R.I.P. David Lander, Squiggy from Laverne & Shirley
The iconic sitcom actor was 73.
Michael McKean and David Lander were college buddies in Pittsburgh. Graduates of Carnegie Mellon University, the two became part of a comedy troupe called the Credibility Gap. Together, they created the characters Lenny and Squiggy (original name: Anthony Squiggliano) for skits.
McKean and Lander were eventually brought on as writers for the Happy Days spin-off Laverne & Shirley, after which their old alter-egos were revived and injected into the sitcom. Squiggy got a name change — he was now Andrew "Squiggy" Squiggmann — and his weaselly greaser character became a quotable pop-culture sensation.
The colorful supporting characters would become so popular, Lenny and Squiggy would even get a chance to record an album of rock & roll songs in 1979, Lenny & Squiggy Present Lenny and the Squigtones. That record would in a way be the genesis of Spinal Tap, as it featured not on McKean, but the guitar playing of comedian Christopher Guest, a.k.a. Nigel Tufnel.
Those his character Squiggy might be forever associated with rock & roll, Lander the actor was a baseball lover at heart. He played a baseball broadcaster in A League of Their Own (1992), the classic sports film directed by his former Laverne costar Penny Marshall. Later that decade, he worked in the sport itself, become an associate baseball scout for the Seattle Mariners.
"He has a passion for baseball and it's sincere," Mariners GM Bill Bavasi said at the time about Lander. "If he sees stadium lights somewhere, he's at the game."
With such a distinctive voice, Lander was a natural for animated work, as well. In the decades following Laverne & Shirley, he did cartoon voice-over work in everything from Garfield to SpongeBob SquarePants. He also happened to land a couple of interesting gigs thanks to his neighbor, David Lynch. The visionary director cast Lander in both Twin Peaks and his overlooked sitcom On the Air.
On December 4, Lander passed away from complications due to multiple sclerosis, his wife told TMZ. He was 73.
McKean tweeted a heartfelt and silent tribute to his longtime friend and comedy partner.