According to Variety, comedian, actor, radio host, and owner of a face that seemed to be everywhere on television in the late 80s and mid-90s, Jay Thomas, has died after a battle with cancer. He was 69 years old.
Jay Thomas might be a mystery to some people, but to others, the news of his passing will no doubt be accompanied by something like “Oh man, THAT guy?” or “Not Carla’s shady-ass second husband!” Jay Thomas started out in radio in the 70s in New York and Los Angeles, and moved into television in the 80s. His first big role was as Remo DaVinci on Mork & Mindy (see, a total “THAT guy” role). Golden Girls fans will recognize Jay as the director of the Little Slice of Sicily pizza commercial that Dorothy and Sophia were in.
People who watched Cheers will know Jay Thomas as Eddie LeBec, Carla’s hot but scammy French Canadian hockey player second-husband. In the mid-90s he starred on the short-lived sitcom Love & War. He was also in several movies, most notably (to me, at least) Straight Talk, which really is the only movie credit anyone ever needs.
If you watched Murphy Brown, then you know Jay as tabloid talk show host Jerry Gold. Jay won two Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Guest Actor for that, and was nominated for an Outstanding Supporting Actor Emmy. He continued to act a ton until present day, like on Ray Donovan, and also had a radio show on SiriusXM.
But weirdly enough, Jay Thomas might be most legendary for his annual Christmas Show guest appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman. Jay used to do two things: the Quarterback Challenge, in which Jay Thomas and David Letterman would try to knock a meatball off the top of a Christmas tree by throwing footballs at it, and The Lone Ranger Story. Every year, Jay would tell the same bizarre story from the 70s about being on drugs and driving around Clayton Moore, star of The Lone Ranger. For some people, the holidays start with Rudolph or Charlie Brown. It’s not officially the holidays for me until I’ve watched Jay Thomas talk about getting “herbed up” by the dumpster.
Here he is telling it in 2009:
Jay Thomas leaves behind his wife and three sons. Rest in peace, Jay Thomas. I hope they greeted you wherever you are with a meatball-topped tree and a bucket of footballs.