Steve Landesberg, a comic actor known for playing wry, bookish types and most widely recognized as Barney Miller’s Arthur P. Dietrich, has died of cancer, according to TMZ. He was 65. Landesberg joined the cast of Barney Miller full time in its second season, playing the highly intellectual, unflappably deadpan detective, the breadth of whose impressive knowledge on a wide variety of obscure subjects both amazes and baffles his fellow officers. Dietrich was a mainstay of the show throughout its run, even making an appearance on Fish, the spinoff starring Abe Vigoda (who is still alive).
After Barney Miller ended in 1982, Landesberg had a run of small roles in various TV shows such as The Golden Girls (where he played Dr. Halperin), Two Guys, A Girl And A Pizza Place (playing the father to Ryan Reynolds’ character), and Everybody Hates Chris (as “the last white man in Bed-Stuy,” Mr. Levine). He also did voiceover work, playing several minor characters on Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law. Most recently he could be seen playing an accountant in Wild Hogs and a pediatrician in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and had a starring role as Dr. Myron Finkelstein on the Starz comedy Head Case, where he also wrote seven episodes.
Landesberg started out as a stand-up comedian, coming up alongside comics such as David Brenner and Jimmy Walker and performing with the improv group The New York Stickball Team. Here he is reunited with Brenner and showing off some of his improv skills on The Mike Douglas Show.