×

Jay Thomas, ‘Murphy Brown’ and ‘Cheers’ Actor, Dies at 69

Actor Jay Thomas, best known for his roles in the classic sitcoms Murphy Brown” and “Cheers,” has died, Variety has confirmed. He was 69.

“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,” his publicist Thomas Estey told Variety. “He will be dearly missed by so many.”

According to The New York Daily News, which first reported the news, Thomas died following a battle with cancer. No other details were immediately available about the circumstances of his death.

Thomas most recently played Marty Grossman, the operator of a sleazy website, on the Showtime drama “Ray Donovan.”

He starred as a sportswriter on his own sitcom, “Love & War,” from 1992 to 1995, while recurring on “Murphy Brown” from 1989 to 1998. Thomas earned two Emmy Awards for outstanding guest actor in a comedy series for his role as obnoxious tabloid talk show host Jerry Gold on CBS’ hit Candice Bergen-starrer. He nabbed a supporting actor Emmy nomination for the same role.

Thomas also portrayed Carla’s (played by Rhea Perlman) hockey player husband, Eddie Lebec, on “Cheers” from 1987 to 1989.

He also had roles on other sitcoms — ABC’s “Married People,” CBS’ “Love and War,” and ABC’s “Mork & Mindy,” his first TV gig — as well as police procedurals like “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Cold Case,” and comedy-dramas “Boston Legal” and “Hung.”

His film roles include the Easter Bunny in the “Santa Claus” movies, in addition to “Mr. Holland’s Opus” (1995), “Dragonfly” (2002), and “Labor Pains” (2009).

Despite his prolific work on the small screen, Thomas may be most recognized for his regular appearances on “Late Night With David Letterman.” The comedian was a guest on Letterman’s annual Christmas episodes, and told the same story every year about a bizarre encounter he had with actor Clayton Moore, star of TV’s “The Lone Ranger,” as a young DJ in the early ’70s. Thomas and Letterman also tossed a football around to knock a meatball from the top of the Christmas tree, during the annual tradition that started in 1998 and ended in 2014.

Born in Kermit, Texas, and raised in New Orleans, Thomas started his career as a radio DJ for stations in New York and Los Angeles, including KPWR. He most recently hosted “The Jay Thomas Show” on Sirius XM.

Thomas is survived by his wife, Sally; and sons, Sam, Max and J.T.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • TV News Roundup: Netflix Drops Trailer

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Drops Trailer for Ryan Murphy's 'The Politician' (Watch)

    In today’s TV news roundup, Netflix has drops the first trailer for “The Politician,” and “Killing Eve” adds two to its cast for season 3.  CASTING Harriet Walter and Danny Sapani, both alums of “The Crown,” are set to join the cast of “Killing Eve” for its third season. British writer Suzanne Heathcote, whose past credits include [...]

  • Lady Gaga

    Variety Earns 14 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie Award Nominations

    Variety has received 14 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie award nominations for its coverage of the entertainment industry over the past year. The awards gala, which will take place at The Hilton Midtown in New York City on Oct. 30, celebrates publications that have demonstrated impressive investigative journalism, in addition to thoughtful digital and print design. [...]

  • Disneyland

    Disney Shares Slip Amid Reported Whistleblower Allegations of Inflated Revenue

    Sandra Kuba, a former senior financial analyst for Disney’s revenue operations unit, says she has filed a series of whistleblower tips with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, alleging that the entertainment conglomerate repeatedly and systematically overstated its revenue for years, according to a MarketWatch report, by as much as $6 billion in a single [...]

  • Bob Bakish Joe Ianniello

    ViacomCBS Sets Board Members; Bob Bakish, Joe Ianniello New Deals Disclosed

    ViacomCBS has unveiled the 13 members of its board of directors and details of new employment contracts for president-CEO Bob Bakish and CBS chairman-CEO Joe Ianniello. The disclosure came Monday in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, six days after Viacom and CBS at long last set an all-stock merger agreement valued at [...]

  • Carrie Underwood, left, and Reba McEntire

    CMAs Make Hosting Change: Brad Paisley Exits, Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire Are In

    The CMA Awards have had the most consistent hosting situation of any music awards show in television, but 11 years after installing Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood as the reliable faces of the telecast, even ABC and the Country Music Association have decided it’s time for a switch. Come Nov. 13, Underwood will return for [...]

  • Ava Max iHeartRadio Wango Tango, Portraits,

    Megan Thee Stallion, CNCO, Ava Max to Perform at VMAs Pre-show

    CNCO, Megan Thee Stallion and “Sweet but Psycho” singer Ava Max (pictured) have been added to the performer lineup at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards. The three will take the stage during the VMAs’ red carpet pre-show, hosted by Terrence J and Nessa. Zara Larsson will join the two hosts as a special correspondent. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content