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A career in entertainment was not a "legitimate" pursuit for a middle-class kid born in the Bronx, even though his father, Ben, was a good living-room comedian and his mother, Frieda, was a show business fan. So, Robert Klein graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School and entered Alfred University as a pre-med student.
At Alfred, he joined the college's acting company and graduated in 1962 with a B.A. in Political Science and History. But the acting bug bit hard, and Robert's drama professor convinced Ben Klein that his son should pursue an acting career. Yale Drama School beckoned, and Klein was on his way.
He finished a year at Yale, followed by summer stock. The following fall, in order to earn a living while paying his dues at New York City clubs like The Original Improvisation, The Bitter End and Cafe Wha?, Klein took a job as a substitute teacher.
In March, 1965, he auditioned for the famous Chicago improvisational company, Second City, became a member of the troupe, and there he spent the single most important year of his career.
Klein returned to New York as a seasoned member of Second City and was seen by producer Mike Nichols and chosen for a role in his Broadway musical, Apple Tree. Soon after that, Klein was cast in two more Broadway shows, Morning, Noon and Night and New Faces of 1968. In 1970, he starred in Comedy Tonight, the CBS summer replacement for Glen Campbell's show. Klein and the show were highly acclaimed, and it was becoming very clear that Robert Klein was here to stay.
In 1973, Klein released his first album, Child of the Fifties, an ingenious collection of material which brought Klein to a vast audience and won him a Grammy Award nomination for Best Comedy Album of the Year. Two more albums followed, including Mind Over Matter, also nominated for a Grammy, and New Teeth. Klein's most recent album, Let's Not Make Love, was released on September 24, 1990, on Rhino Records. Because of popular demand, Rhino re-released Child of the Fifties and Mind Over Matter in 1990. In 1992, CBS re-released New Teeth.
In conjunction with the release of Let's Not Make Love, Klein filmed a music video of the title track, hilariously depicting his quest for love in the safe-sex '90's as only Klein can. For the video, Klein taped Geraldo Rivera, Joan Rivers, Maury Povich, Capt. Lou Albano, Joe Franklin, Lisa Sliwa, Vitas Gerulaitus, Bob Costas and Marv Albert for cameo appearances.
Probably no single event is more indicative of Klein's success than his first sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall in 1973, The First Annual Robert Klein Reunion. For nearly two hours, Klein knocked out his audience with his high energy comedy and comment. The critics raved, and Klein affirmed his place as a major personality in contemporary entertainment and as an influence on a whole generation of comedians.
In 1979, Klein returned to Broadway in grand style with a Tony nomination as Best Actor and a Los Angeles drama critics Circle Award for his performance in the hit musical, They're Playing Our Song. While They're Playing Our Song was running in New York, Klein began hosting The Robert Klein Radio Show, an internationally-syndicated comedy-rock show taped before a live audience, which ran for two years.
In 1993, marking his return to the "Great White Way," Robert starred in Wendy Wasserstein's The Sisters Rosensweig with Madeline Kahn and Jane Alexander. Quickly becoming a favorite of the critics in the role of Merv Kant, a manufacturer of "synthetic animal covering," Klein won both an Obie Award For Performance and The Outer Critics Circle Award For Outstanding Performance By An Actor.
To say that Klein's show business career has been varied would be an understatement. He has been a regular guest on The Tonight Show for over twenty years and has guest-hosted the show on numerous occasions. He also appears regularly on Late Show With David Letterman and Late Night With Conan O'Brien. Klein also hosted Saturday Night Live twice and even starred in the first infamous "cheeseburger" sketch with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd.
Klein's movie roles include Hooper starring Burt Reynolds, The Owl and the Pussycat with Barbara Streisand, Rivals with Joan Hackett, The Landord, The Bell Jar, Nobody's Perfekt, Dangerous Curves, and Tales From the Dark Side: The Movie. Klein has recently appeared in Radioland Murders, Mixed Nuts, Jeffrey, One Fine Day, and the upcoming Suits.
No stranger to television movies, Robert's starring credits include Summer Switch and This Wife For Hire for ABC, Poison Ivy for NBC, and Your Place or Mine? for CBS. In 1984, NBC's Bloopers and Practical Jokes sent him onto the streets of New York for weekly segments exploring the country's most exciting city in the inimitable Klein style.
Klein has also frequently guest-starred on hit TV series, including The New Twilight Zone, Murder She Wrote, Midnight Caller, Frasier, Phenom, Law and Order, and Grace Under Fire. His 1988 episode of Family Ties was nominated for an Emmy Award.
In 1975, Klein was the first comedian to appear in a live concert on the precedent-setting HBO On Location series and has done six one-man shows for HBO. His 1982 show, Robert Klein at Yale has been added to the permanent collection of The Museum of Broadcasting. 1984's Robert Klein: Child of the '50's, Man of the '80's has been released as a home video by Thorn/Emi-HBO. Robert Klein on Broadway taped at New York's Nederlander Theatre in 1986, is also available for the home market on Vestron Video. In celebration of the 20th anniversary of Klein's first special, his sixth special It All Started Here premiered in December, 1995.
Klein also hosted the Dead Comics Society. Seen on Comedy Central, Dead Comics Society was a series featuring pristine prints of classic comedy films by Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, and others, with Klein adding adept commentary, anecdotes, and insight about each of the artists, their lives, and work.
Robert has also starred in teleplays, including Table Settings for HBO and the classic French farce Pajama Tops for Showtime. From 1986 through 1988, Klein also hosted Robert Klein Time on the USA Network, his own weekly talk/variety/comedy show which was nominated for seven Ace Awards.
From 1991 to 1992, Klein hosted the highly acclaimed Arts and Entertainment Review. Seen on the A&E Network, each week Klein presented the finest in the world of entertainment via his incisive interviews and reviews.
From 1993 to 1996, Klein starred on NBC's Sisters as Big Al Barker. As "The Prince of Pricetown," Big Al's love affair with Alex (Swoosie Kurtz) kept viewers riveted from the moment Klein joined the cast as the burly, yet lovable, retail appliance magnate. The show is presently in syndication.
Klein also hosted E! Entertainment Television's Stand-Up Sit-Down Comedy, a half-hour series in which Klein interviewed and featured the performance of one of the nation's hottest young stand-up comedians each week. The show was shot before a live audience at the Comedy Warehouse on Pleasure Island at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.
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