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December 1, 1923
Buffalo, New York, U.S.
|Died||April 17, 1987
San Diego, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Heart attack|
|Other names||Richy Shawn|
|Spouse(s)||Rita Bachner (m. 1946–1987)|
Early life and career 
Shawn was born as Richard Schulefand in Buffalo, New York and raised in adjacent Lackawanna. The best known roles of his career were that of Sylvester Marcus, son of Mrs. Marcus (Ethel Merman), in Stanley Kramer's It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and Lorenzo St. DuBois/Adolf Hitler in the musical Springtime for Hitler, the play within the movie The Producers. He also provided the Snow Miser's voice in The Year Without a Santa Claus.
He had continued success with his stand-up comedy act that he successfully performed for over 35 years in nightclubs around the world. His award-winning one-man stage show, The Second Greatest Entertainer in the Whole Wide World, was sometimes performed with a unique opening. When the audience entered the theater, they saw a bare stage with a pile of bricks in stage center. When the play began, Shawn emerged from the pile of bricks. The startling effect of this required complete concentration and breath control because the slightest movement of the bricks could ruin the surprise appearance.
In addition to roles in more than 30 movies and seven Broadway productions, Shawn made numerous television appearances, toured often, and periodically performed a one-man show that mixed songs, sketches, and pantomime. He was a frequent speaker at the infamous Friars Club Roasts in Los Angeles and New York. At one of the X-rated roasts (a 1986 Playboy roast of Tommy Chong) that had overdosed on tasteless routines by previous speakers, Shawn walked up to the microphone, took a long pause, and "vomited" pea soup onto himself and other speakers at the dais.
His many TV appearances included The Ed Sullivan Show, TV movies, sitcoms (including Three's Company on which he played John Ritter's father), dramas including St. Elsewhere and Magnum P.I, and a music video for "Dance" by the hair metal band Ratt (1986). Among his roles in anthology TV series, he starred in an Amazing Stories episode, "Miss Stardust", directed by Tobe Hooper, about a bizarre intergalactic beauty pageant, and played the Emperor in The Emperor's New Clothes in Shelly Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre.
Personal life 
Shawn was married to Rita Bachner in 1946, and they had four children: Amy, Wendy (married to John Travolta's older brother Joey Travolta), Adam, and Jennifer. He had one grandchild, Rachel Travolta. He was a longtime resident of Englewood, New Jersey.
On April 17, 1987, while performing on stage at UC San Diego's Mandeville Hall, Shawn began a comedy bit about himself and the audience surviving nuclear war. At one point in the act, Shawn portrayed a politician reciting campaign clichés, including: "If elected, I will not lay down on the job"; later, when he collapsed face down on the stage, the audience thought it was part of the act, unaware that he had actually suffered a massive heart attack.
After some time had gone by, there were catcalls. Finally, someone appeared on stage, knelt down to examine Shawn, stood up and asked: "Is there a doctor in the house?" Another person came on stage, turned him over and began administering CPR. The audience was told to go home, but almost no one left since it appeared to be part of Shawn's act. When paramedics arrived, bewildered audience members began leaving, still unsure of what they had witnessed. A notice in the following day's San Diego Union newspaper clarified that Shawn had indeed died during the performance. Dick Shawn was 63. He is laid to rest in Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery, in Culver City, California.
- Amazing Stories: Miss Stardust http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0511106/
- Lewis, Dan. "Dick Shawn: Mixed-Media Man", The Baltimore Sun, November 28, 1971. Accessed February 17, 2011. "DICK SHAWN left the comforts of his 14-room home in Englewood, NJ, one recent Sunday and flew to Hollywood to start work on a movie for television."
- "Dick Shawn". Actors Biographies. All Media Guide. 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-22.