A Guide To Nebbishy Character Actors

This has happened to a couple people I know. It might have even happened to me. Have you ever tried to recall the name of a nerdy bespectacled character actor, where you can picture the person’s face, but can’t remember exactly where you have seen them before?

Scratch your head no longer! Here’s my attempt at being an online resource for people trying to separate the various nebbishy character actors who traditionally wear glasses in their movie and television roles.

If I have left someone out, please let me know. Some nebbishy character actors are more readily identifiable (Rick Moranis, for example) and thus have not been included here.

Stephen Tobolowsky

You may have seen him in:
Memento, Deadwood, Heroes, Groundhog Day

Austin Pendleton

You may have seen him in:
The Muppet Movie, Short Circuit, Oz

Max Wright

You may have seen him in:
ALF, Reds, All That Jazz

Eddie Deezen

You may have seen him in:
Grease, WarGames, Midnight Madness

David Cross

You may have seen him in:
Small Soldiers, Arrested Development, Scary Movie 2, Mr. Show

Robert Carradine

You may have seen him in:
Revenge of the Nerds, The Big Red One, Number One With A Bullet

Stephen Root

You may have seen him in:
Dodgeball, Office Space, NewsRadio

Bob Balaban

You may have seen him in:
Altered States, A Mighty Wind, 2010

George Wyner

You may have seen him in:
Spaceballs, Fletch

Charles Martin Smith

You may have seen him in:
American Graffiti, The Untouchables, Never Cry Wolf

David Paymer

You may have seen him in:
Get Shorty, Searching For Bobby Fischer, Ocean’s Thirteen

I might be stretching it a bit for Mr. Paymer, because in many roles he doesn’t wear glasses. But hey, it’s my guide, so what the heck.

Ron Rifkin

You may have seen him in:
Alias, Husbands and Wives, L.A. Confidential

17 thoughts on “A Guide To Nebbishy Character Actors”

  1. d, you had me worried! By your comment I thought Mr. Shawn was deceased! I had considered adding him, but he doesn’t normally wear glasses and I think he’s relatively well-known (in my head, at least)

    beckeye, be proud!

    tim, duly noted!

  2. Man, these are some of the greatest character actors in the biz. Steven Root was great in News Radio (and is great in King of the Hill).

    David Cross is very funny, be he’s a bit of an @$$ about what he does. There is a great Youtube clip out there where he’s dressed like some frat boy dancing on stage while Jim Belushi is trying to sing. Jim can’t take it and sics the bouncers on David. Jim is, of course, the most talented of the still living Belushi brothers.

  3. jon, I love everything I have seen Mr. Root in — why no one adopts him is beyond me.

    bsuwg, I think he’s certainly appropriate enough to be included here. I have added him to the guide.

    ck, do you think I should add Adam Clayton here? He’s pretty nebbish for a bass player.

    vikki, if Mr. Cross gets mad at me I’ll sick jon on him.

  4. I don’t know if Hillierman really qualifies, p0nk. I don’t really see him as a nebbishy kinda guy, and I can’t recall him ever wearing glasses in a role.

    Plus, he’s a guy whose identity one could easily figure out (“that old dude from Magnum PI”)

  5. William Shawn, the legendary editor of the New Yorker died about 10-15 years ago. Maybe you’re thinking of him? I’m not sure about his need for glasses though.

  6. R. Alan, I dunno about Mr. Pinchot. He’s had many memorable roles, but every one of them I can recall did not involve him wearing glasses — Risky Business, Perfect Strangers, After Hours, etc. — the closest I can remember him getting glasses was wearing shades in True Romance, and shades just ain’t nebbishy. To be added to the guide, the character actor has to play a nebbishy kinda guy in the majority of his roles.

    Thanks for the shout-out to Mr. Scheider. Though I didn’t note his passing on this blog, I did recently watch his 1970’s movie Sorcerer.

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