Dick Shawn

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Dick Shawn
Dick Shawn 1964.JPG
Shawn in 1964
Richard Schulefand

(1923-12-01)December 1, 1923
DiedApril 17, 1987(1987-04-17) (aged 63)
Resting placeHillside Memorial Park Cemetery
Other namesRichy Shawn
Occupation(s)Actor, comedian
Years active1956–1987
Rita Bachner
(m. 1946)
RelativesJoey Travolta (son-in-law)

Dick Shawn (born Richard Schulefand, December 1, 1923 – April 17, 1987) was an American actor and comedian. He played a wide variety of supporting roles and was a prolific character actor. During the 1960s, he played small roles in madcap comedies, usually portraying caricatures of counter culture personalities, such as the hedonistic but mother-obsessed Sylvester Marcus in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), and the hippie actor Lorenzo Saint DuBois ("L.S.D.") in The Producers (1967). Besides his film work, he appeared in numerous television shows from the 1960s through the 1980s.


Born in Buffalo, New York and raised in nearby Lackawanna,[1] Shawn performed his stand-up comedy act 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 television appearances, toured often, and periodically performed a one-man show that mixed songs, sketches, and pantomime. He was a speaker at the 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.

In the Mel Brooks 1967 movie The Producers, Shawn won accolades[2][3][4][5] for his portrayal of Lorenzo St. DuBois, whose "friends call" him LSD, an actor auditioning for and winning the part of Hitler in a theatrical production that was intentionally meant to fail.

Shawn's television appearances included The Ed Sullivan Show, TV movies, sitcoms (including Three's Company on which he played Jack Tripper's father), dramas including St. Elsewhere and Magnum, P.I., and a music video for "Dance" by the hair metal band Ratt (1986). In the UK he appeared in Sunday Night at the London Palladium in 1958.

Amongst 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 for Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre. He filled in for vacationing Johnny Carson as guest host on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson on January 1, 1971, which saw the airing of the last cigarette commercial on American television (for Virginia Slims), one minute before the cigarette ads were banned.

Personal life[edit]

Shawn married 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.[6]


On April 17, 1987, during a performance at University of California, San Diego's Mandeville Hall, Shawn suffered a heart attack and collapsed face-down on the stage. The audience initially assumed that it was part of his act; but after he had remained motionless on the stage for several minutes, a stage hand examined him and asked if a physician was present.[7]

After CPR had been initiated, the audience was asked to leave the auditorium. Most in attendance remained, still assuming that it was all part of Shawn's act and only began leaving after paramedics arrived.[7] A notice in the following day's San Diego Union newspaper announced that Shawn had died during the performance at the age of 63.[8] Shawn was interred at Hillside Memorial Park, a Jewish cemetery in Culver City, California.[9]


Jim Knipfel claims that Andy Kaufman was inspired by Shawn.[10][11][12]

Actor Matthew Glave portrayed Shawn in Leave 'Em Laughing, a short film surrounding his final moments.[13]



Year Title Role Notes
1956 The Opposite Sex Psychiatric Patient
1960 Wake Me When It's Over Gus Brukaber
1960 The Wizard of Baghdad Genii-Ali Mahmud
1963 It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Sylvester Marcus
1965 A Very Special Favor Arnold Plum
1966 What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? Captain Lionel Cash
1966 Way... Way Out Igor Valkleinokov
1966 Penelope Dr. Gregory Mannix
1967 The Producers L.S.D. — Lorenzo St. DuBois
1969 The Happy Ending Harry Bricker
1977 Looking Up Manny Lander
1979 Love At First Bite Lieutenant Ferguson
1982 Good-bye Cruel World Rodney Poinsetter / Ainsley Poinsetter
1983 Rock 'n' Roll Hotel Weevil King of Evil
1983 Young Warriors Professor Hoover
1984 Angel Mae
1984 The Secret Diary of Sigmund Freud The Ultimate Patient
1985 Water Deke Halliday
1985 Beer Talk Show Host
1986 The Check Is in the Mail... Donald uncredited
1986 The Perils of P.K. The psychiatrist
1986 Captain EO Commander Bog Short Film
1987 Maid to Order Stan Starkey
1988 Rented Lips Charlie Slater


Year Title Role Notes
1954–55 Max Liebman Spectaculars unknown role 3 episodes
1955 Max Liebman Presents: Kaleidoscope Guest TV Movie
1955–58 The Ed Sullivan Show Himself 8 episodes
1958 The Eddie Fisher Show Himself 3 episodes
1959 The Dinah Shore Chevy Show Himself "Eve Arden / Dick Shawn / Red Norvo"
1961 General Electric Theater Felix Franklin "Don't Let It Throw You"
1961 Checkmate Danny Whitman "Laugh Till I Die"
1961 The DuPont Show with June Allyson Charlie Wilson "The Old-Fashioned Way"
1961 Michael Shayne Ernie Trask "The Trouble with Ernie"
1963 The Jimmy Dean Show Himself "Dick Shawn / Whitey Ford"
1963–67 The Jerry Lewis Show Himself 2 episodes
1963 The Judy Garland Show Himself #1.11"
1964 The Price Is Right Himself "03.20.1964"
1964–86 The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson Himself 38 episodes
1965 For the People Ernie Garatella "Secure Any Special Priviledge or Advantage"
1966 The Andy Williams Show Himself 2 episodes
1966 The Bob Hope Show Himself "Murder at NBC"
1967 ABC Stage 66 Paul Benderhof "I'm Getting Married"
1967 Sheriff Who Crawford Offwhite TV Movie
1967 Off to See the Wizard Tom Thumb "Who's Afraid of Mother Goose?"
1967 That Girl Himself "The Mailman Cometh"
1968 The Lucy Show Ace Winthrop "Lucy and the Pool Hustler"
1968 What's My Line? Self – Mystery Guest "Dick Shawn"
1969 That's Life unknown role "Sex and the Married Man"
1969 The Joan Rivers Show Himself "05.04.1969"
1969 The Liberace Show Himself "07.27.1969"
1971 Dames at Sea The Captain TV Movie
1971 The Bold Ones: The New Doctors Nick Sutton "The Glass Cage"
1971–78 The Hollywood Squares Himself – Panelist 3 episodes
1972 Evil Roy Slade Marshal Bing Bell TV Movie
1972–73 Love, American Style Henry Chadwick / Howard 2 episodes
1974 CBS Daytime 90 unknown role "My Little Love"
1973–74 The $10,000 Pyramid Himself – Celebrity Contestant 18 episodes
1974 The Year Without a Santa Claus Snow Miser (Voice Role) TV Movie
1975 Medical Center Pete Rashid "The Price of a Child"
1975–77 Captain Kangaroo Doc Grannick the Mechanic / E.J. Fusay 3 episodes
1976 You're Just Like Your Father Harry Tofler, Sr. TV Movie
1978 Mary Skit characters unknown episode(s)
1979 Fast Friends Deke Edwards TV Movie
1979 Laverne & Shirley Gatekeeper/Phone Representative "Upstairs, Downstairs"
1980 Fantasy Island Vic Erskine "Skater's Edge / Concerto of Death / The Last Great Race"
1980–81 Mr. & Mrs. Dracula Dracula 2 episodes
1981 Aloha Paradise Cyrus "Fiona / Engaged to Be Dumped / Fantasie Impromptu"
1981–82 The Love Boat Harvey Blanchard / David Jackson 3 episodes
1982 Private Benjamin Drysdale "You Oughta Be in Pictures"
1982 Slapstick Studios Sheldon unknown episode(s)
1983 Magnum, P.I. Buzz Benoit "Squeeze Play"
1983 Three's Company Jack Tripper, Sr. "Like Father, Like Son"
1984 Legmen Casanova "Knight at Casanova's"
1984 Steambath Frankie Melnick "Madison Avenue Madness"
1984 The Fall Guy Edward Seraph "Losers Weepers: Part 1"
1984 Body Language Himself 5 episodes
1985 Tales from the Darkside Bo Gumbs "If the Shoes Fit..."
1985 Hail to the Chief Ivan Zolotov series regular (6 episodes)
1985 Faerie Tale Theatre Emperor / Guest Interviewee 2 episodes
1986 The Twilight Zone Nelson Westbrook "Gramma / Personal Demons / Cold Reading"
1986 St. Elsewhere Edgard Eisenberg "The Equalizer"
1987 Amazing Stories Joe Willouhby "Miss Stardust"


Year Title Role Notes
1948 For Heaven's Sake, Mother! Milton Rubin
1961–62 Come Blow Your Horn Alan Baker (replacement) replaced Hal March
1962 The Egg Emile Magis
1962–64 A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum Prologus / Pseudolus (replacement) replaced Zero Mostel
1964–65 Fade Out – Fade In Byron Prong (replacement) replaced Jack Cassidy
1965 Peterpat Peter
1968 I'm Solomon Yoni, Solomon
1975–76 A Musical Jubilee Performer


  1. ^ Obituary, washingtonpost.com. Accessed August 7, 2022.
  2. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 23, 2000). "The Producers". Roger Ebert website. Retrieved January 18, 2021. great supporting performance
  3. ^ Crick, Robert Alan (2009). The Big Screen Comedies of Mel Brooks. McFarland & Company. p. 29. ISBN 978-0786443260. Dick Shawn is pretty terrific
  4. ^ Kashner, Sam (January 6, 2014). "The Making of The Producers". Vanity Fair. Retrieved January 18, 2021. very funny
  5. ^ Ferguson, John (2020). "The Producers". Radio Times. Retrieved January 18, 2021. wonderful
  6. ^ Lewis, Dan. "Dick Shawn: Mixed-Media Man", The Baltimore Sun, November 28, 1971. Accessed 24 July 2019. "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."
  7. ^ a b Scott, Janny; Thackrey, Ted Jr. (19 April 1987). "Comedian Dick Shawn, 63, Is Stricken on Stage, Dies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
  8. ^ "Dick Shawn". Actors Biographies. All Media Guide. 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
  9. ^ "Dick Shawn". Josh Pincus is Crying. Things to do in L.A. When You're Dead. Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  10. ^ Knipfel, Jim (24 April 2014). "The Humbly Great Dick Shawn". Ozy. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
  11. ^ Knipfel, Jim (2 May 2018). "Where Andy Kaufman Came From". Den of Geek. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  12. ^ Knipfel, Jim (April 8, 2018). "Jim and Andy and Dick". Electron Press. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  13. ^ Ng, Alan (2020-10-16). "Leave 'em Laughing | Film Threat". Film Threat. Retrieved 2022-07-12.

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