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|Also Known As:||Died:|
|Born:||August 18, 1943||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||Chicago, Illinois, USA||Profession:||Cast ... comedian actor screenwriter producer nightclub singer creative consultant songwriter TV host artist|
A vastly underappreciated writer-performer, Martin Mull enjoyed sporadic success in mainstream entertainment, but comedy fans knew him as a sly and erudite wit whose middle-of-the-road appearance belied an irreverent and often biting sense of humor. Despite his "low" profile (at least by modern Hollywood standards), Mull enjoyed a 30-year-plus career as an actor, stand-up comic, writer, producer, voice-over artist, and most recently, a celebrated artist.
Born in Chicago, IL on Aug. 18, 1943, Mull was raised in Ohio and later New Canaan, CT with his two siblings. He showed promise as a painter, spending six years at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he received both a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Fine Arts. While attending school, he organized bands as a means of paying his tuition, but soon found a creative (and financial) outlet in stand-up comedy. His act, which combined satirical songs with his dry humor, landed him recording contracts - first, with Capricorn Records; later with ABC and Elektra. Mull eventually released some 10 albums over the course of his career, with two of them - 1977's I'm Everyone I've Ever Loved and 1978's Sex and Violins - receiving Grammy nominations.
His popularity eventually brought him to television, where he made his debut on the classic soap opera spoof, "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" (syndicated, 1976-77), where he played caddish wife abuser Garth Gimble. After Garth's demise (via the pointed tip of an aluminum Christmas tree), Mull resurfaced as Garth's twin brother Barth on "Fernwood 2-Nite" (syndicated, 1977), an absurd parody of daytime talk shows that also starred Fred Willard as Barth's sidekick, Jerry Hubbard. After one season, the show's title was changed to "America 2-Nite" (syndicated, 1978) and moved its setting from fictional Fernwood, OH to (the equally fictitious) Alta Coma, CA - as well as allowing real celebrities (including Rob Reiner and Charlton Heston) to appear as themselves. Among the latter show's recurring performers was a young Robin Williams.
Following the demise of "America 2-Nite," Mull became a much-sought-after guest on talk shows and game shows, as well as a frequent actor in films and television series. Most of the latter were far below Mull's talents. He provided the sole bright spots in dire comedies such as "Clue" (1985), "Mr. Mom" (1983), and "Far Out Man" (1990). More successful were his own creations - he co-wrote and hosted the documentary parody "The History of White People in America" (1985) - which poked fun at suburban WASP foibles - and its 1986 sequel. The former project, which was produced for Cinemax, earned Mull a Cable Ace Award and Writer's Guild Award, as well as a citation from Time magazine as one of the top 10 television productions of the year. Two companion books, both co-authored by Allen Rucker, who also co-wrote the films, were also released.
Mull was top-billed in two CBS sitcoms, "Domestic Life" (1984) and "His and Hers" (1990) - neither of which met with much success. He found more consistent work on "Roseanne" (ABC, 1988-97), as both a creative consultant and as Roseanne's boss, Leon Carp, who was noted by critics and advocates alike as a positive gay character on network television. Mull also played Williard Kraft, the strict vice principal and butt of many supernatural jokes on "Sabrina, The Teenage Witch" (ABC/WB, 1996-2003).
In recent years, Mull was a frequent voice-over artist on countless animated shows - ranging from "The Simpsons" (Fox, 1989- ) and "Family Guy" (Fox, 1999- ) to "Dexter's Laboratory" (The Cartoon Network, 1996-2003) and "Danny Phantom" (The Cartoon Network, 2004- ), for which he voiced archenemy Vlad Masters/Plasimus. He has also made notable guest appearances on live action shows, including "Reno 911!" (Comedy Central, 2003- ) and the critical darling, "Arrested Development" (Fox, 2003-06), in which he portrayed inept private investigator Geno Parmesan. Daytime TV viewers loved him in the center square for several years on the revived "Hollywood Squares" (syndicated, 1998-2004).
Mull also enjoyed a popular and lucrative side career as a product pitchman on radio and television. He was the spokesperson for the Red Roof Inn chain for many years (often coupled with his former "America 2-Nite" partner Fred Willard) which resulted in a CLIO Award for his efforts with that company. He also appeared in a string of TV spots for Michelob beer that made effective use of his smug but hapless comic persona.
Despite his big and small screen endeavors, Mull never abandoned his artistic talents. His paintings and multi-media art were exhibited in galleries and museums across the United States. He also wrote a book of essays and reproductions of his work, entitled Paintings, Drawings and Words, which was published in 1995.
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