Actor, Writer, TV Host Tried to Stay Ready

Charles Grodin thought 'getting ahead' shouldn't be his main goal
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 18, 2021 2:35 PM CDT

(Newser) – Charles Grodin, the droll, offbeat actor and writer who scored as a caddish newlywed in The Heartbreak Kid and later had roles ranging from Robert De Niro's counterpart in the comic thriller Midnight Run to the bedeviled father in the Beethoven comedies, has died. He was 86. Grodin died Tuesday at home in Wilton, Connecticut, of bone marrow cancer, the AP reports. Known for his deadpan style, Grodin also appeared in Dave, The Woman in Red, Rosemary's Baby, and Heaven Can Wait. On Broadway, he starred with Ellen Burstyn in the long-running 1970s comedy Same Time, Next Year, and he found many other outlets for his talents. In the 1990s, he made his mark as a liberal commentator on radio and TV. He also wrote plays and television scripts, winning an Emmy for his work on a 1997 Paul Simon special, as well as several books humorously ruminating on his ups and downs in show business.

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Actors, he wrote, should "think not so much about getting ahead as becoming as good as you can be, so you're ready when you do get an opportunity. I did that, so I didn't suffer from the frustration of all the rejections. They just gave me more time." He spelled out that advice in his first book, It Would Be So Nice If You Weren't Here, published in 1989. Amid his film gigs, Grodin became a familiar face on late-night TV, perfecting a character who would confront Johnny Carson or others with a fake aggressiveness that made audiences cringe and laugh at the same time. "It’s all a joke," he said in 1995, around the time he largely abandoned acting. From 1995 to 1998, he hosted a talk show on the CNBC cable network. He moved to MSNBC and then to CBS' 60 Minutes II. In his 2002 book, I Like It Better When You're Funny," he said too many TV programmers believe that viewers are best served "if we hear only from lifelong journalists." He argued that "people outside of Washington and in professions other than journalism" also deserved a soapbox.

(Read more obituary stories.)

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