Shelley Berman, who tapped into the neuroses and frustrations of post-World War II America and brought an actor’s sensibility to his monologues to become one of the top comedians of the late 1950s and early ’60s, died Friday at his home near Thousand Oaks.
Berman, who acted throughout his career and had a late career resurgence when he played Larry David’s father on the hit HBO comedy series “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease, according to spokesman Glenn Schwartz. He was 92.
The Chicago-born Berman, who came to stand-up comedy via the theater and Chicago’s improvisational Compass Players, defied stand-up comedy convention: He did his act sitting down.
Perched on a bar stool, Berman did not deliver a string of jokes. Instead, he was known for acting out small, angst-filled vignettes, portraying “a man in agony over modern life — over his own life,” as Gerald Nachman wrote in the book “Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s.” His routines helped pave the way for Woody Allen, Jerry Seinfeld and Bob Newhart, comedians who built their acts around the frustrations of everyday life.
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