Just got the news that David L. Lander (b. 1947) has passed away. I’d known about Lander’s MS for a while; Michael McKean’s amazing turn on Better Call Saul led me to wonder what had had happened to his old comedy partner, so I looked into it. He’d been diagnosed in 1984, but didn’t reveal it until 1999 when symptoms were beginning to show.
I literally grew up with Lander’s comedy. As I wrote here, he provided the voice of the title character in the animated cartoon Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down? (1970-72). Then, as far as most of America is concerned, Lander played Squiggy to McKean’s Lenny on Laverne and Shirley from 1976 through 1982, though they had actually played the characters much earlier, when they met as students at Carnegie Melon, and later as part of the L.A. comedy group The Credibility Gap, another of whose members was Harry Shearer. As I wrote in my Laverne and Shirley post, I wore out the grooves on my 1979 Lenny and the Squigtones album. Those were some funny songs. (I didn’t learn until today that Christopher Guest played on the record as well, billed as Nigel Tufnel, paving the way for Spinal Tap with McKean and Shearer a few years later).
Lander also appeared in the movies 1941 (1979), Wholly Moses (1980), Used Cars (1980), Pandemonium (1982) and The Man with One Red Shoe (1985), etc, and guest starred on The Bob Newhart Show, Barney Miller, and The Love Boat etc. I was especially excited to see him in the original run of Twin Peaks (1990-91) as well as David Lynch’s ill-fated next television show On The Air (1992).
As his MS began to catch up with him, Lander did more and more cartoon voice-over work. With that distinctive honk of a voice, it was inevitable; he probably would have continued doing a bunch of that sort of work even if he hadn’t gotten sick. Although that face was a comic asset too.
I hope he flings the Pearly Gates open violently at an awkward moment and goes, “HEL-LO!”