Family & Companions
An accomplished improvisational actor and mime, Laraine Newman helped found the legendary Groundlings comedy troupe before achieving permanent pop culture fame as one of the original Not-Ready-For-Primetime-Players on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) from 1975 to 1980. Newman left the series following its infamously tumultuous fifth season to pursue a film career. Though she had prominent roles in movies like "Coneheads" (1993), "The Flintstones" (1994) and "Jingle All the Way" (1996), Newman was given little room to show her true talents. She kept busy, however, with numerous supporting roles in films and on television, while becoming a much sought-after voiceover artist for big animated films like "Finding Nemo" (2003), "Cars" (2006), "WALL-E" (2007), "Up" (2009) and "Toy Story 3" (2010). Newman nonetheless managed to forge a successful career both on and off the screen decades after the glory years from studio 8H.
Born March 1, 1952 in Los Angeles, CA, Newman took to performing at an early age, studying comedy improv while still a teenager. Newman also displayed a talent for mime and so joined the Richmond Shepherd Mime Troup in the late 1960s before heading to Paris to study the art with the master, Marcel Marceau. She returned to California in 1972 and helped to form the acclaimed improve troupe the Groundlings, where she was discovered by Lily Tomlin and was tapped by the acclaimed comic and actress to appear on her Emmy-winning sketch comedy, "The Lily Tomlin Special" (ABC, 1975). Newman was also seen briefly as one of the comic talents on "The Manhattan Transfer" (CBS, 1974-75), a short-lived variety show built around the popular vocal group. The following year, she made her film debut among a Who's Who of 1970s improv talents - including future "SNL" co-stars Chevy Chase, Al Franken and Tom Davis - in the underground sketch comedy feature "Tunnelvision."
But Newman's big break came in 1975 when producer Lorne Michaels tapped her to join several Second City comedy veterans, including John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, on his late-night sketch comedy series "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ). Newman's tenure on the series was marked by several notable characterizations, including the Coneheads' teenaged daughter Connie, as well as impersonations of then-First Lady Roslyn Carter and Barbara Streisand. Though her performances were often well-received by audiences, she was frequently outshined by her castmates, especially Gilda Radner, whose unforgettable characters Roseanne Roseannadanna and Baba Wawa were cultural phenomenons. As a result, a not-so-friendly rivalry soon blossomed between the two performers. Meanwhile, as Belushi and Chase were enjoying blockbuster hits while "SNL" was on hiatus, Newman's sole feature effort during her tenure was "American Hot Wax" (1978), a well-regarded but little-seen biopic of pioneering rock DJ Alan Freed. Newman gave a solid performance as a teenaged pop hopeful, but the picture failed to connect with audiences during its theatrical run.
Despite a 1979 Emmy win, the original "SNL" cast - as well as the show itself - was beginning to fragment by the show's turbulent fifth season. Painful shyness made performing difficult for Newman, as did growing problems with an eating disorder and heroin addiction, according to accounts published about the show. In 1980, she followed her castmates and Michaels out the door, quitting the series to explore the options afforded by the movies. A starring role opposite Dudley Moore in the broad comedy "Wholly Moses!" (1980) failed to push her career to the next level, prompting her to concentrate on character work in films and on television. Recurring guest shots on "Laverne and Shirley" (ABC, 1976-1983) and "St. Elsewhere" (NBC, 1982-88) were balanced with likable feature turns as an amorous gym patron in "Perfect" (1985) and a suburban mom controlled by diabolical aliens in the Tobe Hooper remake of "Invaders from Mars" (1986). She also briefly returned to series work as the host of "Canned Film Festival" (1986), a syndicated comedy series devoted to strange and offbeat horror and exploitation movies.
Years after she left "SNL," Newman reunited with castmates Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin for the ill-advised feature film version of "Coneheads" (1993). Too mature to revive teenaged Connie, she was relegated to a minor role as a relative on their home planet of Beldar. Meanwhile for much of the 1990s, Newman was seen in character parts that gave her comic talents only brief moments to shine, such as in "Problem Child 2" (1991), "The Flintstones" (1994) and "Jingle All the Way" (1996). On the other hand, television gave her more substantial and consistent work. She was stepmother to Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) on "Friends" (NBC, 1994-2004), while she essayed eccentric teachers, over-protective parents and other comic types on shows ranging from "Ellen" (ABC, 1994-97) and the kids' series "Bone Chillers" (syndicated, 1996) to "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (HBO, 2000- ) and "7th Heaven" (The WB/The CW, 1996-2007). Newman began a second career as a voiceover artist in 1983 by voicing Connie in an animated "Coneheads" special for primetime on NBC. By the late 1990s, she was dividing her time between live action roles and providing voices for series like "The Tick" (Fox, 1994-97) and "Superman" (The WB, 1996-2000).
In the next century, Newman was working almost exclusively as a voiceover artist, including co-starring roles on the Emmy-nominated "As Told to Ginger" (Nickelodeon, 2000-04), "The Oblongs" (The WB, 2001-02), and "Rugrats: All Growed Up" (Nickelodeon, 2003- ). Her vocal skills eventually brought her to the attention of feature film animators, who utilized her talents for "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius" (2001), "Monsters, Inc." (2001), "Madagascar" (2005), "Ice Age 2: The Meltdown" (2006) and "Cars" (2006). Newman continued to balance her voiceover work with regular television appearances, including guest spots on "According to Jim" (ABC, 2001-09), "Entourage" (HBO, 2003-2011) and "Brothers & Sister" (ABC, 2006-2011). On the big screen, Newman delivered comfortable voiceover performances in major animated blockbusters like "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!" (2007), "WALL-E" (2007), "Up" (2009), "Toy Story 3" (2010), "Tangled" (2010) and "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" (2012).
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Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Was one of the founding members of The Groundlings improvisational group
Was one of the Not Ready For Prime Time Players on NBC's "Saturday Night Live"
Was regular on the CBS summer variety series "Manhattan Transfer"
Feature film debut in "Tunnelvision"
Had prominent role in ensemble cast of "American Hot Wax"
Played featured role in the screen comedy "Wholly Moses"
Made guest appearances on the NBC drama "St. Elsewhere"
TV-movie debut in "Her Life As a Man"
Co-starred in "Perfect"
Appeared in "Problem Child 2"
Played supporting role in "The Flintstones"
Had small role in "Jingle All the Way"
Played Phoebe's stepmother in an episode of "Friends" (NBC)
Provided character voices for The WB animated series "Histeria!"
Cast in "I'm Losing You"