Actor Richard Erdman has died at the age of 93. The actor is best known to modern viewers as Leonard, the elder student at Greendale Community College on Community. His 70-year career also includes roles in The Twilight Zone and Stalag 17. Erdman’s friend, film historian
Erdman recently appeared on an episode of Dr. Ken, a vehicle for another Community alum, Ken Jeong. Jeong remembered Erdman on Facebook, writing “Thank you
Community creator Dan Harmon took to Instagram to write a lengthier remembrance: “Godspeed, Richard Erdman. TV sometimes orders actors like pizza (I need a person over 6 foot, no beard, etc.). Richard was on a list of men over 80 willing to swim, so he ended up in a Long Beach swimming pool doing ten takes of a line we used the first take
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Godspeed, Richard Erdman. TV sometimes orders actors like pizza (I need a person over 6 foot, no beard, etc.). Richard was on a list of men over 80 willing to swim, so he ended up in a Long Beach swimming pool doing ten takes of a line we used the first take of. To me, reprising “Leonard” was ample reward for almost drowning him. Which is why, when he responded to one of my directions with a fart sound, I thought, man, if this guy dislikes drowning, he’s going to hate unemployment. Then the first AD said “Have you seen his imdb entry?” I looked it up. I think from 1944 to that day, there were four or five skipped years. The man had lived a life on camera. Not as a legacy child star, nothing against them, but he’d moved from Oklahoma to California, started acting and simply. Never. Stopped. Fine, I thought, we’ll write fart noises for him. Creatives are leveraged with the currency of “future.” Do what I say and one day you’ll never have to do what anyone says. You only have to believe that lie while you’re sexy. After that, there’s a line of people behind you, you know the trope. But Richard had worked so long that the “line of people” was god damn short. Hence, there were no favors being done on either side. It was like we rented a cabin and gave an old mountain lion some bacon, so he brought us a fish and we just kept living together. That metaphor stops at the fans. Because of the stupid god damn internet that I invented and will now die hating, he spent his last years touched by an audience he’d only ever known as theoretical. I remember driving him in a golf cart across the Paramount lot, most likely to flaunt my empathy to Chevy, and we were talking about the fans. Richard said, “I’ve never experienced anything like this.” I had to laugh and said “Come on. You’ve experienced everything like this.” He said no. He had no reason to lie. He already knew he could make a fart sound to my face. He could get his bacon somewhere else. He was a pro. But I think he had always done it for those hugs he finally got right at the end. Thank you, Richard. Sorry I always put 60 pound weights in your backpack for realism. You’ll thank me at the Emmys.
Erdman was born in Oklahoma and grew up in Colorado before moving to Hollywood. His career began in the 1940s. In 1953 he appeared in the wartime comedy Stalag 17 as Sgt. Hoffy Hoffman. He began working in television in the 1950s with roles on Where’s Raymond?, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Make Room for Daddy. In 1963, he starred in The Twilight Zone episode “A Kind of Stopwatch” as Patrick McNulty, a man who comes to possess a stopwatch that can stop time. He also had recurring roles on Lou Grant and Perry Mason, and guest appearances on Love, American Style; That Girl; I Dream of Jeannie; The Beverly Hillbillies, and The Six Million Dollar Man. His other film work includes roles in Cry Danger, Anything Goes, and Tora! Tora! Tora! He also lent his voice to The Smurfs, Scooby-Doo, and Duck Tales.