I saw him in one of the most disappointing live shows I’d ever witnessed! He was just awful. I was still a fan.
Steve Landesberg died this weekend. He was a comedian and comedic actor. I saw him in one of the most disappointing live shows I’d ever witnessed! He was just awful. I was still a fan.
Steve Landesberg first came into view for me as a stand-up performing on TV. He did dialects.
His signature bit was about a southern sheriff whom he did in a deep southern drawl. The sheriff was talking about hippies and war protesters and one particular guy who was singing a folk song, “Stomping on the Flag.” Finally at the end the sheriff says,
“Stomping on the flag? Stomping on the flag? It had a catchy beat.”
In the mid-70s Landesberg appeared on a forgotten piece of the CBS killer Saturday lineup (Bob Newhart, Mary Tyler Moore) “Paul Sands in Friends and Lovers.” It was a comedy built around players in a symphony orchestra. Landesberg played an Austrian violinist, Fred Meyerbach.
I loved that show, but was obviously in a small minority. It was gone quickly. There isn’t even a YouTube clip available!
Steve Landesberg’s accent was so good that when Barney Miller was being cast Landesberg was originally turned down without an audition. The producer couldn’t imagine a New York City detective with an Austrian accent!
“He was acting,” his agent finally pleaded. He got the gig playing Detective Dietrich.
It’s been a long time since I saw Steve Landesberg perform. I know he made “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” which I didn’t see (but which many people liked) and a few obscure TV series including one on Starz. Earlier he’d done commercials, always in a deadpan.
Back in the day I just assumed he’d be a bigger star.
Yet as soon as he began to speak the audience roared–and this is a very tough crowd!
My buddy Farrell shot me an email Thursday. Here’s the gist:
I attended the Radio & Television Correspondents Dinner last night at the DC Convention Center. Joe Biden was the main speaker. A couple of funny lines in the beginning of his speech. Also, look for Joe Wong, a comedian, who wrapped up the evening. He has a final line about global warming. I thought of you.
First, I’m impressed Farrell was at the dinner. He is the International Man of Mystery™, but he’s never been a correspondent. At least he hasn’t been in the nearly thirty years I know him¹!
Second, who the hell is Joe Wong? Am I that far behind on comedians? I went to the C-SPAN site to look at the video. That’s when I found out this broadcast wasn’t even on ‘real’ C-SPAN, but C-SPAN 2–The Deuce.
Joe was introduced as having been on Letterman and Ellen Degeneres. That’s OK on a resume, but not great. He walked to the podium. If you were looking for a comedian he is not what you would have been looking for! Yet as soon as he began to speak the audience roared–and this is a very tough crowd!
Joe Wong is Chinese born, Rice educated. His accent is strong. His observations of our, now his, culture are dead on.
This was a great surprise–a wonderful surprise. I am now a Joe Wong fan.
Here’s the video from C-SPAN 2.
¹ – I met Farrell on the phone about 15 minutes before I knocked over and then met Helaine. That was a VERY good day!