Leonard King Lesser (December 3, 1922 – February 16, 2011) was an American character actor, and comedian known as Len Lesser. He was known for his recurring role as Uncle Leo in Seinfeld, which began during the show's second season in "The Pony Remark" episode. Lesser was also known for his role as Garvin on Everybody Loves Raymond.
Lesser was born in the Bronx in 1922. His father, a grocer, was a Jewish immigrant from Poland. Lesser received his bachelor's degree from the City College of New York in 1942 at the age of 19. Lesser enlisted in the United States Army the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and served in the China Burma India Theater during World War II.
Lesser was a prolific character actor in film, TV and on stage. He has appeared on American television steadily since 1955 on scores of TV classics such as That Girl, The Untouchables, Peter Gunn, Mr. Lucky,
The Outer Limits,
Alfred Hitchcock Presents,
Quincy, M.E., The Rockford Files, The Amazing Spider-Man, Mad About You,
All in the Family,
Boy Meets World, Smart Guy, My Favorite Martian,
Lesser appeared in a variety of films including:
Birdman of Alcatraz (1962),
How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965),
Kelly's Heroes (1970),
Blood and Lace (1971),
Dirty Little Billy (1972), Papillon (1973), Truck Stop Women (1974),
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976),
Supervan (1977), Moonshine County Express (1977), Ruby (1977), Death Hunt (1981), Take This Job and Shove It (1981), Grandmother's House (1988) and Baadasssss! (2003).
Lesser had a recurring role on Everybody Loves Raymond as "Garvin," a friend of Frank Barone, who always lifted his arms in excitement whenever he saw Ray (just as Lesser did in his recurring role on Seinfeld as "Uncle Leo" whenever he saw his nephew, Jerry). He also appeared in Jeff Seymour's critically acclaimed stage production of Cold Storage at the University of Toronto's George Ignatieff Theatre.
On February 16, 2011, Lesser died of cancer-related pneumonia in Burbank, California, at the age of 88. He is buried at Sholom Memorial Park in San Fernando, California.
After learning of Lesser's death, Jerry Seinfeld said of him,
Len was one of our favorites. We always loved having him on the show. I'll never forget when Uncle Leo was in prison and tattooed 'Jerry Hello' on his knuckles. He was a very sweet guy.
Another Seinfeld cast mate, Jason Alexander, tweeted,
Thanks to all of you for your kind remarks re: Len Lessor [sic]. Tonight was the opening of Gigi at my beloved Reprise Theater Company and I've only returned at this late hour to hear the news. ... "Hellooo" Uncle Leo. And goodbye. Sleep well. Much love. Jason.
Shack Out on 101 (1955) - Perch
Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) - Reporter at Sparring Session (uncredited)
Lust for Life (1956) - Cartoonist (uncredited)
The Rack (1956) - Officer (uncredited)
This Could Be the Night (1957) - Piano Tuner (uncredited)
Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (1957) - Sam (uncredited)
The Brothers Karamazov (1958) - Jailer (uncredited)
I Want to Live! (1958) - Charlie, Newspaperman (uncredited)
Some Came Running (1958) - Indianapolis Poker Player (uncredited)
Crime and Punishment U.S.A. (1959) - Desk Officer
Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1960) - Waiter at Sardi's (uncredited)
Bells Are Ringing (1960) - Charlie Bessemer (uncredited)
Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) - Burns (uncredited)
Smog (1962) - Lelio Marpicati
McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force (1965) - NKVD commissar
How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965) - North Dakota Pete
Fireball 500 (1966) - Man in Garage
The Last Challenge (1967) - Ed - the Bartender (uncredited)
Kelly's Heroes (1970) - Sergeant Bellamy
Bonanza (1970) - Fred Gaskell
Blood and Lace (1971) - Tom Kredge
Dirty Little Billy (1972) - Slits
Slither (1973) - Jogger
Papillon (1973) - Guard
Truck Stop Women (1974) - Winter
Death Wish (1974) - Cop at the Precinct (uncredited)
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) - Abe
Supervan (1977) - Banks
Moonshine County Express (1977) - Scoggins
Joyride to Nowhere (1977) - Charlie
Ruby (1977) - Barney
House Calls (1978) - Waiter
The Main Event (1979) - Trainer At Big Bear
Take This Job and Shove It (1981) - Roach
Death Hunt (1981) - Lewis
Du-beat-e-o (1984) - Hendricks
Grandmother's House (1988) - Grandfather
Faith (1990) - Uncle Sal
Sorority Girls and the Creature from Hell (1990) - Tex
Ain't No Way Back (1990) - Papa Campbell
Rave Review (1994) - Al
True Friends (1998) - Mr. Slotnick
The Werewolf Reborn! (1998)
Baadasssss! (2003) - Manny and Mort Goldberg
Raw Footage (2005) - Grampa Joey
Frankenstein and the Werewolf Reborn! (2005) - Inspector Krol
1. "Uncle Leo". seinfeldonline.com.
2. Weber, Bruce. "Len Lesser, Uncle Leo on 'Seinfeld', Dies at 88", The New York Times. 2011-02-17.
3. Obituary, latimes.com, February 17, 2011.
4. Len Lesser on IMDb
5. "First Person: Len Lesser on Uncle Leo's new life". National Post.
6. Allen, Floyd (February 18, 2011). "Len Lesser dies at 88, due to cancer-related pneumonia". ibtimes.com.
7. Seinfeld's 'Uncle Leo' dead at 88, cnn.com, February 16, 2011.
8. Zakarin, Jordan (February 17, 2011). "Uncle Leo's 'Seinfeld' Scenes: Jerry Remembers His Favorite". Huffington Post.