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Known as an unusual comic performer, Dick Shawn had both TV and film roles, including in Mel Brooks' The Producers and the sitcom Three's Company.
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Already known for his offbeat performances, Shawn took on his strangest character in Mel Brooks' The Producers (1968), which starred Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder as the title characters. He played an hippie actor named Lorenzo St. DuBois,
or LSD as he was called. His character gets the role of Adolf Hitler in a musical called "Springtime for Hitler" within the film. According to the Los Angeles Times, Shawn once described the role as "an unactable part has to be played by a maniac."
By the late 1970s, Shawn had developed and was performing his best-known one-man show, The Second Greatest Entertainer in the Whole Wide World, which earned him a nomination for the 1978 Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience. The show was filled with a near endless array of material, from his musings on cosmology to tap-dancing to scenes from William Shakespeare's tragedic play Othello. After bringing the show to Los Angeles, he won the 1986 L.A. Drama Critics Award for the show. Shawn did not tell jokes, per say. He entertained audiences with his unusual observations, humorous delivery, and pure physicality.
In the later part of his career, Shawn continued do his own special brand of stand-up comedy and work in television and films. He appeared on such shows as Amazing Stories, St. Elsewhere, and Three's Company as John Ritter's father. His last two films were Maid to Order (1987) with Ally Sheedy and Beverly D’Angelo and Rented Lips (1988) with Martin Mull, Jennifer Tilly, and Robert Downey, Jr.
Shawn gave his final performance at the University of California at San Diego on April 17, 1987. Known for his physical antics on stage, the audience was not surprised when Shawn fell to the floor after a joke about a nuclear war. Imagining that they were the only ones to survive, he told them "and I would be your leader" before collapsing. The audience laughed and waited and laughed and waited, but Shawn never got up. His son Adam was in the audience and called for a doctor. A doctor went on stage and started CPR on the comedian. He was taken to Scripps Memorial Hospital where he died less than an hour after he arrived.
Shawn was survived by his four children: Adam, Amy, Jennifer, and Wendy.
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