Actor/comedian Steve Landesberg died yesterday of cancer. He was 74.
Landesberg is best known for his portrayal of Arthur Dietrich, the Jewish intellectual detective on the ABC comedy series Barney Miller. He joined the cast in the show’s second season and remained until the series concluded in 1982.
Younger audiences might remember him from his role in the 2008 romantic comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
For many years, Landesberg had a stand up comedy act. In 1985, this act took him to the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium and my parents went to see him perform. One of his first jokes was, “Any Jews from New York in the audience?” My Dad immediately whistled much to the shock of Landesberg. Then for the next ten minutes Dad and Landesberg kibbitzed back and forth much to the audience’s delight.
Now I was not there to witness this dialogue between two New York Jews in the middle of Northwestern Ontario. Believe me, I wish I had been there. However, I know it happened because for years after when our family would go out people would approach Dad and ask, “Hey, aren’t you the guy who did that act with Steve Landesberg?”