Family & Companions
A wry, observational comedian with a distinctively deep voice, Steve Landesburg rose to fame in the mid-1970s as Arthur Dietrich, the supernaturally intelligent detective on "Barney Miller" (ABC, 1975-1982). Meditatively calm, but never without a half-smile playing across his face, Dietrich served as the 12th Precinct's resident information resource. No matter how obscure the subject, he had at least a working knowledge, if not a complete understanding, of its intricacies. Landesburg earned three Emmy nominations for his turn on "Barney," which led to a lengthy career on the small screen in guest shots and as a voiceover artist for cartoons and commercials. A television favorite for over three decades and an admired cerebral wit among his fellow comics, his premature death in 2010 robbed the entertainment community of an original talent.
Born in the Bronx, NY on Nov. 23, 1936, Steve Landesburg was the son of working-class parents; his father owned a grocery store, while his mother was a milliner. He began his comedy career at an open audition hosted by Bill Cosby for "The Tonight Show" at The Bitter End club in New York. His dry delivery and off-kilter if thoughtful humor, which included such cracked pronouncements as "Honesty is the best policy, but insanity is a better defense," soon won him steady work on the Gotham comedy scene, including regular appearances at The Improv, where he rubbed shoulders with the likes of David Brenner, Freddie Prinze and Jimmy Walker. He also performed with an improv group called The New York Stickball Team, which led to his television debut on the variety series, "Dean Martin Presents The Bobby Darin Amusement Co." (NBC, 1972). His feature film debut came a year later in the low-budget thriller "Blade" (1973), with John Marley. By 1974, he was appearing in a recurring role as a European violinist on the sitcom "Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers" (CBS, 1974-75).
In 1975, Landesburg made a guest appearance on "Barney Miller" as a priest. The following season, he was brought into the 12th Precinct as Detective Arthur Dietrich, a transfer from the 33rd Precinct, and a semi-regular character until season four, when he was made a full-fledged cast member. Unflappable, frequently bemused and unquestionably eccentric, Dietrich was an intellectual whose scope of knowledge seemed to touch on every imaginable subject, no matter how arcane; his frequent response to incredulous inquiries as to how he knew such material was, "Doesn't everyone?" He was also a superior foil for Ron Glass's Detective Harris, who found his observations irritating to a fault. For his work on "Barney," Landesburg earned three Emmy nominations between 1980 and 1982. He also joined Abe Vigoda on an episode of his short-lived "Barney" spin-off, "Fish" (ABC, 1977-78), where he reprised Dietrich.
After the 12th Precinct closed its door in 1982, Landesburg became a staple on TV sitcoms, playing variations on his offbeat "Barney" persona on "The Golden Girls" (NBC, 1985-1992) and countless other programs. There were also occasional forays into dramatic fare, like "Mission of the Shark" (CBS, 1991), which told the tragic story of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis during World War II and the grisly fate of its shark-attacked survivors. "Leader of the Band" (1988) was a rare opportunity for Landesburg to take the lead in a feature as a former bar pianist who becomes the conductor for a hapless high school marching band. Mostly, however, he could be seen as a witty guest on talk shows and game shows and heard in countless commercials and animated programs, where his resonant voice sang the praises of mayonnaise and gave speech to a variety of animals and oddballs. Throughout his career, his longtime comedian cohorts like David Brenner admired Landesberg, believing him to be grossly underrated, as they often had front row seating to his inimitable, razor-quick wit both on and off the stage and screen.
Landesburg returned to sitcoms as a regular with "Conrad Bloom" (NBC, 1998), a short-lived office comedy about a "nice guy" (Mark Feuerstein) and the women in his life. In 2007, his movie career received something of a boost with small but amusing roles as an accountant in the Disney live-action hit "Wild Hogs" (2007), and as Jason Segal's former pediatrician and current GP in the comic smash, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" (2008). That same year, he began appearing on "Head Case" (Starz, 2007-09), an improvised sitcom about a self-absorbed and highly inappropriate psychiatrist (Alexandra Wentworth) and her celebrity clients. Landesburg appeared as Dr. Myron Finkelstein, the oft-married and openly careless psychiatrist who shared a suite with Wentworth, and also contributed to the show's scripts. Landesburg's final screen appearance outside of "Head Case" was a 2009 guest appearance on "The Cleaner" (A&E, 2008-09). After a lengthy struggle with cancer, he died at the age of 65 on Dec. 20, 2010, prompting numerous tributes from the comedy and television communities.
Cast (Feature Film)
Special Thanks (Special)
Landed regular role on the variety series "Dean Martin Presents the Bobby Darin Amusement Company" (NBC)
Feature film debut, "Blade"
Portrayed Viennese violinist Fred Meyerbach on "Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers" (CBS)
Hosted his own comedy special, "The Steve Landesberg Show" (NBC)
Starred in Nessa Hyams' "Leader of the Band," playing an unemployed musician who whips an inept high school marching band into shape
Played Lieutenant Al Frank in TV movie, "Final Notice (USA Network)
Acted with Stacy Keach and Richard Thomas in "Mission of the Shark," a CBS movie about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis during World War II, resulting in the Navy's greatest sea disaster
Appeared in Western comedy "Sodbusters" (Showtime)
Returned to series TV in regular role as George on NBC's "Conrad Bloom"