Jay Thomas, known for roles on ‘Cheers’ and ‘Murphy Brown,’ passed away this week at age 69. USA TODAY
Jay Thomas, the versatile comic actor who made such a memorable mark in TV sitcoms (Murphy Brown, Cheers, Ray Donovan), in movies, on stage and even on radio, has died. He was 69.
The news of his death was confirmed by his publicist, Tom Estey, in a statement Thursday.
“Jay Thomas was one of the funniest and kindest men I have had the honor to call both client and friend for 25 years plus,” Estey said. “He will be dearly missed by so many.”
One of his fellow actors tweeted the same. “I worked with Jay Thomas on Joan of Arcadia and he was a great guy and good actor. My thoughts and prayers are with his family today. RIP,” tweeted Joe Mantegna.
Short, loud and sharply funny, Thomas always pumped up a scene when he appeared on series such as Murphy Brown, Cheers, Mork & Mindy, and, most recently, Bones and Ray Donovan. He appeared as a prominent guest star in dozens of sitcoms, cop shows and other TV fare.
Estey posted a picture on his Instagram of Thomas with the late Robin Williams from Mork & Mindy.
Born in Texas and reared in New Orleans, he was doing stand-up by age 16 and collected a fistful of degrees at five different colleges and universities, while working as a DJ and sports announcer at the same time.
His first TV role was in Mork & Mindy, as Remo DaVinci, the co-owner of The New York Delicatessen on the show. He also landed a recurring role in Cheers as Carla’s ice hockey-playing husband, Eddie LeBec.
He won two Emmy awards for outstanding guest actor for playing noxious right-wing talk-show loudmouth Jerry Gold on Murphy Brown. He starred in his own TV shows, Married People and Love and War.
His movie credits include roles in Mr. Holland’s Opus, A Smile Like Yours, and the Santa Clause franchise. On stage, he starred in plays written and directed by Wendy Wasserstein and Woody Allen. His Jay Thomas talk show aired on SiriusXM.
He also was famous for his annual Christmas season appearance on David Letterman’s late-night show during which he told a long story about how he met Clayton Moore, who portrayed the title character on The Lone Ranger.
Thomas’ fans and friends quickly began posting tribute tweets.
Dean Cain: “RIP Jay Thomas. A funny man, A good man.”
Tom Arnold: “I love Jay Thomas. Many unscripted inappropriate laughs everytime we worked together. My thoughts today are with his beloved family. #RIP”
Christopher Titus: “Jay Thomas, made me laugh on TV and helped promote me on his radio show. He was always funny, true to himself and will be missed. RIP”