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 Pewit Clinton High School and entered Alfred University as a pre-med student. At Alfred he joined the college’s acting company and graduated 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.
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. 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.
Robert 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 in the late 90’s on Rhino records. Because of popular demand, Rhino re-released Child Of The Fifties and Mind Over Matter and, 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 safe-sex ‘90’s as only Klein can. For the video, Klein tapped Geraldo Rivera, Joan Rivers and 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 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.
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 his return to the “Great White Way”, Robert starred in Wendy Wasserstein’s The Sisters Rosenstein with Madeline Kahn and Jane Alexander. Quickly becoming a favorite of the critics in the role of Merv Kant, a manufacturer of “synthetic animal coverings”, Klein won both an “Obie Award for Performance” and “The Outer Critics 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 The Late Show with David Letterman and Late Night with Conan O’Brian. Klein hosted Saturday Night Live twice and even starred in the first infamous “Cheesburger” sketch with John Belushi and Dan Akeroid.
Klein’s movie roles include Hooper, starring Burt Reynolds, The Owl & The Pussycat with Barbara Streisand, Rivals with Joan Hackett, The Landlord, The Bell Jar, Nobody’s Perfect, Dangerous Curves and Tales From The Dark Side. Klein has recently appeared in Radioland Murders, Mixed Nuts, Jeffrey, One Fine Day, Suits, Next Stop Wonderland, Primary Colors and Goosed. 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.
NBC’s Bloopers and Practical Jokers 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 many hit TV series including The New Twilight Zone, Murder She Wrote, Midnight Caller, Frasier, Phenom, Law and Order and Grace Under Fire. His episode of Family Ties was nominated for an Emmy Award.
Klein was the first comedian to appear in a live concert on the precedent setting Home Box Office on location series and has done six One-Man Shows for HBO. His show, Robert Klein at Yale has been added to the permanent collection of the Museum of Broadcasting.
Klein has hosted numerous shows, Robert Klein Time on the USA network, his own weekly talk/variety/comedy show which was nominated for seven Ace Awards, the highly acclaimed Arts and Entertainment Review seen on the A&E Network & E! Stand-Up Sit-Down comedy, a half hour program series seen on E! Entertainment Television.
From 1993 – 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.
When Robert isn’t making a movie, filming a one-man concert, performing on Broadway, at the White House of hosting a TV show, he “relaxes” by regularly traveling the country appearing at hundreds of colleges, universities and theaters, or in Atlantic City performing his brilliant comedy for sold-out houses.