Robert Klein

February 19, 2024

Bob Harrington Lifetime Achievement Award

For more than 50 years, comedian Robert Klein has entertained audiences, in a legendary career in comedy, on Broadway and television, and in film.

In 2017, the documentary Robert Klein Still Can’t Stop His Leg was released. In it, Jerry Seinfeld, Billy Crystal, Jon Stewart, and many other acclaimed comedians discussed Klein’s influence on their careers. Seinfeld called him “The Beatles of comedy to me.”

Bronx-born Klein graduated with a degree in History and Political Science from Alfred University, but he’d found his passion acting in college plays. After a year at Yale School of Drama, he headed to Chicago to work with the famed “Second City” improvisational theatre. Afterward, he returned to New York, where he honed his stand-up-comedy talents at the Improv comedy club in Hell’s Kitchen.

Klein was twice nominated for a Grammy award for “Best Comedy Album of the Year,” for his recordings Child of the 50’s and Mind Over Matter.

On Broadway, he starred in the musical They’re Playing Our Song (Tony nomination). He would later win an Obie and an Outer Critics Circle Award for “Outstanding Performance by an Actor” in Wendy Wasserstein’s The Sisters Rosensweig.

In 1975, Klein was the first performer to appear in a live concert on HBO. He went on to record nine one-man shows for HBO.  

His more than 40 feature films include The Owl and the Pussycat, Primary Colors, Two Weeks Notice, and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. His most recent film is Before I Go, with Annabella Sciorra. 

On television, he’s appeared on such series as Sisters, Law & Order, The Good Wife, and Will & Grace. He made more than 90 appearances on The Tonight Show and was a favorite on The Late Show with David Letterman as well. He hosted Saturday Night Live multiple times, including in the very first season, and is remembered as the unhappy customer in the beloved “Cheeseburger Cheeseburger” sketch. 

Unusual for a comedian, Klein has performed with several symphony orchestras, including The Chicago Symphony and The Philly Pops. 

His memoir, The Amorous Busboy of Decatur Avenue, appeared in 2005. The New York Times Book Review enthused: “Klein’s provocative sense of irony gives his story a crazy twist, like his best stand-up work.”

Klein has been awarded three honorary doctorate degrees: from Alfred University, Monmouth University, and Columbia College Chicago. 

He makes his home in Westchester County, New York.


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