Robert Klein (born February 8, 1942) is an American stand-up comedian, singer and actor. He had several popular and influential comedy albums in the 1970s, was nominated for a Best Actor in a Musical Tony Award for 1979's They're Playing Our Song, and has made a variety of TV and movie appearances, including hosting Saturday Night Live twice.
Klein was born in the Bronx, the son of Frieda (née Moskowitz) and Benjamin Klein, and was raised in a "prototypical 1950s Bronx Jewish" environment. After graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School, Klein had planned to study medicine; however, he changed his mind during his studies at Alfred University, After graduating, he studied at the Yale Drama School when he learned about an opportunity to audition for The Second City. In a piece he wrote for the improvisational troupe's book, Klein recalled sitting in a room full of other hopefuls, including Fred Willard. Klein's audition consisted of an improvisation set with Willard about two guys in a nightclub, which was successful enough to get Klein and Willard hired by Second City. In the spring of 1965, Klein was chosen as a member of Second City. When he returned to New York City a year later, he was cast by Mike Nichols in the Broadway musical The Apple Tree.
His first major appearance was as host of the 1970 summer replacement television series Comedy Tonight, on which were introduced many of the routines that in the next few years would be released on record albums. His extensive routines about the Watergate scandal made him highly popular in the 1970s. In 1974, he appeared in an episode of Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers.
Klein starred in HBO's first stand-up comedy special in 1975 during the cable channel's early broadcast days and has continued to appear in several more one-man shows which have typically concluded with his "I can't stop my leg" routine. In 1979, Klein was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his role in They're Playing Our Song. In 1985, he starred in the "Wordplay" episode of The New Twilight Zone.
In 1986, Klein had his own late night talk show, Robert Klein Time, which ran on the USA Network until 1988.
Klein hosted Monty Python Live at Aspen, a reunion and tribute show for the five surviving members of the British comedy troupe, in a special that appeared on HBO in 1998.
Klein has made several albums, the most successful being his first two.
In A Child of the Fifties (1973, Brut/Buddah Records), shown as Child of the 50's (on the cover), Klein talks about his life as a child in the 1950s: about air raid drills, Johnny Mathis music, showing off condoms while at the high school dance, the high school lunch ladies, Senator Joseph McCarthy, Governor W. Averell Harriman (of New York), meeting Yankee stars, the Yankees losing the World Series, and much more. He also goes into other things that he has observed in his life, such as substitute teaching, 1970s FM radio disc jockeys, late night delis, and annoying commercials (e.g., Geritol). He also performed two songs that he wrote himself: "Fabulous '50s" and "Middle Class, Educated Blues."
His next album, Mind Over Matter (1974), included extensive discussion of the Watergate scandal and another song—the title track—about a kid who turned to humor to become popular.
His follow-up album, New Teeth (1975, Epic/CBS Records), featured the comedian's on-stage work on tracks such as "Mother Isn't Always Right" and his transposition of George Carlin's "Seven Words You Can't Say On Television", titled "Six Clean Words You Can Say Anywhere," with studio recorded material such as "Continental Steel" and "On the Bayou."
He responded to the end of the sexual revolution with his 1990 album, Let's Not Make Love, which contained many of the same routines as his 1984 HBO special Child of the '50s, Man of the '80s and his 1986 special Robert Klein on Broadway.
Films and television
Klein has appeared in such movies as The Owl and the Pussycat, Hooper, Primary Colors, Radioland Murders, Ira and Abby, One Fine Day, Two Weeks Notice, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and The Safety of Objects. He had a recurring role in the TV drama series Sisters. In the 1970s, he hosted Saturday Night Live twice. He also appeared as a guest star in the animated series Duckman and on the CBS sitcom The King of Queens. In 2014 he played the Canadian Ambassador on Madam Secretary.
Klein is the author of The Amorous Busboy of Decatur Avenue: A Child of the Fifties Looks Back, an autobiography published in 2006.
In March 2007, he re-collaborated with Adam Sandler (after appearing in Mixed Nuts) in Reign Over Me, and in September 2007 released a new DVD compilation of his eight live HBO specials, titled Robert Klein: The HBO Specials 1975–2005.
Robert Klein starred in The Mysteries of Laura, a crime dramedy on NBC starring Debra Messing. In this series he played the father of the show's main character, Laura.
He played the Mayor of New York City in two of the Sharknado films.
Klein is divorced from opera singer Brenda Boozer. They have a son, Alexander Stuart Klein, who goes by Allie Klein and performs standup comedy in New York City. Following his divorce, he was involved with the fashion model Debbie Dickinson, who appeared on the cover of Klein's comedy album, Let's Not Make Love.
During the finale of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in February 2014, Billy Crystal reminded Jay Leno that when Leno was an aspiring comedian, the only decoration in Leno's apartment was a poster of Klein. Both implied that they were influenced by the Child of the 50's recording.