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Actor Jack Riley, who specialized in playing neurotic comic characters like psychologist patient Elliot Carlin on The Bob Newhart Show of the 1970s, died Friday. He was 81.
Riley, who also voiced Stu Pickles on The Rugrats cartoon and appeared in several Mel Brooks comedies, died in a Los Angeles hospital of pneumonia after a long illness, Paul Doherty at Cunningham Escott Slevin & Doherty told The Hollywood Reporter.
Riley appeared in the Brooks-directed films Silent Movie (1976), High Anxiety (1977), History of the World: Part I (1981) and Spaceballs (1987) and in two other movies that Brooks produced, Frances (1982) and To Be or Not to Be (1983).
A native of Cleveland, Riley was uncomfortably funny as the mean-spirited and morose Elliot in 49 episodes of CBS’ The Bob Newhart Show, which starred Newhart as a psychologist working out of a Chicago high-rise. The series aired from 1972-78.
Riley also appeared as Eliot on ALF and St. Elsewhere and as a very Eliot-like character on Newhart’s next CBS sitcom in the 1980s.
His film résumé also included Mike Nichols’ Catch-22 (1970), in which Newhart also featured; the Robert Altman films McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) and The Long Goodbye (1973); Gene Wilder’s The World’s Greatest Lover (1977); Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! (1978); A Dangerous Woman (1993); and Boogie Nights (1997).
Riley provided the voice of Stu Pickles, the absent-minded toy inventor and dad, on the long-running Nickelodeon series Rugrats (and its TV movies and films) and on the follow-up series All Grown Up!
And he played Chappy, a friendly old codger who lives on the beach in Malibu, in the 2000-02 Baywatch spoof Son of the Beach.
Born Dec. 30, 1935, Riley attended John Carroll University in Ohio, served in the U.S. Army and then returned to Cleveland as a radio host. He was friends with Tim Conway at the radio station and wrote for the comedian (and later appeared on Conway’s 1980s variety show).
Riley landed his first regular TV gig in the 1960s on the sitcom Occasional Wife and quickly appeared on such shows as Gomer Pyle: USMC, I Dream of Jeannie, The Red Skelton Hour, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Later, he showed up on Columbo, Family Ties, One Day at a Time, Silver Spoons, Night Court, Friends, Mike Hammer, Private Eye, That ‘70s Show and Seinfeld (in the 1997 episode “The Muffin Tops”).
Survivors include two children.
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