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The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame: Richard Kind

8 Apr

One of a Kind

(The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame is where we turn the spotlight on a television actor or actress, and it is named after their patron saint, Zeljko Ivanek)

Playing largely portly, often anxious and neurotic characters might seem to limit the roles an actor can get, but in Richard Kind’s case, as the go-to for the type, it means he gets a lot of them.  He’s done plenty of movie work as well, including a spot in 2012 Best Picture winner Argo, but we’ll be focusing on his TV work, the medium in which he’s had his biggest successes.

Kind, born in 1956, had his first role in TV movie Two Fathers’ Justice in 1985 as District Attorney.  He appeared in a failed sitcom pilot called the Bennett Brothers as one of said brothers, an odd couple, whose other member was no less than George Clooney.  He was in single episodes of Hooperman, My Sister Sam, Mr. Belevedere, Empty Nest, 21 Jump Street, and Anything But Love.   He was a regular on eight episode 1989 NBC series Unsub, a sort of proto-Criminal Minds about an FBI team which tracks serial killers, where he appeared alongside  David Soul and M. Emmet Walsh.

He began the 1990s as a regular role player in Carol Burnett one season sketch show Carol & Company, in which he acted aside future luminaries Peter Krause and Jeremy Piven. He then traveled along with Carol when a new version of The Carol Burnett show was produced for CBS in 1991, which also didn’t last long.  He was in episodes of Princesses, Stand by Your Man, Great Scott, and The Building, and in 1992 finally got his breakthrough as a recurring character in smash success Mad About You.  He appeared in 37 episodes of the series as Dr. Mark Devanow, who left his wife, and Jamie’s best friend, Fran Devanow to see the world.  He later reconciled with his wife, converted to Buddhism  and worked at a grocery store.

Richard Kind started to get regular appearances in main casts of failed sitcoms around this time.  He starred with Julia Campbell and Stephen Tobolowsky in Blue Skies in 1994 about two guys who operate a mail-order business in Boston.  Soon after Blue Skies’ cancellation the same creators imported some of the same actors (Kind, Campbell, and Tobolowsky, now with Corbin Bernsen and John O’Hurley) to work on A Whole New Ballgame in the same time slot, about an ex-ball player who becomes a sportscaster for a local Milwaukee TV station.  The show failed equally quickly.  Kind also appeared on six episodes of the Michael Chiklis-led The Commish.  In the mid-90s, he lent his talents to individual episodes of Nowhere Man, Space: Above and Beyond, Something So Right, The Lionhearts, and Strangers with Candy.

Delivering the Spin

In 1996, he got his next big break, and the part he is most famous for, as Paul Lassiter in Spin City.  Kind is in all 145 episodes of the show, including the two Charlie Sheen seasons, after Michael J. Fox left to cope with his Parkinson’s disease. Kind’s Lassiter is the Press Secretary for the New York City Mayor’s office, and is known for being gullible, subject to practical jokes, and a bit of a cheapskate.

He lent his voice to episodes of The Wild Thornberrys and Oswald, and appeared in Disney Channel’s Even Stevens.  He began the ’00s by showing up in two episodes of Still Standing (did you know every Still Standing episode title began with the word “Still”?  I sure didn’t) and individual episodes of Just Shoot Me!, Miss Match, Girlfriends, Oliver Beene, The Division (one of his first drama appearances) and Less Than Perfect.  He narrated a series of Disney interstitial programming known as Go, Baby! which featured two babies playing with one another.

He appeared in four Scrubs episodes as hypochondriac patient Harvey Corman.  He went back to kids TV to show up in episodes of Sesame Street and a voice role in five episodes of Kim Possible.  He also lent his voice to two episodes of famously failed adult animated series Father of the Pride.  In 2002, he made his first of four memorable appearances on Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm as Larry’s irritating Cousin Andy.  He famously asked Larry for money to fund his wife’s cosmetology school after Larry offered to pay his child’s college tuition.

Larry and Cousin Andy

He was in TV movies Genetically Challenged and The Angriest Man in Suburbia and single episodes of series Head Cases, Reba, Psych, Three Moons Over Milford, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent, as well as two each of E-Ring, Stargate: Atlantis, and All of Us.  He was in a Two and a Half Men, Trauma, ‘Til Death, and Harry’s Law, and multiples of Burn Notice, Leverage, and Mr. Sunshine as well as voice roles in American Dad! and The Penguins of Madagascar.

He co-starred in ill-fated but underrated David Milch HBO series Luck as Joey Rathburn, an agent for jockeys.  Within the last year since Luck was cancelled, he’s appeared in NYC-22, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Kroll Show, and Golden Boy, where he plays an interviewing journalist in the pilot.

We salute you for your work, Richard Kind.  The next supporting role for a slightly rotund man proud to live up to the occasional Jewish stereotype is just a call away.  Before we go, I’d like to additionally give credit to his work in the hugely underrated Coen Brothers film, A Serious Man, and note the interesting trivia fact that his best man at his 1999 wedding was his fellow Bennett brother George Clooney.