I couldn't find a traditional still of Ron Carey, a very funny character actor who died Tuesday at the age of 71. I had to do a frame grab from the Mel Brooks film, Silent Movie
, in which Ron played the sidekick to the bad guy played by Harold Gould. But that was kind of the way Ron's career went. He was always the sidekick, the buddy, the little guy who aided and abetted the hero or villain. In Mr. Brooks's High Anxiety
, he was the chauffeur who drove Mel around and for his regular role on Barney Miller
, he was the little guy everyone abused. He made a pretty decent living that way.
Ron was a stand-up comedian who started getting tapped for roles in commercials. He made so many of them that he largely abandoned stand-up and made the lateral move into acting. He was an enormously nice, funny man. I remember one time when — for reasons too boring to relate — I found myself on the set of a Barney Miller
taping that had stretched to 4 AM, having started somewhere around dinner time. The producers and story editors were doing Rewrite #47 on the script and the cast members were alternately cursing and nodding off. All the energy on the set flowed from Ron Carey, who was scurrying about, telling jokes and keeping spirits up throughout what someone else (or maybe Ron) referred to as "The Bataan Death Sitcom." He only had a small role that week but his cheerleading did plenty to make it, as I recall, a pretty good episode.
I met him a few other times, often at meetings of Yarmy's Army, which is a local group of older comedians. I was a guest/outsider but Ron did an awful lot to make me feel welcome...and it wasn't just me. He was like that with everyone. Here's the L.A. Times obit
. As you'll see from the man's list of credits, Mel Brooks tried to use him in every film he did. This was, of course, because Ron was very good on screen but I'm sure it was also because Ron was just great to have around