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Joe Fleishaker, the 500-pound actor who was enormously popular with Troma fans thanks to his performances in several farcical horror movies churned out by the ultra-low-budget company, has died. He was 62.
Fleishaker, billed as “Troma’s biggest action star” by company co-founder Lloyd Kaufman, died Monday at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, his brother, Haskel, told The Hollywood Reporter.
Fleishaker suffered from morbid obesity and congestive heart failure and likely died of a heart attack, he said.
The actor also had a recurring walk-on role in the 1980s on David Letterman’s Late Night show at NBC, sometimes playing the comic’s father or son.
A native of Brooklyn who grew up the neighborhood of Borough Park, Fleishaker appeared very briefly in Woody Allen’s Radio Days (1987). In Troma’s War (1988), he started out as an extra before Kaufman liked what he saw and cast him as a “specially trained terrorist.”
Fleishaker then played an Apocalypse Inc. executive in the comic Troma “superhero” films The Toxic Avenger Part II and The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie, both released in 1989.
Fleishaker followed up with Troma’s Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. (1991), The Troma System (1993), Tromeo and Juliet (1996), Terror Firmer (1999), Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV (2000) — where he played Lardass, the sidekick of The Toxic Avenger (David Mattey) — and Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (2006).
Fleishaker also appeared as Troma co-founder Michael Herz in several videos and film shorts made by the company, including 2004’s Tales From the Crapper. And he appeared as himself in the 2001 documentary Farts of Darkness.
“The Troma Team and I are saddened by the news that Joe Fleishaker has passed away,” Kaufman wrote on Facebook. “He was a great actor and a great friend. Toxie weeps. RIP Joe, Troma will never be the same without you.”
Fleishaker’s final two credits were I Spill Your Guts (2012) and Trashtastic (2013), with Kaufman in the cast as well.
In 2012, he was admitted to a hospital and eventually managed to lose 160 pounds.
Fleishaker, who never married and had no children, is also survived by another brother, Simon.
Once asked in an interview about “the more important messages ever to be woven into a Troma movie,” Fleishaker replied: “I believe that the only message is that if we don’t take ourselves or our entertainment too seriously, we will discover that we are capable of enjoying ourselves without really trying.
“It doesn’t cost a million dollars to make someone laugh, and you don’t have to be famous to have talent.”
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