Jack Riley, a veteran of The Bob Newhart Show and several Mel Brooks films who also voiced a popular Rugrats character, died today in Los Angeles. He was 80. Riley’s wife Ginger Lawrence told Deadline he died of pneumonia and infection.
Along with playing the neurotic Elliot Carlin on Bob Newhart and appearing in Brooks films including High Anxiety and History of the World, Part I, Riley voiced Stu Pickles on Nickelodeon’s Rugrats and its follow-up series All Growed Up! He also appeared in the Robert Altman-directed featured McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Long Goodbye and California Split.
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A Cleveland native, Riley began his career as a regular on the 1962-63 ABC sitcom Occasional Wife, which was narrated by Vin Scully. The actor went on to guest on dozens of popular TV series ranging from I Dream of Jeannie and Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In to The Partridge Family and Hogan’s Heroes before landing what would become his signature role.
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The Bob Newhart Show premiered in September 1972 and became a hit for CBS. Starring Newhart as a Chicago psychologist, the smart, quirky sitcom was among the top 20 programs in primetime for its first three seasons. Riley’s neuroses-laden Elliot appeared in nearly 50 episodes as a patient of Bob’s who had a persecution complex and constantly put himself down. He appeared in all six seasons of the show, which also starred Suzanne Pleshette and Marcia Wallace.
Riley continued to work in elsewhere in TV during Bob Newhart‘s run, guesting on such classic comedies as M*A*S*H, Mary Tyler Moore and Happy Days along with dramas including Cannon, Columbo and Police Woman. In 1976, he played a Hollywood executive in Silent Movie, Brooks’ follow-up to Young Frankenstein, and Riley would go on to appear in the filmmaker’s High Anxiety (1978), History of the World, Part I (1981) — memorably playing a Roman soldier stoned on “Roman Red” — and Spaceballs (1987). Ht also appeared in 1983’s To Be or Not to Be, which starred Brooks and his wife Anne Bancroft.
Riley’s other big-screen credits include Boogie Nights, A Dangerous Woman, The World’s Greatest Lover, Gleaming the Cube and camp-horror classic Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.
Riley continued to work steadily throughout the ’80s and ’90s and through the 2000s, with credits too numerous to name. His later-career highlight was voicing Stu Pickles, the father of Tommy and Dil, on Rugrats. Riley appeared on more than 140 episodes of the toon, reprising the role in the 1998-2003 film trilogy, telefilms and several episodes of follow-up series All Growed Up!
Among other TV shows on which Riley appeared in multiple episodes are The Red Skelton Show, Barney Miller, Diff’rent Strokes, Night Court, St. Elsewhere, Coach, Married … with Children, Baywatch, Seinfeld, Friends, That 70’s Show and Son of the Beach.
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