Ed Asner was one of those rare performers who could leap seamlessly between two worlds: comedy and drama. And he would excel at both. In fact, Asner holds the record for the most Emmy Awards received by any other male actor with six. To boot, the man had over 417 TV and film appearances, and never stopped working until the day he died yesterday at 91 years old.
Asner is perhaps best known for his role as Lou Grant on the Mary Tyler Moore Show and the subsequent spin-off, Lou Grant. (Fun fact: Asner is also only the second actor to take home Emmy Awards for playing the same role in both a comedy and a drama series). He also took home an Emmy award for his work on the critically acclaimed drama Roots. But his work as a comedic actor extends even further beyond that.
Asner’s comedy background actually starts in Chicago, when he joined the Playwrights Theater Company. And while the name may not mean anything to comedy fans today, it was that group that eventually became the Compass Players before finally being known as the Second City. In 1970, he first took on the role of Grant in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, who was her boss in the world of television journalism. One of his most infamous encounters with Moore followed him for the rest of his career, in which he detests her spunk. (He later told us in an interview that he actually loves spunk). After the show went off the air and Grant got his own show, it took a more serious approach to the world of newspaper journalism and became an acclaimed drama that ran until 1982.
After playing Grant, Asner showed up in more and more comedies. Modern day comedy fans may also recognize Asner as Santa Claus in the Will Ferrell film, Elf. Some of the other film and television shows he popped up in include Up, Dead To Me, Rhoda, Roseanne, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Mad About You, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Skin Game, Moon over Parador, The Bachelor, The Animal, Let Go, Anamaniacs, Gargoyles, Dharma and Greg, The Angry Beavers, Johnny Bravo, King of the Hill, The Ellen Show, The Sarah Silverman Program, American Dad!, The Cleveland Show, Maron, Hot in Cleveland, Men at Work, Mom, Grace and Frankie, Modern Family, and Central Park, among countless others. He also toured around recently in the one man show: A Man and his Prostate. Known for his cranky demeanor, his talk show appearances also never failed to elicit laughs.
Let’s take a look back at some of our favorite comedic performances from the very prolific Ed Asner.