twitter.

Caesar, partnered with Imogene Coca, is credited with breaking ripe comedic ground with the 90-minute live program: It didn’t rely on vaudeville or standup-inspired material but rather on long skits and sketches written by an impressive roster of comedy writers including Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Neil Simon, Larry Gelbart, Lucille Kallen and Mel Tolkin.

They omitted Tony Webster, another of his amazing writers who was a dear friend of ours.

But his addiction took its toll, and until he came out of it in the late ’70s, Caesar gradually disappeared from the scene. In the early ’80s, he hosted “Saturday Night Live” and toured with Coca in a stage show recalling some of the better “Show of Shows” material.

He also did a considerable amount of work in supporting and guest turns on film and TV. He was in “Grease” and “The Cheap Detective” in 1978, in Brooks’ “History of the World: Part I” in 1981 and he made two appearances on “Love Boat,” to name just a few of his credits from the period... In 1985 he was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. In 2011 he received a lifetime achievement award from the Television Critics Assn.

Mr. Laffy worked on "Love Boat" for years, and many of our writer friends (some mentioned in this article) worked with Sid Caesar and would share some great stories with us. He will be missed.

More on his life and career at the link.