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There were very few actors, if any, who made audiences laugh the way Ben Stein did. With his distinctive monotone voice and deadpan stare, Stein turned his cameo as a high school teacher in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986) into one of the most memorable characters in movie history. While his role in the film was minor, Stein's delivery of the line "Bueller?. Bueller?. Bueller?" took the former economist and presidential speechwriter's career to new heights. He spent a substantial part of his acting career in feature films and on television before taking the game show world by storm with "Win Ben Stein's Money" (Comedy Central, 1997-2002), where contestants attempted to outsmart Stein for a cash prize. Combining his wit, dry sense of humor, and a deadpan charm that was uniquely his own, Stein maintained a successful and long-running career that crossed over various media platforms.
Benjamin Jeremy Stein was born on Nov. 25, 1944 in Washington, D.C., the son of noted economist and writer Herbert Stein. He attended Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, MD, the same alma mater of journalist Carl Bernstein and actress Goldie Hawn. Before the entertainment industry came knocking, Stein seemed destined for a career either in business or politics. The Economics major graduated with honors from Columbia University in 1966, prior to receiving his law degree from Yale University in 1970. Stein began his career in the nation's capital, working as an economist at the Department of Commerce, as a trial lawyer at the Federal Trade Commission, and as a professor at American University. His teaching profession brought Stein to University of California, Santa Cruz, where he taught political and social content of mass culture, and political and civil rights under the Constitution.
In 1973, Stein worked as a speechwriter and lawyer for President Richard Nixon, which led to speculation from TIME magazine that he was "Deep Throat," the secret informant who provided The Washington Post's Bob Woodward details about President Nixon's involvement in the Watergate scandal. Stein not only denied that he was the notorious whistleblower (it was later revealed that FBI agent Mark Felt was "Deep Throat"), but also accused Woodward of fabricating his infamous secret source. Following his speechwriting career at The White House, where he also worked for President Gerald Ford, the conservative Stein moved on to journalism and wrote columns for esteemed publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The American Spectator. His articles published in Barron's, which focused on financial dealings and reports on fraud in the Milken Drexel junk bond scheme, drew major national attention in the 1980s and '90s. The prolific writer authored around 30 books, including novels about life in Los Angeles and non-fiction titles that dealt with finance, politics, and social issues.
Stein launched his entertainment career with an unforgettable cameo in the classic Generation X film "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986). The John Hughes-directed comedy starred Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller, a high school senior who decides to skip school and spend a day in downtown Chicago with his best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) and girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara). Stein played Ferris' monotone and drab Economics teacher who, while calling out students' names for attendance, uttered one of the film's most famous quotes: "Bueller?. Bueller?. Bueller?" Because of his non-acting background prior to appearing in the film, Stein later told CNN that his role in the classic film came about through six degrees of separation, which started with Richard Nixon. The former president introduced Stein to a New York Times columnist, who introduced him to a Warner Bros. executive, who introduced him to a casting director, who finally introduced him to director Hughes. Since his debut, Stein played the similar flat-voiced and unemotional character in numerous films and on television shows, including the comedy features "Planes, Trains & Automobiles," "Ghostbusters II" (1989) and the nostalgic dramedy "The Wonder Years" (ABC, 1988-1993).
In 1997, Comedy Central gave Stein his own game show titled "Win Ben Stein's Money." Originally hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, the show pitted three contestants against the über-smart Stein in a series of trivia questions to win a $5,000 grand prize. "Win Ben Stein's Money" earned a total of seven Daytime Emmy Awards during its run, including an Outstanding Game Show Host award in 1999 for Stein and Kimmel. The series also spawned a late-night talk show spin-off titled "Turn Ben Stein On" (Comedy Central, 1999-2001) which only ran for three seasons. Stein's distinctive voice also landed him frequent guest appearances on animated shows throughout his career, including "The Fairly OddParents" (Nickelodeon, 2001- ) and "Family Guy" (Fox, 1999- ), as well as in television commercials for Clear Eyes eye drops and Chips Ahoy cookies. He returned to hosting in 2007 with "America's Most Smartest Model" (VH1), a competition series where 16 up-and-coming models competed in various challenges to win a major ad campaign and a $100,000 cash prize.
By Marc Cuenco
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Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Worked as a lawyer and speechwriter for US Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford
Appeared in the film "The Wild Life" as a salesman
Had a memorable cameo as the monotone economics teacher in John Hughes' "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", making his face and voice recognizable to many moviegoers
Contributed to the PBS documentary "Hollywood's Favorite Heavy: Businessmen on Primetime TV"
Reteamed with Hughes, acting in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles"
"The Boost", a drug-themed drama based on his novel "Ludes", was released
Wrote a bi-weekly diary for AMERICAN SPECTATOR
Appeared in the features "Ghostbusters II" and "Easy Wheels"
Guest starred on ABC's adventure drama "MacGyver"
Had a cameo in the comedy feature "Soapdish"
Covered the Democratic and Republican National Conventions for Comedy Central's "Indecision '92"
Appeared in "Honeymoon in Vegas"
Acted in the children's feature "Dennis the Menace"
Appeared on episodes of "Melrose Place" (Fox) and "Full House" (ABC)
Played himself in a cameo in the White House-set comedy "Dave"
Guest starred on episodes of "Love & War" (CBS)
Appeared in "My Girl 2" and "North"
Was featured in "Miami Rhapsody" (as a rabbi) and "Casper"
Appeared on the series "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" (ABC) and "Live Shot" (UPN)
One of his stories was adapted into an episode of the ABC series "The Marshal"
Acted in the comedy "House Arrest"
Had a cameo in the sequel "Casper: A Spirited Beginning" and did voiceovers for the feature "A Smile Like Yours"
Hosted the Comedy Central game show "Win Ben Stein's Money"
Had a guest stint on "The Hughleys" playing a therapist
Hosted the interview series "Turn Ben Stein On"
Appeared on UPN's "Shasta McNasty" as himself in an episode taking place on "Win Ben Stein's Money"