Monday, July 1, 2024


From Wikipedia:
Martin Eugene Mull (August 18, 1943 – June 27, 2024) was an American comic actor whose career included contributions as a musician and painter. Mull gained visibility on screen for ‘Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman’ and its spin-off ‘Fernwood 2 Night’.

His other notable roles include Colonel Mustard in the 1985 film “Clue”, Leon Carp on ‘Roseanne’, Willard Kraft on ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’, Vlad Masters / Vlad Plasmius on ‘Danny Phantom’, and Gene Parmesan on ‘Arrested Development’. He had a recurring role on ‘Two and a Half Men’ as Russell, the drug-using, humorous pharmacist.

From The Hollywood Reporter:
Martin Mull, the droll comedian, actor, singer-songwriter and painter who found fame on the soap opera satire ‘Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman’ and its spinoff ‘Fernwood 2 Night’, has died. He was 80.

Mull died Thursday at home after a “valiant fight against a long illness,” his daughter, Maggie Mull, shared on her Instagram.  

“He was known for excelling at every creative discipline imaginable and also for doing Red Roof Inn commercials,” she wrote. “He would find that joke funny. He was never not funny. My dad will be deeply missed by his wife and daughter, by his friends and coworkers, by fellow artists and comedians and musicians, and — the sign of a truly exceptional person — by many, many dogs. I loved him tremendously.”

I say this every year, and usually around this time – the year is shaping up to be a bad one for losing our pop culture icons.  And 2024 looks like it wants to be really bad!  William Russell, David Soul, Charles Osgood, Glynis Johns, Joyce Randolph, Chita Rivera, Gary Graham, Donald Sutherland, M. Emmett Walsh, Dabney Coleman, Richard Lewis, Terry Carter, Barbara Rush….  Damn.  I had to stop.

The news about Martin Mull hit very hard.  His records and his work on ‘Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman’ rocketed him to the top of my fan interests back in the 70s.  And he was always a dependable presence with every co-star or guest star role he took on.

His character of Barth Gimble is already a member of the Television Crossover Hall of Fame.  But we’re back again to induct him as a member of the League of Themselves….


But first, here’s more from Chris Koseluk’s tribute in The Hollywood Reporter:

More recently, he was one of the old guys on the Fox sitcom ‘The Cool Kid’s and an acid-tripping attorney on Netflix’s ‘The Ranch’ and recurred on ABC’s ‘Not Dead Yet’.

However, it was as Garth and Barth Gimble, the very different identical twins from Fernwood, Ohio, — the mythical setting for the Norman Lear-produced ‘Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman’ — that placed Mull in the national spotlight.

Designed to poke fun at America’s obsession with consumerism and pop culture, ‘Mary Hartman’ starred Louise Lasser as an unassuming housewife trying not to lose her mind in the banal hell known as suburbia. Mull joined the syndicated series in 1976 for its second season and quickly became one of its most despised characters — the wife-abusing Garth.

“I thought they hired me because I was a comedian,” Mull said in a 2014 interview. “I was kind of surprised when all of a sudden we got all this Virginia Woolf-ish high drama. I didn’t like the character at all. I don’t care for violence, and wife-beating is particularly repugnant to me, so it was quite hard.”

Despite Mull’s reservations, his razor-sharp comic timing and sly, off-center approach made Garth work. Audiences cringed but laughed when Gimble locked his wife in the closet and then kissed the closet door as he left for work.

Al Burton, the series’ creative supervisor who hired Mull, figured he would be perfect for the controversial character. “Martin is one of a kind,” he said. “He has this unique hateful quality while still being an appealing performer.”

Though Garth appeared in only a handful of the show’s 325 episodes, he went out with a bang. In one of the most macabre plot twists in TV history, he met his end by being impaled on the star atop an aluminum Christmas tree in his closet.

But Mull’s stay in Fernwood was just getting started. In the last month of the series’ run, he reappeared as Barth Gimble, a smarmy type who had trouble adjusting to small-time life. For reasons never quite revealed (it was hinted his situation involved an underage girl in Miami), Barth decided it best to lay low in Fernwood.

When ‘Mary Hartman’ ended in 1977, Lear created the spinoff ‘Fernwood 2 Night’. Produced by Alan Thicke, it featured Barth as a leisure suit-wearing talk show host whose insufferable ego had him believing he was the Tri-County’s answer to Johnny Carson.

Joining the show was Gimble’s sidekick, Jerry Hubbard (Willard). Much to Gimble’s constant annoyance, Hubbard was the epitome of cluelessness. When a female guest brought the discussion around to gynecology, Hubbard innocently asked if a cure had been found for that.

“Barth would host the town’s premiere talk show, bringing on guests to recall their UFO sightings and anchoring segments such as ‘Talk to a Jew,'” Rolling Stone wrote in 2015. “Martin Mull and Fred Willard don’t get nearly enough credit as a crack comic duo, and the show’s skewering of the format’s cliches — made to seem even cheesier by the public-access production values — set the pace for the faux-sincere showbiz parodies and fake late-night programming (see Larry Sanders) that would become a comedy staple in the years to come.”

‘Fernwood 2 Night’ became a cult hit, and many of Lear’s friends asked to be on it. The producers couldn’t figure out a way to make sense of all these famous folks showing up in a small Ohio town, so they moved the show to the fictitious Alta Coma, California, the “unfinished furniture capital of the world.” Renamed ‘America 2-Night’, the show now had Gimble and Hubbard interviewing Burt Lancaster, Carol Burnett, Charlton Heston and Jim Nabors.

He created (with Steve Martin and Craig Kellem) and starred as a Seattle television commentator on the CBS sitcom ‘Domestic Life’, but it lasted just 10 episodes in 1984. He lasted longer on ‘Roseanne’, on which Leon in 1995 married a character played by Willard in one of TV’s first gay weddings.

Mull also had recurring roles on ‘The Jackie Thomas Show’, ‘The Ellen Show’, ‘Dads’, ‘Life in Pieces’ and ‘American Dad!’, among other shows.

He earned his only Emmy nomination in 2016 for his performance as political operative Bob Bradley on ‘Veep’.

Here are the appearances Martin Mull made as himself which have earned him another trip to the Hall:


Ronald Reagan parachutes into D.C. Follies to hear Woody Allen's paranoia about becoming a father. Martin Mull has trouble getting a drink while Nixon, Ford, and Carter badger him for campaign contributions. 

1] SAVE MR. PECK'S (1989)

When Garry finds out that Mr. Peck's club is closing so a mall can be built, he decides to seek some help from some celebrity friends to save the club where he got his start in stand-up.


Martin Mull asks Garry to participate in a charity golf event. He agrees to play, despite not being a good golfer.

3] BOYSVILLE (1989)


When Martin Mull thinks Phoebe overcharged for her interior design services, a feud begins between the Shandlings and the Mulls. It may take God Himself to settle this argument.

1] THE PARTY (1992)

An innocent invitation to Arthur and his wife for dinner turns into a full-blown staff party

Hank struggles to open the Look-A-Round Café.

[Hank talking about Martin Mull: "He was fine on that make-believe talk show, that ‘Fernwood’ thing.”]

I know it's a discrepancy and it should be de-Zonked, but I don't have it in me just now....


After realizing there is no way to profit from Buzz Beer, the gang decides to shut down the brewery and throw a party with free beer to get rid of their supply. Drew meets a woman at the Warsaw and invites her to the party but can't remember her name or number. Mimi puts a flier about Drew's party in the Winfred-Louder newspaper as revenge for an earlier prank.

Drew's hopes of finding his mystery woman dwindle when everyone in the city of Cleveland (including the mayor, Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar, Little Richard, and Joe Walsh) shows up at his house for the party.

Martin Mull makes an uncredited cameo, probably at the party.


Maxwell is the Upper Left Square.
Martin is the Bottom Center.

Fran is depressed over her inability to conceive. She finds out that she is ovulating just as they are making an appearance on ‘Hollywood Squares’.

Maxwell learns that he's been approached to be a celebrity panelist on ‘Hollywood Squares’ (1998) (they couldn't get Andrew Lloyd Webber), so he, Fran, Sylvia, Yetta and Val traipse off to California. Regardless if Maxwell is having a good time on the show (he isn't – Mull commandeered his punchline), Fran drags him off the set during the middle of the show for more important matters: she's ovulating.

1] The 'Hollywood Squares' sequence was taped during the marathon taping sequence for the actual game show.  Maxwell was occupying the square Fran Drescher had for that week, but she was in the audience as Fran Fine.

2] The other Celebrity Squares were Rita Rudner, Howie Mandel, Caroline Rhea, Coolio, Estelle Getty, Bruce Vlanch, and Whoopi Goldberg as the Center Square. 

The plot summaries are from the IMDb (with some slight editing.)

Welcome to the TVXOHOF, Mr. Mull.  Again….  But this time as your glorious self.

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