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Shelley Berman, ‘Sit-Down’ Comedian And ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ Actor, Has Died

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In a forthcoming interview with Marc Maron, the stand-up comedian reflects on his penchant for sitting down on the genre’s iconic bar stool throughout most of his act. “The idea that you have to run around the stage is more of a stylistic decision,” he says. “The sitting down thing I really think I got from… You know, Shelley would sit down. A lot of those guys from that time would sit down.” The “Shelley” Maron refers to is Shelley Berman, the popular “sit-down” comedian of the ’50s and ’60s who turned to acting during the latter half of his career. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Berman has passed away at the age of 92.

Per a post on the Berman fan club’s official Facebook page, the comic died early Friday morning at his home in Bell Canyon, California from complications with Alzheimer’s. “He slipped away peacefully, in his sleep, with no pain, as far as his hospice care workers could tell,” noted the post. Both a public memorial and a private service strictly for family members and close friends will be held, though details for either have not yet been released.

Along with legends like Bob Newhart and Mort Sahl, Berman was considered one of the “observational masters” of the era’s stand-up comedy boom. In 1959, he released the live record Inside Shelley Berman, which subsequently became the first non-musical recording to win a Grammy Award and the first comedy record to go gold. However, documentary cameras following his every move in 1963 caught an infamous outburst at a club performance, when a ringing telephone interrupted one of his bits. “I’ll pull the damn phones out of the wall!” he exclaimed.

The fallout from the incident proved detrimental to Berman’s stand-up career, so he turned back to his training as an actor. As a result, he performed in several classic roles — including Gore Vidal’s 1964 film The Best Man and Larry David’s father, Nat David in Curb Your Enthusiasm. His performance in the latter earned him a 1998 Emmy Award nomination.

(Via The Hollywood Reporter)

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