It's always sad when a class act like Peter Boyle passes. Some of you may want to refresh yourself on two of his funniest moments from Young Frankenstein: this one, featuring top hat and tails; and this one, featuring an almost unrecognizable Gene Hackman. Unfortunately he had to do a lot of schlock over the years, but his performance in Joe was terrific. He'll probably now be best remembered for Everybody Loves Raymond, which is something of a mixed blessing. The show has become such a staple of syndication it necessarily garners the hatred that comes from over-exposure; but it also had the audacity (these days, anyway) to deliver the equivalent of a one-act play each week, in which the actors were responsible for generating and sustaining comedic momentum. Boyle, in that ensemble, had to be the anchor by making a broad caricature believable and funny, and he did it did brilliantly, almost effortlessly. In other hands, the words "holy crap" would have become tired on their third utterance; he turned them into an arabesque, each time slightly different, each time disarmingly, and almost inexplicably, riotous. I should add another adverb there: Unfailingly. Few comedic actors, and even fewer comedians, learn the fine art of dealing with an inevitable line or an inevitable reaction; Jack Benny was probably the great master of this, and Johnny Carson and lately Jon Stewart its most obvious practitioners; but Peter Boyle was one of the select few that could act in this tradition and make it look easy.
RIP, Good Sir.
Now I have to watch Young Frankenstein again. With holiday shopping heating up, maybe we all should.