LOS ANGELES — Actor Jay Thomas, best known for his roles in the classic sitcoms “Murphy Brown” and “Cheers,” has died, Variety has confirmed. He was 69.
“Jay Thomas was one of the funniest and kindest men I have had the honor to call both client and friend for 25 years-plus,” his publicist Thomas Estey told Variety. “He will be dearly missed by so many.”
According to The New York Daily News, which first reported the news, Thomas died following a battle with cancer. No other details were immediately available about the circumstances of his death.
Thomas most recently played Stalker.com operator Marty Grossman on the Showtime drama “Ray Donovan.”
He starred as a sportswriter on his own sitcom,”Love & War,” from 1992 to 1995, while recurring on “Murphy Brown” from 1989-1998. Thomas earned two Emmy Awards for outstanding guest actor in a comedy series for his role of obnoxious tabloid talk show host Jerry Gold on CBS’ hit Candice Bergen-starrer. He also nabbed an supporting actor nomination for the same role.
Thomas also portrayed Carla’s (played by Rhea Perlman) hockey player husband, Eddie Lebec, on “Cheers” from 1987-1989.
He also had starring roles on other sitcoms — ABC’s “Married People” and CBS’ “Love and War” — as well as police procedurals like “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Cold Case,” and comedy-dramas “Boston Legal” and “Hung.”
His film roles include the Easter Bunny in the “Santa Claus” movies, in addition to “Mr. Holland’s Opus” (1995), “Dragonfly” (2002), and “Labor Pains” (2009).
The actor segued into a career in radio, most recently hosting “The Jay Thomas Show” on Sirius XM.
Despite his prolific work on the small screen, Thomas may be most recognizable for his regular appearances on “Late Night with David Letterman.” The comedian was a guest on Letterman’s annual Christmas episodes, and told the same story about a bizarre encounter he had with actor Clayton Moore, star of TV’s “The Lone Ranger,” as a young DJ. The two also played a game of “knock the meatball from the top of the Christmas tree” during the annual tradition that started in 1998 and ended in 2014.
Thomas is survived by his wife, Sally, and sons, Sam, Max and J.T., who were reportedly by his side when he died.