Charles Grodin, activist, author and actor who made grouchiness cool, dead at eighty six


Charles Grodin, the urbane professional who made his roles as a curmudgeon seem cool, died Tuesday at his home in Connecticut associated with bone marrow cancer. The performer, who leaves behind the catalog of memorable performances and a legacy of lasting activism, was 86.

Known for leading or even coleading classic comedies such as “The Heartbreak Kid” plus “Midnight Run” and for callously stealing scenes in “Heaven Can Wait, ” “Dave” and “The Great Muppet Caper, ” Grodin grown a screen persona that mined his own discomfort to get laughs. He extended that will to his many talk-show appearances, in which he seemed uncomfortable and even reluctant to be there — all an act, according to his son, Nick.

“That was a comedy identity he adopted for when he would go on talk shows, ” said Nick Grodin, who confirmed his father’s death to The Times. “He didn’t think it was really interesting to just go on and state, ‘Oh, I’m in this film coming out, ’ so he or she adopted this comedic persona where he would be angry. A lot of people did not think it was a joke. I think Johnny Carson really appreciated it. ”

Actor Charles Grodin, left, and Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show."

Actor Charles Grodin, remaining, was known for his occasionally combative talk-show appearances, yet audiences might have figured out it had been all an act through the fact that hosts such as Johnny Carson, right, kept inviting him back.

(Gary Null / NBC / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)


Since renowned as the actor’s filmography was, his son mentioned his advocacy work, especially regarding criminal justice change, is what really drove him.

“There were a few women specifically who he worked tirelessly to get out of prison and were sentenced under the Rockefeller drug laws in New York. When the Rockefeller drug laws and regulations were reformed, Gov. [George] Pataki cited him , and I know he was incredibly proud of that, ” Nick Grodin said associated with three inmates granted clemency by Pataki in 1999.

One Twitter user hearkened back to Grodin’s desire for politics and social problems, relating that he once went to a “Midnight Run” Q& A at which the actor or actress spoke at length regarding criminal justice reform just before taking questions.

Charles Grodin came to be in Pittsburgh on Apr 21, 1935. Despite his droll sophistication, he certainly not graduated from college, shedding out of the University of Arkansas to pursue acting and study with Lee Strasberg and Uta Hagen in New York. He appeared on Broadway and in several TV shows in the 1960s and had a small role in “Rosemary’s Baby” in 1968. He also cowrote and directed a good off-Broadway play, “Hooray! It’s a Glorious Day… and All That, ” and aimed the 1969 Simon and Garfunkel TV special “Songs of America. ”

Nick Grodin said, “I know he has been proud of the Simon plus Garfunkel special he directed, because it has to do with human rights and social issues that were not very popular [on TV] at the time. ”

The actor broke to mainstream success in 1972 with his leading turn in “The Heartbreak Kid” and was seen in films through the ’70s and ’80s, including “Seems Like Old Times, ” Albert Brooks’ “Real Life” (one of the first mockumentaries) and the much-maligned “Ishtar. ”

Surprisingly, Grodin never won a major acting award. He do collect an Emmy included in the writing staff for another Paul Simon TV special within 1978, “The Paul Simon Special. ” He obtained an Outer Circle Critics actor prize for the phase run of “Same Time, Next Year, ” which racked up 1, 400 shows. He also wrote several books, along with a New York Day-to-day News column that ran for nearly 10 years.


He hosted a talk show on CNBC (“The Charles Grodin Show, ” 1995-98) that dealt with the interpersonal and political issues of the day.

“It wasn’t just like he would possess someone as a guest on his talk show and then move on; it would become a lifelong trip for him where he would certainly hold onto it, ” his son said.

“One particular situation was a boy named Brandon Hein in California, who had been sentenced to life under the criminal offence murder law. His father came and stayed in our house, and it became the lifelong thing. ”

Indeed, Charles Grodin wrote and directed the play about the case, “The Prosecution of Brandon Hein. ” In 2019, Hein was granted parole.


Celebrities took to Twitter to express appreciation for Grodin because the news broke.

Steve Martin tweeted , “So said to hear. One of the funniest people I ever met: Charles Grodin, Star of ‘Beethoven’ and ‘Heartbreak Kid, ’ Dies at 86 -”

Marc Maron tweeted, “RIP Charles Grodin. One of the great irritable comedic geniuses. ”


Patton Oswalt tweeted, “RIP Charles Grodin. Ordering a plate associated with chorizo and eggs in the beloved memory, ” the reference to the gag within “Midnight Run. ”

Actor-writer-director Albert Brooks tweeted , “R. I. P. Charles Grodin. A brilliant comedy actor. I put the wonderful experience of dealing with him in my first feature “Real Life” and he has been amazing. Rest In Serenity, Chuck. ”


Comedian John Fugelsang messaged appreciation for all the scenes Grodin stole in his movies, which includes a quote from the guy himself: “Everyone is having the harder time than it appears. ”

Of their father, Nick Grodin stated, “He said to treat everyone the same, and that’s some thing I’ve watched him perform. He would treat everybody the same, whether it was the chief executive or whether it was somebody washing dishes. I really respect that. ”

He said his father also instilled in him a deep love of the Knicks, the Mets as well as the New York Giants. He remembered his father throwing a soccer with him in the garden.


“He had been just always there for me for whatever I required. Anything, anything. He was just incredibly loving. ”

Grodin is survived by his spouse, Elissa, daughter Marion, his son and a granddaughter, Geneva.