Family & Companions
One of the founding members of the legendary comedy troupe, The Credibility Gap, lanky comic actor, writer and musician Michael McKean enjoyed an almost uninterrupted run as an employed Hollywood actor. Known for frequently playing goofy characters that were just the slightest bit cool - or occasionally cool, mature characters who seemed just a bit goofy - McKean came to national prominence alongside his friend and collaborator, David L. Lander, as one half of Lenny and Squiggy - two popular recurring characters on the smash '70s hit comedy, "Laverne & Shirley" (ABC, 1976-1983). In the early 1980s, McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer formed the fictional rock band, Spinal Tap - considered by many to be the progenitor of such modern musical-comedy acts as Tenacious D. The husband of actress Annette O'Toole, McKean continued making film and television appearances well into the 21st century; even adding Broadway to his list of accomplishments with a role in a 2004 production of "Hairspray." For over three decades, Michael McKean was a force to be reckoned with and - with his ability to pull off low and high-brow laughs - one of the most dependable go-to comic actors in the business.
The second child of record executive Gilbert McKean and his librarian wife, Ruth, Michael McKean was born on Oct. 17, 1947 in New York City, NY. Artistic as a youth, McKean began playing the guitar at 14 and knew he wanted to be an entertainer from early on. In college, McKean met David L. Lander and Christopher Guest - two young men who would later become hugely important in his professional life. The threesome, along with Harry Shearer and Richard Beebe, formed The Credibility Gap, an influential comedy group that performed on the radio and toured in the early 1970s.
McKean's big break, though, would be on television. In 1975, McKean, Lander and Shearer were signed to write for the then-upcoming ABC sitcom, "Laverne and Shirley." At the suggestion of series star Penny Marshall, McKean and Lander also joined the cast as recurring characters Lenny Kosnowski and Andrew "Squiggy" Squigman, an eccentric duo who provided the show's most reliable comic relief. Based on a pair of characters they had originally created with The Credibility Gap, McKean and Lander's Lenny and Squiggy became so hugely popular, they were eventually added to the regular cast. McKean's character, Lenny, was a loveable goofball who worked as a truck driver at the Shotz Brewery where Laverne and Shirley were also employed. In addition, he was also their neighbor. Together, with his more nimble-minded roommate, Squiggy, Lenny could be relied on each week to barge into the titular heroines' apartment at the worst possible moment.
After the series' demise, McKean attempted to parlay his fame into such feature comedies as director Garry Marshall's "Young Doctors in Love" (1982), but failed to hit the mark. McKean did, however, have great and lasting success with his next movie, "This is Spinal Tap" (1984) - an uproariously inventive and on-target "rockumentary" satire of heavy metal music. In it, McKean played David St. Hubbins, the band's blond hen-pecked lead singer. Helmed by neophyte director Rob Reiner, "Spinal Tap" would mark the first of McKean's many well-received feature comedy collaborations with Guest and Shearer. He also had prominent roles in several other features, including the family oriented sci-fi movie, "D.A.R.Y.L." (1985) and "Clue" (1985), an adaptation of the classic Parker Brothers board game. Unfortunately, both films fared poorly, both critically and with the public. As a result, McKean subsequently found himself consigned back to supporting roles in such features as "Earth Girls Are Easy" (1989), "Book of Love" (1990), "Coneheads" (1993) and "Airheads" (1994).
On television, McKean had marginally better luck in such offbeat shows as "Grand" (CBS, 1990-91) and the original cable comedy, "Dream On" (HBO, 1990-96), in which he played Brian Benben's abusive editor. After the close of the 1993-94 season, McKean left the show to join the cast of "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ), where he assumed the role of elder statesman following the recently departing Phil Hartman. Sadly, McKean's efforts were largely wasted in this floundering era of the venerable series.
Nevertheless, McKean continued to rack up an impressive and typically effective series of big-screen appearances. Demonstrating a wry verve, McKean appeared in such diverse projects as "The Brady Bunch Movie" (1995), "Small Soldiers" (1998), "Teaching Mrs. Tingle" (1999), "Mystery, Alaska" (1999) and "Little Nicky" (2000). But McKean continued to shine most brightly in his collaborations with Shearer and Guest. In 2000, McKean appeared as one-half of a dog-obsessed gay couple in Guest's hysterical kennel club comedy, "Best in Show" (2000). He later essayed an uptight corporate exec for the Shearer-helmed satire, "Teddy Bears' Picnic" (2002). Finally, the trio re-teamed for the "Spinal Tap"-ian folk music mockumentary, "A Mighty Wind" in 2003.
McKean was also able to display a more serious side of his acting, appearing in fare with a slightly more mature edge. These included actress Christine Lahti's directorial debut, "My First Mister" (2001), the fiftysomething romantic comedy "Never Again" (2002), and "Auto Focus" (2002), Paul Schrader's dark biopic of "Hogan's Heroes" star Bob Crane. In between his more serious efforts, McKean maintained close ties to television; he kept his comedic chops sharp as the host of Comedy Central's "Uncomfortably Close with Michael McKean" (1999-2001) - a series of specials in which he interviewed some of the premiere comedic talents of the day. He also played insipid talk show sidekick Adrien Van Voorhees on Martin Short's short-lived, but amusing media satire, "Primetime Glick" (Comedy Central, 2000-02) and guested as the oily Morris Fletcher on two episodes of "The X-Files" (Fox, 1993-2002). In 2002, McKean guest-starred in his first appearance as intrepid journalist Perry White on "Smallville" (WB, 2001-06; CW, 2006-11), the Superman-based prequel series starring his offscreen wife, Annette O'Toole.
In 2003, McKean was back in wacky form on the big-screen, appearing in the Bollywood-to-Hollywood satire "The Guru." After a successful run on stage in the Broadway adaptation of "Hairspray," McKean reunited with most of the cast of "A Mighty Wind" to star in director Christopher Guest's "For Your Consideration" (2006), a film-within-a-film mockumentary set in Tinseltown. The following year, McKean joined actors Shia LaBeouf, Jane Krakowski and Jeff Bridges in lending his voice to the daring CGI animated family comedy, "Surf's Up" (2007) about surfing penguins.
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Special Thanks (Special)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Hired as a writer for the ABC sitcom "Laverne and Shirley," along with Shearer and Lander; series star Penny Marshall reportedly suggested that McKean and Lander play recurring oddball characters, which led to the roles of Lenny and Squiggy
Made TV series debut on the hit ABC sitcom "Laverne and Shirley" as Lenny Kosnoski
Feature film debut, "Cracking Up"
Appeared in first TV-movie, "More Than Friends"; first collaboration with Rob Reiner
First collaboration with Christopher Guest (and also Harry Shearer from The Credibility Gap), "The T.V. Show"
First leading role in a feature, "Young Doctors in Love"
First feature credit as screenwriter, song performer and songwriter, "This Is Spinal Tap"; directed by Reiner and co-starred Reiner, Guest and Shearer, who also co-wrote
Played first leading role in a TV-movie, "Classified Love" (CBS), also marked first romantic lead on TV
Played two roles in the TV-movie spy spoof "Double Agent"
Directed Showtime comedy special "The Rich Hall Show"
Penned second film "The Big Picture," starring Kevin Bacon and directed by Christopher Guest
Co-starred with Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum in "Earth Girls Are Easy"
Played one of the leading roles on the NBC comedy series "Grand"
Wrote and directed episodes of the short-lived CBS sitcom "Morton & Hayes," executive produced by Rob Reiner and Christopher Guest
Played Dan Carver on the six-episode HBO comedy series "Sessions"
Directed four episodes of the HBO comedy "Dream On"; also had recurring role on the show
First TV producing credit, the NBC comedy special "A Spinal Tap Reunion"; also co-wrote and recreated his role as David St. Hubbins
Joined the regular cast of NBC variety series "Saturday Night Live"
Cast as the villainous neighbor in "The Brady Bunch Movie"
Cast in featured role in feature remake of "That Darn Cat"
Portrayed the high school principal in "Teaching Mrs. Tingle"
Hosted a series of specials on Comedy Central "Uncomfortably Close With Michael McKean"
Appeared in the beauty pageant spoof "Beautiful"
Cast as one half of a gay couple in "Best in Show," directed by Christopher Guest
Appeared in director Christine Lahti's debut feature "My First Mister"
Co-starred as bandleader Adrien Van Vorhees on the Comedy Central series "Primetime Glick," starring Martin Short
Played supporting role in the 50-something romantic comedy "Never Again"
Starred in writer-director Harry Shearer's ensemble corporate retreat comedy "Teddy Bears' Picnic"
Featured in the comedy "A Mighty Wind" with Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy; received an Academy Award nomination for Best Music, Original Song for "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" (shared with wife Annette O'Toole)
Co-starred in the Hollywood/Bollywood satire "The Guru"
Replaced Harvey Fierstein in the role of Edna Turnblad in the Broadway production of "Hairspray"
Played a prison trustee in the movie musical "The Producers," based on the stage musical by Mel Brooks and starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick
Re-teamed with Guest to play a screenwriter in "For Your Consideration"
Co-starred with Sam Rockwell in the dramedy "Joshua"; screened at the Sundance Film Festival
Appeared on Broadway in the revival of Harold Pinter's "The Homecoming"
Played lead role of a doughnut shop owner in Tracy Letts' "Superior Donuts" on Broadway; first played the role at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre in 2008
Co-starred in Woody Allen's New York-based comedy "Whatever Works"
Joined Broadway revival cast of "Gore Vidal's The Best Man"
Cast alongside Bradley Cooper and Zoe Saldana in romantic drama "The Words"
Nabbed a recurring part on longtime friend Christopher Guest's HBO comedy "Family Tree"
Landed the role of Chuck McGill on AMC's "Breaking Bad" spin-off, "Better Call Saul"