Influential comedian and actor Shelley Berman, best known for bringing modern anxiety to early standup and playing Larry David's father on Curb Your Enthusiasm, died at his home in Bell Canyon, Calif., this morning, September 1.
The Chicago-raised Berman began his career in acting, studying with Uta Hagen and at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago before transitioning into improv and comedy with the Compass Players, which served as a precursor to Second City.
And while Berman didn't quite fit a specific category of comedy, he would go on to become one of the most successful stand-up comics in the 1950s and '60s, paving the way for others like Woody Allen and Jerry Seinfeld. His 1959 record Inside Shelley Berman made history as the first comedy album to be certified gold and the first non-musical record to snag a Grammy Award.
He would eventually record six albums for Verve Records, including Outside Shelley Berman and The Edge of Shelley Berman, both of which also went gold. Berman acted and performed throughout his life and later experienced a career resurgence as Larry David's father on Curb Your Enthusiasm. The latter role gained the actor an Emmy nomination. I was not, in the strict sense of the word, a comedian.
In 1962, Berman participated in NBC's documentary-style television show Comedian Backstage, where cameras followed him as he prepared for and performed his nightclub act. "But I did not deserve the things that were said about me". He also played Judge Robert Sanders on "Boston Legal" from 2006 to 2008.
Berman succumbed to complications of Alzheimer's disease and reportedly passed away "peacefully, in his sleep, with no pain as far as his hospice care workers could tell", wrote close friend Christopher May on a Berman fan club Facebook page. Berman was predeceased by his son, Joshua, who died as a child in 1977.
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