Character actor Richard Erdman, known to contemporary audiences as perpetual student Leonard on “Community,” who also had significant roles for more than seven decades in movies and TV shows such as “The Twilight Zone” and “Stalag 17,” has died. He was 93.
His friend, film historian Alan K. Rode, reported his death on Twitter.
On “Community,” Erdman was one of a group of elderly students, known as the “Hipsters” for their hip replacements, who was often told to “Shut up, Leonard!”
“Community” star Joel McHale paid tribute to Erdman on Twitter. “Such a good & funny man. We’ll miss you ‘Leonard,'” he said.
Fellow “Community” actor Yvette Nicole Brown also took to Twitter, writing, “I knew the day we’d have to say goodbye to this lovely man would come sooner than any of us were ready. But knowing that doesn’t make it any easier. #RichardErdman was JOY walking. Anyone who saw him on @CommunityTV gleeflully stealing every scene he was in knows that’s true.”
Most recently he appeared on an episode of “Dr. Ken.” Ken Jeong remembered the actor on Facebook, saying, “Thank you Richard Erdman for blessing us with your brilliance. Sweet, gentle and fearless. Nailed every take. Always made me laugh hard.”
Though he wasn’t actually in the Little Rascals, as his character on “Community” claimed to be, he had a lengthy career with hundreds of roles, starting in the 1940s in a number of comedies and musicals. In 1953 Billy Wilder war comedy “Stalag 17,” he played barracks chief Sgt. Hoffy Hoffman.
Born in Oklahoma, Erdman grew up in Colorado Springs, Colo. before moving to Hollywood, where he enrolled at Hollywood High and was soon discovered and signed to Warner Bros.
He began appearing on TV in the early 1950s, with a recurring role on Ray Bolger’s “Where’s Raymond?” and appearances on “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “Make Room for Daddy.”
On the 1963 “Twilight Zone” episode “A Kind of Stopwatch,” he starred as Patrick McNulty, a boorish man who causes mischief when he’s given a stopwatch that can stop time.
In addition to recurring roles on “Lou Grant” and “Perry Mason,” he had guest appearances on dozens of series of the 1960s and ’70s, including “Love, American Style,” “That Girl,” “I Dream of Jeannie,” “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “The Six Million Dollar Man.”
His film roles ranged from film noir “Cry Danger” to musical “Anything Goes” to military drama “Tora! Tora! Tora!”
Erdman did voice work for numerous animated projects such as “The Smurfs,” “Scooby-Doo” and “Duck Tales.”
His wife and a daughter pre-deceased him.