Robert Klein

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Robert Klein
Robert Klein.jpg
Klein in 2010
Born (1942-02-08) February 8, 1942 (age 79)
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 had several comedy albums in the 1970s, was nominated for a Best Actor in a Musical Tony Award for They're Playing Our Song (1979), and has made a variety of TV and movie appearances, including hosting Saturday Night Live twice.[citation needed]

Early life[edit]

Klein was born in the Bronx, the son of Frieda (née Moskowitz) and Benjamin Klein,[1][2] and was raised in a "prototypical 1950s Bronx Jewish" environment,[3] the grandson of Hungarian-Jewish immigrants who arrived in the USA early in the 20th century.[4]

After graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School,[5] Klein had planned to study medicine; however, he changed his mind during his studies at Alfred University, deciding to go into acting instead.[6]

While studying at the Yale Drama School, Klein learned about an opportunity to audition for The Second City.[7] 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.[8]



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.[citation needed]

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.[9]

On 15 November 1975, during Season 1, and again in Season 3, on 28 January 1978, Klein hosted Saturday Night Live.[10][11] His skits included Tough Director in 1975,[12] Nick The Lounge Singer Sings Star Wars Theme in 1978[13] and The Olympia Restaurant: Cheeseburger, Chips and Pepsi in 1978.[14]

In 1979, Klein was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his role in They're Playing Our Song.[15] In 1985, he starred in the "Wordplay" segment of The Twilight Zone,[citation needed] which cast him against type in a dramatic role.[16]

In 1986, Klein had his own late-night talk show, Robert Klein Time, which ran on the USA Network until 1988.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]


Klein has made several albums, the most successful being his first two.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

"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)[17]

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".[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Visual media[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).[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

In 2014, Klein played the Canadian Ambassador on Madam Secretary.[18]

Klein played[when?] the Mayor of New York City in two[which?] of the Sharknado films.[18]

On 29 January 2018, it was announced that Klein would be playing Grace Adler's father Martin in the NBC revival of Will and Grace replacing Alan Arkin.[19]

Klein has authored an autobiography, The Amorous Busboy of Decatur Avenue: A Child of the Fifties Looks Back (2006).[20]

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.[21]


During the finale of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in February 2014, Billy Crystal reminded Jay Leno that when Leno was an aspiring comedian, the only decoration in Leno's apartment was a poster of Klein.[22] Both implied that they were influenced by the Child of the 50s recording.[citation needed]


Comedy specials[edit]

Year Title Studio Formats
1975 On Location: An Evening with Robert Klein HBO Broadcast
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
1973 Child of the 50s Brut Records LP/8-track/cassette
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



  1. ^ "Robert Klein Biography (1942–)". Retrieved 2011-08-23.
  2. ^ "Robert Klein — Biography". Retrieved 2011-08-23.
  3. ^ Eskenazi, Joe (June 24, 2005). "Robert Klein chases skirts, washes tables". J. The Jewish News of Northern California. Retrieved 2021-11-02.
  4. ^ Bernstein, Jesse (May 26, 2019). "Comedian Robert Klein Cracks Wise Ahead of Bristol Riverside Theatre Shows". The Jewish Exponent. Retrieved 2021-11-02.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ "Robert Klein Biography". The Conversation Company, Ltd. Archived from the original on 2008-05-09. Retrieved 2009-09-18.
  7. ^ Markowitz, Dan (July 5, 1998). "Robert Klein: Comedy Close to Home". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-03-31.
  8. ^ Honeycutt, Kirk (February 11, 1979). "Robert Klein Tries On Neil Simon For Laugh". p. D8. Retrieved 2021-11-02.
  9. ^ "The HBO Specials That Changed Comedy". DirectTV. Retrieved 2020-08-27.
  10. ^ "Saturday Night Live: November 15 - Robert Klein". NBC. Retrieved 2021-11-02.
  11. ^ "Saturday Night Live: January 28 - Robert Klein". NBC. Retrieved 2019-12-30.
  12. ^ "Saturday Night Live: Tough Director". NBC. Retrieved 2019-12-30.
  13. ^ "Saturday Night Live: Nick The Lounge Singer Sings Star Wars Theme". NBC. Retrieved 2019-12-30.
  14. ^ "Saturday Night Live: The Olympia Restaurant — Cheeseburger, Chips and Pepsi". NBC. Retrieved 2019-12-30.
  15. ^ "Nominations - 1979". Tony Awards. Retrieved 2021-11-02.
  16. ^ Craven, Wes; DeGuere, Philip (2020). The Twilight Zone: The Complete '80s Series: Audio Commentary - "Wordplay" (DVD). CBS DVD.
  17. ^ 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
  18. ^ a b "Robert Klein". Guild Hall of East Hampton. Retrieved 2021-11-02.
  19. ^ Hatchett, Keisha (January 29, 2018). "Will & Grace Is Recasting Grace's Dad". TV Guide. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ "Robert Klein returns to a late-night world that helped create him". Los Angeles Times. November 5, 2017. Retrieved 2019-12-30.
  22. ^ Stanley, Alessandra (February 8, 2014). "That 'Old Guy'? He's Retired Now, Right?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-03-31.
  23. ^ "Robert Klein". Retrieved 2020-02-24.
  24. ^ "Robert Klein". Retrieved 2020-02-24.

External links[edit]

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