Known to SEINFELD fans as annoying Uncle Leo, veteran character actor Len Lesser died last night in Burbank, California at age 88. Though he appeared in only 15 episodes of the Jerry Seinfeld sitcom, his Uncle Leo character spanned seven of the series’ eight years on-air at NBC during the ’90s with this trademark “HELLO!” greeting to Jerry. Lesser’s Uncle Leo got embroiled in many of the sitcom’s funnier incidents (seemingly about nothing) including retrieving Jerry’s discarded watch from a trash can, the loss of Morty Seinfeld’s wallet, and through his appearance in the show’s infamous finale in 1998.
Lesser enjoyed a lengthy career outside of SEINFELD, most often playing heavies and tough guys from TV and film appearances in the early 1950s up to 2009, including many years of stage acting as well. His numerous roles big and small included series like GUNSMOKE, THE OUTER LIMITS, ALL IN THE FAMILY, KOJAK and nine appearances on EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND. Lesser made impressions in feature films including BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ, KELLY’S HEROES, THE OUTLAW JOSIE WALES and PAPILLON.
Born on December 3, 1922 in New York, Lesser moved to 1954 to start his acting career in television while remaining very active in stage productions up to his work in A Noise Within’s LA production of Clifford Odet’s “Awake and Sing!” in 2010.
On a personal note: this writer worked briefly with Mr. Lesser on a low-budget film and despite the poor material forced upon him, Len remained a dedicated professional to give it his best (which the production certainly failed to deserve) and was kind and friendly throughout. FilmEdge remembers Len Lesser as a good man and a good actor.