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Also Known As: Died: March 4, 1999
Born: March 9, 1934 Cause of Death: complications from emphysema
Birth Place: Manhattan, Kansas, USA Profession: actor, teacher, director, comic, writer, carnival fire-eater

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

This eccentric, outspoken actor and writer is best-known within his own profession for being the acting coach and "metaphysician" for such young comics as Gilda Radner, John and James Belushi, Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Chris Farley and other "Saturday Night Live" members. After several abortive tries at college, the Kansas-born Close took to the road in the 1950s, working as a carnival barker and fire-eater ("Azrad the Incombustible"). He toured the country with various theatrical companies in the 1950s, including working alongside Nichols and May at the Compass Players in St. Louis in 1957. Later, Close co-founded Chicago's comedy group Second City (1960) and San Francisco's improvisational group The Committee (1963). Close also worked with such 1950s and 60s performers as Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl and Tiny Tim. A Midwestern Timothy Leary, Close experimented with every drug imaginable and enthusiastically procured them for John Belushi, Lenny Bruce and others. (Close gave up drugs in the early 1980s after Belushi's death.) Close made an early film appearance in "Beware the Blob" (1972) and was a bit player in "American Graffiti" (1973). He also played small and supporting roles in about a dozen films:...

This eccentric, outspoken actor and writer is best-known within his own profession for being the acting coach and "metaphysician" for such young comics as Gilda Radner, John and James Belushi, Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Chris Farley and other "Saturday Night Live" members. After several abortive tries at college, the Kansas-born Close took to the road in the 1950s, working as a carnival barker and fire-eater ("Azrad the Incombustible"). He toured the country with various theatrical companies in the 1950s, including working alongside Nichols and May at the Compass Players in St. Louis in 1957. Later, Close co-founded Chicago's comedy group Second City (1960) and San Francisco's improvisational group The Committee (1963). Close also worked with such 1950s and 60s performers as Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl and Tiny Tim. A Midwestern Timothy Leary, Close experimented with every drug imaginable and enthusiastically procured them for John Belushi, Lenny Bruce and others. (Close gave up drugs in the early 1980s after Belushi's death.)

Close made an early film appearance in "Beware the Blob" (1972) and was a bit player in "American Graffiti" (1973). He also played small and supporting roles in about a dozen films: After a turn as a hippie farmer in "Son of Blob" (1974), a lead in the erotic thriller "The Last Affair" (1976) and another bit in Michael Mann's "Thief" (1981), Close stayed offscreen for several years. He re-appeared as an English teacher in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986), then kept busy with small roles in the rock film "Light of Day" (1987), "Next of Kin" (1989), the atom bomb drama "Fat Man and Little Boy" (1989), the Dana Carvey comedy "Opportunity Knocks" (1990) and the Weegee biopic "The Public Eye" (1992). Close played priests or aldermen in "The Untouchables" (1987), "The Big Town" (1987) and "The Blob" (1988).

In the 1960s, co-worker Avery Schreiber helped get Close parts on such TV shows as "My Mother the Car", "Get Smart" and "The Double Life of Henry Fife". Knowing of his avuncular relationships with many "SNL" cast members, NBC producer Jean Doumanian hired Close to run improv and acting sessions with the cast from 1980-82. In front of the camera, Close played small roles in the CBS dramas "First Step" (1985, as a zoologist) and "Dream Breakers" (1989, as a doctor). He also keeps very active in the Chicago theater scene, playing The Ghost of Christmas Past in the Goodman Theater's annual "A Christmas Carol" from 1978-85, and appearing in productions of "The Time of Your Life" (1984), "Hamlet" (as Polonius), "Baal" and "Hotline". With his off-screen companion Charna Halpern, he oversaw the ImprovOlympic in Chicago until his death in March 1999.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Public Eye, The (1992) Hr Rineman
2.
 Opportunity Knocks (1990) Williamson
3.
 Fat Man and Little Boy (1989) Dr Kenneth Whiteside
4.
 Next of Kin (1989) Frank
5.
 Dream Breakers (1989) Dr Stone
6.
 The Blob (1988) Reverend Meeker
7.
 Light Of Day (1987) Dr Natterson
8.
 Untouchables, The (1987) Alderman
9.
 Big Town, The (1987) Deacon Daniels
10.
 Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) English Teacher
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in Manhattan, Kansas
1949:
Published science fiction magazine (CATACLYSM) with friend
1950:
First show business job, throwing spaghetti "worms" at moviegoers during late-night horror shows
:
Toured the US with various theatrical companies in the 1950s
1957:
Appeared with the Compass Players, alongside Mike Nichols and Elaine May, among others
1958:
Arrived in New York to do stand-up comedy; began using heroin
1959:
Acted in the Off-Broadway musical "The Nervous Set"
:
Arrested for possession of marijuana
1960:
Co-founded Second City in Chicago; fired in 1965 over his substance abuse and emotional problems
1963:
Co-founded The Committee in San Francisco
:
Acted in TV sitcoms like "Get Smart"
1971:
Founded theater company in Austin, Texas
1972:
Returned to Chicago
:
Directed Second City revues, nuturing talent like John Belushi, Harold Ramis and others
1973:
Appeared in small role in "American Graffiti"
:
Played The Ghost of Christmas Past in annual "Christmas Carol" production at the Goodman Theater, Chicago
:
Hired by producer Jean Doumanian to run improv sessions at "Saturday Night Live"
1982:
Kicked own substance abuse problems after drug-related death of friend and protege Belushi
1983:
Again fired from Second City; developed comedy workshops at CrossCurrents and later ImprovOlympic
1985:
TV-movie debut, "First Step"
:
Played Polonius to Aidan Quinn's "Hamlet", directed by Robert Falls
1988:
Once again returned to Second City to stage "The Gods Must Be Lazy"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Kansas State College: Manhattan , Kansas -

Notes

Close has written several science fiction comic books.

He willed his skull to the Goodman Theatre in hopes that it would be used in future productions of "Hamlet"

"Comedians have certain duties, like, you're supposed to have a coherent weltanschaung [world view]. That's one of the things Joan Rivers, for example, doesn't have. She's not consistent. Her wedding night was so horrible; her wedding night was so erotic that . . . so she's only diddling the audience. Professor Irwin Corey has a coherent world view; you enter his world or you perish, basically. It's so easy to go out and get laughs, it's ridiculous. To do something else, to drive them insane. . ." --Del Close, quoted in CHICAGO, March 1987.

"Oh, without a doubt my performances onstage have been primarily fueled by social rage, but what happens--and this is going to sound unutterably corny--is that by the time that gets driven through the mechanism that is the performance, it's transformed into this positive energy. So you have that deep well of outrage that fuels everything." --Del Close, quoted in CHICAGO, March 1987

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Charna Halpern.

Family close complete family listing

cousin:
Dwight D Eisenhower. US President, US Army General. Second cousin.

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