Jay Thomas has passed away at the age of 68.
The Hollywood Reporter:
Don Buchwald, his longtime agent and friend, reported his death, after a battle with cancer, to The New York Daily News. His publicist, Tom Estey, would not divulge when or where Thomas died when contacted by The Hollywood Reporter.I’m a big classic TV buff, and especially love collecting Christmas episodes of as many TV series as possible.
Thomas played the obnoxious TV talk-show host Jerry Gold (and Candice Bergen's on-again, off-again boyfriend) on CBS' Murphy Brown from 1989-98 — winning a pair of Emmys — after his stint as Rhea Perlman’s husband Eddie LeBec, a French-Canadian goalie with the Boston Bruins, on NBC's Cheers. On the latter, his character winds up appearing in an ice show and gets killed by a Zamboni.
Thomas also starred on his own sitcom, playing an egotistical sportswriter opposite Susan Dey and then Annie Potts on CBS' Love and War, a 1992-95 series created by Murphy Brown's Diane English.
A native of Kermit, Texas, who was raised in New Orleans, Thomas got his start in radio as a high school football announcer for the Rutherford High Rams in Panama City, Fla.
He worked at stations in Panama City; Pensacola, Fla.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Nashville; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Charlotte, N.C., where he earned nicknames like "The Mouth of the South," "The Scorpion" and "The Prince of Darkness."
Thomas moved to New York for a job at the FM station 99X and then did stand-up comedy at the Improv and acted in off-Broadway plays. He got his start on television in 1979 as Remo DaVinci, the co-owner of a New York deli, on ABC's Mork & Mindy. He also hosted a radio show in Los Angeles and, most recently, had a daily gig with SiriusXM.
Appearing as an annual Christmas guest alongside Letterman "has been fun," he said in 2014. "I've always wanted to be one of those guys on late-night talk shows who everybody wants to see. Like on Carson, when [Don] Rickles would come out. I became that guy. And I love football, so my two big dreams were totally realized."
I have a lot of Jay’s work in my Library including his work on Cheers and Murphy Brown. But I choose to highlight his particular episode to honor Jay.
I originally recorded this episode, A Christmas Kvell, when it first aired in 1992. It was always a favorite of mine, but eventually the old VHS tape had worn out and I was sure that was that. But as it turned out, you could purchase it from Amazon digitally, so I was glad to have it back in my collection.
I think just from this small clip you can grasp why this is one of the better stories about Hanukkah and Christmas, and while Dey’s comedic timing leaves a bit to be desired (she would be replaced by Annie Potts in Season Two), the episode does highlight Jay’s comedy genius. In case you’ve forgotten, Dey’s character Wally is Catholic and Thomas’s character Jack is Jewish. They’re struggling to celebrate their first Christmas/Hanukkah together. In this clip, Thomas tries to explain the significance of the Jewish holiday.