Today is the birthday of distinctive character actor John Schuck (b. 1940). The emphasis in Schuck’s wiki article appears to be the work of some demented lunatic, leading as it does with Schuck’s guest shots as Klingons in Star Trek episodes. My nerdy, tunnel vision friend, that is what NO ONE is known for, okay? That is a wormhole to oblivion.
In terms of prestige I’d lead with his close association with Robert Altman for several crucial years, starting with his classic role as Painless the Dentist in M*A*S*H (1970), then roles in the ensembles of Brewster McCloud (1970) and McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1972) and a co-starring role in Thieves Like Us (1974). Because of his large, ungainly size (he seems almost a physical giant, at least about the skull) and due to his awkwardness in an off-the-rack suit jacket, he was often cast as a cop on series television, usually comic relief cops, several dozen IQ points dumber than Schuck really is. He had a semi-regular role like this on Columbo, and then a very solid, regular role like this on McMillan and Wife (1971-1977).
And then the ultimate. In 1976 and 1977 he co-starred in his own sit-com Holmes and Yo-Yo. H&YY teamed Schuck with equally recognizable character actor Richard B. Shull (a sort of poor man’s Walter Matthau) as a pair of police detectives…with a difference. Shull played the long suffering partner of Schuck, who suffered from the drawback of being…AN ANDROID. That was the concept. And Schuck kept causing problems because he didn’t have any human type experience (and because he was a machine) and Shull kept rolling his eyes for the camera. There were 13 episodes of the show, many of them directed by John Astin (best known as Gomez Addams). Needless to say I enjoyed this show thoroughly.
To find out more about show biz past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc