Robert Klein

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Robert Klein
Klein in 2010
Born (1942-02-08) February 8, 1942 (age 81)
The Bronx, New York, U.S.
MediumStand-up, television, film, theatre
Years active1965–present
GenresObservational comedy, improvisational comedy, satire/Political satire, musical comedy
Subject(s)Everyday life, American politics
(m. 1973; div. 1989)

Robert Klein (born February 8, 1942) is an American stand-up comedian, singer, and actor. He is known for his appearances on stage and screen. He has released four standup comedy specials: A Child of the 50s (1973), Mind Over Matter (1974), New Teeth (1975), and Let's Not Make Love (1990). The first two albums received Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album nominations.[1] Klein hosted Saturday Night Live in its first season in 1975 and again in 1978. Klein made his Broadway debut in the 1966 production of The Apple Tree opposite Alan Alda. He earned a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical nomination for his performance in Neil Simon's musical comedy They're Playing Our Song (1979).

He is known for his film roles in The Owl and the Pussycat (1970), Mixed Nuts (1994), One Fine Day (1996), Primary Colors (1998), The Safety of Objects (2001), Two Weeks Notice (2002), How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003), and Reign Over Me (2007). He is also known for his recurring television roles in Law & Order: SVU (2009-2012), The Good Wife (2013-2014), Madam Secretary (2014) and Will & Grace (2018-2019). He has received two Primetime Emmy Award nominations for his specials, Child in his 50's (2001), and Unfair and Unbalanced (2010). He was profiled in the Starz documentary Robert Klein Still Can't Stop His Leg (2016).

Early life[edit]

Klein was born in the Bronx, the son of Frieda (née Moskowitz) and Benjamin Klein,[2][3] and was raised in a "prototypical 1950s Bronx Jewish" environment,[4] the grandson of Hungarian-Jewish immigrants who arrived in the USA early in the 20th century.[5] He has an older sister, Rhoda.[6]

After graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School,[7] Klein had planned to study medicine; however, he changed his mind during his studies at Alfred University, deciding to go into acting instead.[8]

While studying at the Yale Drama School, Klein learned about an opportunity to audition for The Second City.[9] In a piece he wrote for the improvisational troupe's book, Klein recalled sitting in a room full of other hopefuls, including Fred Willard. Klein's audition consisted of an improvisation set with Willard about two guys in a nightclub, which was successful enough to get Klein and Willard hired by Second City. In the spring of 1965, Klein was chosen as a member of Second City. When he returned to New York City a year later, he was cast by Mike Nichols in the Broadway musical The Apple Tree.[10]


Early work[edit]

Klein's first major appearance was as host of the 1970 summer replacement television series Comedy Tonight, on which were introduced many of the routines that in the next few years would be released on record albums. His extensive routines about the Watergate scandal made him highly popular in the 1970s. In 1974, he appeared in an episode of Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers.[11]

Klein starred in HBO's first stand-up comedy special in 1975 during the cable channel's early broadcast days and has continued to appear in several more one-man shows which have typically concluded with his "I can't stop my leg" routine.[12] On November 15, 1975, during Season 1, and again in Season 3, on January 28, 1978, Klein hosted Saturday Night Live.[13][14] His skits included Tough Director in 1975,[15] Nick The Lounge Singer Sings Star Wars Theme in 1978[16] and The Olympia Restaurant: Cheeseburger, Chips and Pepsi in 1978.[17]

In 1979, Klein starred in Neil Simon's musical comedy They're Playing Our Song opposite Lucie Arnaz. He received a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical nomination.[18]

In 1985, he starred in the "Wordplay" segment of The Twilight Zone,[19] which cast him against type in a dramatic role.[20] In 1986, Klein had his own late-night talk show, Robert Klein Time, which ran on the USA Network until 1988.[21] The following year, Klein hosted Monty Python Live at Aspen, a reunion and tribute show for the five surviving members of the British comedy troupe, in a special that appeared on HBO in 1998.[22]

Comedy albums[edit]

Klein has released four comedy albums, A Child of the Fifties (1973), Mind Over Matter (1974), New Teeth (1975), and Let's Not Make Love (1990). The first two albums received Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album nominations.[23]

In A Child of the Fifties (1973, Brut/Buddah Records), shown as Child of the 50s (on the cover), Klein talks about his life as a child in the 1950s: about air raid drills, Johnny Mathis music, showing off condoms while at the high school dance, the high school lunch ladies, Senator Joseph McCarthy, Governor W. Averell Harriman (of New York), meeting Yankee stars, the Yankees losing the World Series, and much more. He also goes into other things that he has observed in his life, such as substitute teaching, 1970s FM radio disc jockeys, late-night delis, and annoying commercials (e.g., Geritol). He also performed two songs that he wrote himself: "Fabulous '50s" and "Middle Class, Educated Blues."[citation needed]

His next album, Mind Over Matter (1974), included extensive discussion of the Watergate scandal and another song—the title track—about a kid who turned to humor to become popular.[24]

"The funniest album by a standup comic since George Carlin's Class Clown leaves behind the grammar-school nostalgia—which although frequently amusing always seemed formulaic when it wasn't—that kept Klein from sounding commercially uncompromised. Unlike Carlin, Klein gets better all the time. Never trivial, never cynical, never lacking a comic purpose for his outrage, he's up there with Pryor and Tomlin."

—Review of New Teeth in Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981)[25]

Klein's follow-up album, New Teeth (1975, Epic/CBS Records), featured the comedian's on-stage work on tracks such as "Mother Isn't Always Right" and his transposition of George Carlin's "Seven Words You Can't Say On Television," titled "Six Clean Words You Can Say Anywhere," with studio-recorded material such as "Continental Steel" and "On the Bayou."[26]

Klein responded to the end of the sexual revolution with his 1990 album, Let's Not Make Love, which contained many of the same routines as his 1984 HBO special Child of the '50s, Man of the '80s and his 1986 special Robert Klein on Broadway.[27]

Film and television[edit]

Klein has appeared in such films as The Owl and the Pussycat (1970), Hooper (1978), The Last Unicorn (1982), Radioland Murders (1994), One Fine Day (1996), Primary Colors (1998), The Safety of Objects (2001), Two Weeks Notice (2002), How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003), and Ira and Abby (2006).[28] Klein had a recurring role in the TV drama series Sisters. In the 1970s, he hosted Saturday Night Live twice. He also appeared as a guest star in the animated series Duckman, in the NBC sitcom Family Ties, and on the CBS sitcom The King of Queens.[29]

In 2005 he launched The Amorous Busboy of Decatur Avenue, his 8th HBO Special[30]

In March 2007, Klein once again collaborated with Adam Sandler (after appearing in Mixed Nuts) in Reign Over Me, and in September 2007 released a new DVD compilation of his eight live HBO specials, entitled Robert Klein: The HBO Specials 1975–2005.[31] Klein starred in The Mysteries of Laura, a crime dramedy on NBC starring Debra Messing. In this series he played the father of the show's main character, Laura. He appeared alongside Messing again in the relaunched version of her sitcom Will & Grace, playing the father of her character, Grace Adler.[32] In 2014, Klein played the Canadian Ambassador on Madam Secretary.[33] Klein played the Mayor of New York City in Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014) and Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (2015).[33]

On 29 January 2018, producers announced that Klein would be playing Grace Adler's father Martin in the NBC revival of Will and Grace replacing Alan Arkin.[34] Klein has authored an autobiography, The Amorous Busboy of Decatur Avenue: A Child of the Fifties Looks Back (2006).[35]

Personal life[edit]

Klein is divorced from opera singer Brenda Boozer. They have a son, Alexander Stuart Klein, who goes by Allie Klein and performs standup comedy.[36]


Klein has named Lenny Bruce, Jonathan Winters, and Rodney Dangerfield as comedy influences.[37]

Jerry Seinfeld has stated Klein's influences on him stating "He was The Beatles of Comedy to me." Various comedians including Bill Maher, Billy Crystal, Richard Lewis, and Jay Leno, all have also cited Klein as a comedic influence.[38][39]



Year Title Role Notes
1970 The Landlord Peter Credited as Bob Klein
1970 The Owl and the Pussycat Barney
1971 The Pursuit of Happiness Melvin Lasher
1972 Rivals Peter / Husband
1978 Hooper Roger Deal
1979 The Bell Jar Lenny
1981 Nobody's Perfekt Walter
1988 Dangerous Curves Bam Bam
1990 Tales from the Darkside: The Movie Wyatt Segment: "Lover's Vow"
1994 Radioland Murders Father Writer
1994 Mixed Nuts Mr. Lobel
1995 Jeffrey Skip Winkley
1996 One Fine Day Dr. Martin
1998 Next Stop Wonderland Arty Lesser
1998 Primary Colors Norman Asher
1999 Suits Tom Cranston
1999 The Contract Jackson
1999 Goosed Dad / Mel
2000 Labor Pains David Raymond
2001 Piñero Doctor
2001 The Safety of Objects Howard Gold
2002 I'm with Lucy Dr. Mort Zalkind
2002 People I Know Dr. Sandy Napier
2002 Two Weeks Notice Larry Kelson
2003 How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days Phillip Warren
2006 Ira & Abby Seymour Black
2007 Reign Over Me Jonathan Timpleman
2010 The Back-up Plan Dr. Scott Harris
2011 National Lampoon's Dirty Movie The CEO
2011 Demoted Bob Farrell
2012 Another Dirty Movie The CEO
2012 Putzel Narrator Voice
2021 Before I Go Jasper

Source: Internet Movie Database and Turner Classic Movies[40]


Year Title Role Notes
1973 Love, American Style Michael Epiosde: "Love and the End of the Line"
1974 Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers Mike Moran Episode: "Moran's the Man"
1975-1978 Saturday Night Live Host / Himself 2 episodes
1977 Visions Rebbe Episode: "A Secret Space"
1985 George Burns Comedy Week Jay Miller Episode: "Death Benefits"
1985 The Twilight Zone Bill Lowery Episode: "Wordplay"
1986 Comedy Factory Robert Morgan Episode: "Father's Day"
1988 Family Ties Roger Erdman Episode: "The Boys Next Door"
1989 Murder, She Wrote Barney Drake Episode: "Trevor Hudson's Legacy"
1989 Trying Times Buddy Amber Episode: "A Good Life"
1990 Midnight Caller Ryder Episode: "Ryder on the Storm"
1993 Law & Order Rick Mason Episode: "Sweeps"
1993 Frasier Gary Voice; Episode: "The Crucible"
1996 Grace Under Fire Fred Mullens / Ron 2 episodes
1996 Sisters Albert Barker 25 episodes
1997 Duckman Uncle Mo Dorkin 2 episodes
1998 Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist Robert Episode: "Old Man"
1999 Mad About You Stan Freitus Episode: "Farmer Buchman"
1999 Cosby Jack Episode: "A Very Nice Dance"
1999 The King of Queens Bruce Degner Episode: "Sparing Carrie"
2001 Oz Robert Klein Episode: "Conversions"
2001 Bob Patterson Landau 6 episodes
2004 The Stones Stan Stone 7 episodes
2008 Life on Mars Elliott Casso Episode: "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadows"
2008-2010 Heartland Dwayne Trent 2 episodes
2009-2012 Law and Order: SVU Dwight Stannich 4 epsides
2013 Royal Pains Bert Episode: "Hammertime"
2013-2014 The Good Wife Lyle Pollard 2 episodes
2014 Madam Secretary Amb. Lester Clark Episode: "Blame Canada"
2014 Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee Himself Episode: "Opera Pimp"
2014 Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley Self Documentary
2014-2016 The Mysteries of Laura Leo Diamond 5 episodes
2014 Sharknado 2: The Second One The Mayor Television movie
2015 Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! Mayor of New York Television movie
2015 The Seventies Self Episode: "Television Gets Real"
2016 Robert Klein Still Can't Stop His Leg" Self Starz Documentary
2018-2019 Will & Grace Martin Adler 4 episodes
2022 George Carlin's American Dream Self HBO Documentary

Source Internet Movie Database and TV Guide


Year Title Role Venue Ref.
1966 The Apple Tree Ensemble / Guard Shubert Theatre, Broadway [41]
1968 Leonard Sillman's New Faces of 1968 Performer Booth Theatre, Broadway
1979 They're Playing Our Song Vernon Gersh Imperial Theatre, Broadway
1985 The Robert Klein Show Self Circle in the Square Theatre, Broadway
1986 Robert Klein on Broadway Nederlander Theatre, Broadway
1988 An Evening with Robert Klein Circle in the Square Theatre, Broadway
1993 The Sisters Rosensweig Mervyn Kant Ethel Barrymore Theatre, Broadway

Comedy specials[edit]

Year Title Studio Formats Ref.
1975 On Location: An Evening with Robert Klein HBO Broadcast [42]
1977 On Location: Robert Klein Revisited HBO Broadcast
1977 Klein Time CBS Broadcast
1981 The Robert Klein Show NBC Broadcast
1982 On Location: Robert Klein at Yale HBO Broadcast
1984 Child of the 50s, Man of the 80s HBO Broadcast/VHS
1986 Robert Klein on Broadway HBO Broadcast/VHS
1995 It All Started Here HBO Broadcast
2000 Child in His 50s HBO Broadcast/DVD
2005 The Amorous Busboy of Decatur Avenue HBO Broadcast/Streaming/DVD
2007 The HBO Specials 1975-2005 Standing Room Only Entertainment 4xDVD box set
2010 Unfair and Unbalanced HBO Broadcast/Streaming/DVD
2016 Robert Klein Still Can't Stop His Leg (documentary) Starz Broadcast/Streaming



Year Title Label Formats Ref.
1972 The Unauthorized Autobiography Of Howard Who? Caedmon Records LP
1973 Child of the 50s Brut Records LP/8-track/cassette [43]
1974 Mind Over Matter Brut Records LP/8-track/cassette
1975 New Teeth Epic Records LP/cassette
1979 Original Cast Recording - They're Playing Our Song Casablanca Records LP/cassette
1990 Let's Not Make Love Rhino Records Cassette/CD

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Ref.
1975 Grammy Award Best Comedy Album Child of the 50s Nominated [44]
1976 Mind Over Matter Nominated
1979 Tony Award Best Actor in a Musical They're Playing Our Song Nominated [41]
1998 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play The Sisters Rosensweig Nominated
1998 Outer Critics Circle Outstanding Actor in a Play Won
2011 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics Child in his 50s Nominated [45]
2011 Unfair and Unbalanced Nominated


  1. ^ "Artist - Robert Klein". Grammy Awards. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  2. ^ "Robert Klein Biography (1942–)". Retrieved 2011-08-23.
  3. ^ "Robert Klein — Biography". Retrieved 2011-08-23.
  4. ^ Eskenazi, Joe (June 24, 2005). "Robert Klein chases skirts, washes tables". J. The Jewish News of Northern California. Retrieved 2021-11-02.
  5. ^ Bernstein, Jesse (May 26, 2019). "Comedian Robert Klein Cracks Wise Ahead of Bristol Riverside Theatre Shows". The Jewish Exponent. Retrieved 2021-11-02.
  6. ^ Starr, Michael (2017-03-30). "At 75, comic Robert Klein finds praise hard to handle". New York Post. Retrieved 2022-02-12.
  7. ^ Wasserstein, Wendy (June 20, 1999). "THEATER; A Place They'd Never Been: the Theater". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-15. DeWitt Clinton High School, named for the 19th-century New York mayor and governor, is the alma mater of the comedian Robert Klein, the designer Ralph Lauren, and the writers James Baldwin and Avery Corman.
  8. ^ "Robert Klein Biography". The Conversation Company, Ltd. Archived from the original on 2008-05-09. Retrieved 2009-09-18.
  9. ^ Markowitz, Dan (July 5, 1998). "Robert Klein: Comedy Close to Home". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-03-31.
  10. ^ Honeycutt, Kirk (February 11, 1979). "Robert Klein Tries On Neil Simon For Laugh". The New York Times. p. D8. Retrieved 2021-11-02.
  11. ^ "Robert Klein". The Second City. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  12. ^ "The HBO Specials That Changed Comedy". DirectTV. Retrieved 2020-08-27.
  13. ^ "Saturday Night Live: November 15 - Robert Klein". NBC. Retrieved 2021-11-02.
  14. ^ "Saturday Night Live: January 28 - Robert Klein". NBC. Retrieved 2019-12-30.
  15. ^ "Saturday Night Live: Tough Director". NBC. Retrieved 2019-12-30.
  16. ^ "Saturday Night Live: Nick The Lounge Singer Sings Star Wars Theme". NBC. Retrieved 2019-12-30.
  17. ^ "Saturday Night Live: The Olympia Restaurant — Cheeseburger, Chips and Pepsi". NBC. Retrieved 2019-12-30.
  18. ^ "Nominations - 1979". Tony Awards. Retrieved 2021-11-02.
  19. ^ "The Twilight Zone - Wordplay". IMDb. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  20. ^ Craven, Wes; DeGuere, Philip (2020). The Twilight Zone: The Complete '80s Series: Audio Commentary - "Wordplay" (DVD). CBS DVD.
  21. ^ "Robert Klein Time". IMDb. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  22. ^ Weber, Bruce (March 9, 1998). "Something Completely Nostalgic; A Monty Python Reunion, Minus One Slapstick Subversive". The New York Times. Retrieved October 9, 2022.
  23. ^ "Artist - Robert Klein". Grammy Awards. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  24. ^ "Mind over Matter". Rateyourmusic. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  25. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: K". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 978-0-8991-9025-9. Retrieved 2019-02-28 – via
  26. ^ "Six Clean Words You Can Say Anywhere". AllMusic. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  27. ^ "Robert Klein on Broadway". Youtube. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  28. ^ "Robert Klein - TCM". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  29. ^ "Robert Klein". TV Guide. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  30. ^ "Robert Klein: The Amorous Busboy of Decatur Avenue". Retrieved December 23, 2022.
  31. ^ "Robert Klein: The HBO Specials 1975-2005". Amazon. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  32. ^ "Debra Messing Delivers Powerful #MeToo Moment For 'Will & Grace'". Deadline Hollywood. 2 November 2018. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  33. ^ a b "Robert Klein". Guild Hall of East Hampton. Retrieved 2021-11-02.
  34. ^ Hatchett, Keisha (January 29, 2018). "Will & Grace Is Recasting Grace's Dad". TV Guide. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
  35. ^ The Amorous Busboy of Decatur Avenue: A Child of the Fifties Looks Back. Simon and Schuster. June 14, 2016. ISBN 978-1-4391-4436-7. Retrieved 2021-11-02.
  36. ^ Zeitchik, Steven (May 11, 2017). "Robert Klein returns to a late-night world that helped create him". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 9, 2022.
  37. ^ Hinds, Julie (March 30, 2017). "New film gives Robert Klein his due as a comedy icon". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved October 9, 2022.
  38. ^ Patterson, Jordan W. (August 6, 2017). "Robert Klein Discusses Expansive Career In Comedy". The Post-Journal. Jamestown, New York. Retrieved October 9, 2022.
  39. ^ "At 75 there's still no stopping comedian Robert Klein". The Associated Press. March 29, 2017. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  40. ^ "Robert Klein". TCM. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  41. ^ a b "Robert Klein". Playbill. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  42. ^ "Robert Klein". Retrieved 2020-02-24.
  43. ^ "Robert Klein". Retrieved 2020-02-24.
  44. ^ "Artist: Robert Klein". Grammy Awards. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  45. ^ "Robert Klein". Emmy Awards. Retrieved June 12, 2022.

External links[edit]

Preceded by Saturday Night Live Host
January 28, 1978
Succeeded by