Leonard King Lesser
December 3, 1922
The Bronx, New York, U.S.
|Died||February 16, 2011 (aged 88)|
Burbank, California, U.S.
(m. 1954; div. 1982)
Leonard King Lesser (December 3, 1922 – February 16, 2011) was an American character actor, known as Len Lesser. He was known for his recurring role as Uncle Leo in Seinfeld, which began during the show's second season in "The Pony Remark" episode. Lesser was also known for his role as Garvin on Everybody Loves Raymond.
Lesser was born in the Bronx in 1922. His father, a grocer, was a Jewish immigrant from Poland. Lesser received his bachelor's degree from the City College of New York in 1942 at the age of 19. Lesser enlisted in the United States Army the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and served in the China Burma India Theater during World War II.
Lesser was a prolific character actor in film, TV and on stage. He has appeared on American television steadily since 1955 on scores of TV classics such as That Girl, The Untouchables, Peter Gunn, Mr. Lucky, The Outer Limits, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Get Smart, Family Affair, The Monkees, Quincy, M.E., The Rockford Files, The Amazing Spider-Man, Mad About You, All in the Family, Boy Meets World, Smart Guy, My Favorite Martian, The Munsters, and Castle. He appeared in a variety of films such as Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965), Kelly's Heroes (1970), Blood and Lace (1971), Dirty Little Billy (1972), Papillon (1973), Truck Stop Women (1974), The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Supervan (1977), Moonshine County Express (1977), Ruby (1977), Death Hunt (1981), Take This Job and Shove It (1981), Grandmother's House (1988) and Baadasssss! (2003).
Lesser had a recurring role on Everybody Loves Raymond as "Garvin", a friend of Frank Barone, who always lifted his arms in excitement whenever he saw Ray (just as Lesser did in his recurring role on Seinfeld as "Uncle Leo" whenever he saw his nephew, Jerry). He also appeared in Jeff Seymour's critically acclaimed stage production of Cold Storage at the University of Toronto's George Ignatieff Theatre.
After learning of Lesser's death, Jerry Seinfeld said of him,
Len was one of our favorites. We always loved having him on the show. I'll never forget when Uncle Leo was in prison and tattooed 'Jerry Hello' on his knuckles. He was a very sweet guy.
Another Seinfeld castmate, Jason Alexander, tweeted,
Thanks to all of you for your kind remarks re: Len Lessor [sic]. Tonight was the opening of Gigi at my beloved Reprise Theater Company and I've only returned at this late hour to hear the news. ... "Hellooo" Uncle Leo. And goodbye. Sleep well. Much love. Jason.
- Shack Out on 101 (1955) - Perch
- Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) - Reporter at Sparring Session (uncredited)
- Lust for Life (1956) - Cartoonist (uncredited)
- The Rack (1956) - Officer (uncredited)
- This Could Be the Night (1957) - Piano Tuner (uncredited)
- Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (1957) - Sam (uncredited)
- The Brothers Karamazov (1958) - Jailer (uncredited)
- I Want to Live! (1958) - Charlie, Newspaperman (uncredited)
- Some Came Running (1958) - Indianapolis Poker Player (uncredited)
- Crime and Punishment U.S.A. (1959) - Desk Officer
- Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1960) - Waiter at Sardi's (uncredited)
- Bells Are Ringing (1960) - Charlie Bessemer (uncredited)
- Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) - Burns (uncredited)
- Smog (1962) - Lelio Marpicati
- McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force (1965) - NKVD commissar
- How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965) - North Dakota Pete
- Fireball 500 (1966) - Man in Garage
- The Last Challenge (1967) - Ed - the Bartender (uncredited)
- Kelly's Heroes (1970) - Sergeant Bellamy
- Bonanza (1970) - Fred Gaskell
- Blood and Lace (1971) - Tom Kredge
- Dirty Little Billy (1972) - Slits
- Slither (1973) - Jogger
- Papillon (1973) - Guard
- Truck Stop Women (1974) - Winter
- Death Wish (1974) - Cop at the Precinct (uncredited)
- The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) - Abe
- Supervan (1977) - Banks
- Moonshine County Express (1977) - Scoggins
- Joyride to Nowhere (1977) - Charlie
- Ruby (1977) - Barney
- House Calls (1978) - Waiter
- The Main Event (1979) - Trainer At Big Bear
- Take This Job and Shove It (1981) - Roach
- Death Hunt (1981) - Lewis
- Du-beat-e-o (1984) - Hendricks
- Grandmother's House (1988) - Grandfather
- Faith (1990) - Uncle Sal
- Sorority Girls and the Creature from Hell (1990) - Tex
- Ain't No Way Back (1990) - Papa Campbell
- Rave Review (1994) - Al
- True Friends (1998) - Mr. Slotnick
- The Werewolf Reborn! (1998)
- Baadasssss! (2003) - Manny & Mort Goldberg
- Raw Footage (2005) - Grampa Joey
- Frankenstein & the Werewolf Reborn! (2005) - Inspector Krol
- "Uncle Leo". seinfeldonline.com. Retrieved February 17, 2011.
- Weber, Bruce. "Len Lesser, Uncle Leo on 'Seinfeld', Dies at 88", The New York Times. 2011-02-17.
- Obituary, latimes.com, February 17, 2011.
- Len Lesser on IMDb
- "First Person: Len Lesser on Uncle Leo's new life". National Post.[permanent dead link]
- Allen, Floyd (February 18, 2011). "Len Lesser dies at 88, due to cancer-related pneumonia". ibtimes.com. Retrieved February 19, 2011.[permanent dead link]
- Seinfeld's 'Uncle Leo' dead at 88, cnn.com, February 16, 2011.
- Zakarin, Jordan (February 17, 2011). "Uncle Leo's 'Seinfeld' Scenes: Jerry Remembers His Favorite". Huffington Post.