(written from a Production point of view)
Michael John McKean (born 17 October 1947; age 74) is the American actor, comedian, composer, musician, and director who played The Clown in the Star Trek: Voyager second season episode "The Thaw". He is perhaps best known for playing Leonard "Lenny" Kosnowski opposite David L. Lander's Andrew "Squiggy" Squiggman on the popular situation comedy series Laverne & Shirley from 1976 through 1982.
McKean is also known for playing David St. Hubbins, the lead singer and rhythm guitarist of the parodic heavy metal band Spinal Tap, as popularized in the 1984 "mockumentary" film This Is Spinal Tap. McKean has since become recognized for his roles in comedies and "mockumentaries" written and directed by fellow Spinal Tap member Christopher Guest. McKean is also known for his brief time as a cast member on NBC's Saturday Night Live and for performances on such television shows as The X-Files and Primetime Glick. More recently, McKean is a member of the main cast as Chuck McGill in Better Call Saul, AMC's Breaking Bad spin-off. He recently acted alongside BAFTA winner Martin Freeman in the role of ‘Michael’ in the new Brit sitcom “Breeders”.
Work with David L. Lander
Before they paired up on Laverne & Shirley, McKean and Star Trek: The Next Generation guest star David L. Lander attended acting classes together at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where they first developed the characters of Lenny and Squiggy. After graduating from CMU in the 1960s, McKean and Lander joined the Los Angeles-based comedy group called The Credibility Gap. They remained with the group until it disbanded in 1976, after which they joined the cast of Laverne & Shirley. On this series, their Lenny and Squiggy characters were best friends and roommates who lived in the apartment above the title characters, whom they would regularly pester. McKean and Lander also wrote two episodes of the show.
McKean and Lander continued performing together outside of their weekly series, as well. In 1979, the duo appeared in Steven Spielberg's World War II comedy 1941, as did Elisha Cook and Dick Miller. In 1980, they released an album as Lenny and Squiggy entitled Lenny and the Squigtones. That same year, they had supporting roles in Robert Zemeckis's comedy film, Used Cars, co-starring with Gerrit Graham. They also made appearances together on numerous television shows, including The Merv Griffin Show, Hollywood Squares, and Fridays. They even made cameo appearances as Lenny and Squiggy on Happy Days (working with Don Most, Anson Williams, and Ed Peck) and Saturday Night Live. They have more recently appeared on such series as Getting by and The Weird Al Show. On the latter, McKean, Lander, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine guest star David Bowe were among those playing a group of miners.
In addition, the duo have worked together on several animated television series, most notably Disney's Jungle Cubs (1996-98), in which they voiced a pair of vultures, and 101 Dalmatians (1997-98), where they voiced Cruella de Vil's henchmen, Jasper (McKean) and Horace (Lander). They can also be heard as a pair of birds in the 2001 film Dr. Dolittle 2. They later lent their voices to a 2007 episode of Cartoon Network's The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, along with Henry Gibson and Armin Shimerman. In 2009, they were seen in a segment of the sketch comedy film Imps*, which was actually filmed in the 1980s.
Since Lander first announced he was suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS), McKean and Lander have appeared on numerous daytime talk shows to raise awareness of the disease. They also made an MS-related public service announcement together in 2003.
Spinal Tap and Christopher Guest films
The "mock rock" band known as Spinal Tap was formed in 1979 and is comprised of actors McKean (as David St. Hubbins), Christopher Guest (as lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel), and Harry Shearer (as bassist Derek Smalls). The band actually had their beginnings on McKean and Lander's Lenny and the Squigtones album, as it featured McKean on vocals and Christopher Guest, brother of Nicholas Guest, (credited as Nigel Tufnel) on guitar. Spinal Tap made their official debut on a failed 1979 sketch comedy pilot called The T.V. Show, and five years later, they were the fictional subject of the mockumentary film This Is Spinal Tap. This film, which McKean wrote and composed with Guest, Shearer, and director Rob Reiner, has since become a cult classic. In the years since the film was made, McKean, Guest, and Shearer have played concerts and released music and videos under the Spinal Tap name.
In 1989, McKean appeared in Christopher Guest's first film, The Big Picture. In 1996, McKean reunited with Guest and Shearer to write the music and lyrics for Guest's musical mockumentary film, Waiting for Guffman. McKean later appeared in and wrote songs for McKean's subsequent mockumentaries, 2000's Best in Show and 2003's A Mighty Wind. McKean and his wife, actress Annette O'Toole, received an Academy Award nomination for the song "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow," which they wrote for A Mighty Wind (they wrote two other songs for the movie). In addition, McKean, Guest, and actor Eugene Levy won a Grammy Award for writing the title song, "A Mighty Wind." More recently, McKean had a role in Guest's 2006 comedy film, For Your Consideration. McKean was not the only Star Trek veteran to appear in This Is Spinal Tap and Christopher Guest's films. McKean's fellow Voyager guest star Ed Begley, Jr. also had roles in This Is Spinal Tap, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, and For Your Consideration, while Star Trek: Deep Space Nine guest star Paul Dooley was seen in Waiting for Guffman, A Mighty Wind, and For Your Consideration. A Mighty Wind also featured Bill Cobbs, Rachael Harris, and Freda Foh Shen.
Other film and TV credits
Following his roles in 1941 and Used Cars, McKean starred in the 1982 comedy Young Doctors in Love. This film also featured fellow Star Trek guest actors Ed Begley, Jr., Charlie Brill, Hamilton Camp, Deborah Lacey, and Saul Rubinek. In 1985, McKean, Jane Wiedlin and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock actor Christopher Lloyd were part of the ensemble cast of the comedy mystery Clue, based on the popular board game. McKean and Lloyd later worked together on the 1994 film Radioland Murders (along with Corbin Bernsen) and the 2003 short 4-D film Haunted Lighthouse.
McKean also starred in the 1985 science fiction comedy D.A.R.Y.L. and made an uncredited appearance in the 1986 comedy Jumpin' Jack Flash, which starred Whoopi Goldberg and Stephen Collins. McKean next had roles in the hit 1987 John Hughes comedy Planes, Trains & Automobiles (with Bill Erwin, Larry A. Hankin, Richard Herd, and William Windom), the science fiction comedy Short Circuit 2, and the cult sci-fi musical comedy Earth Girls Are Easy (with Charles Rocket).
Throughout the 1990s, McKean appeared in such films as Flashback (with Paul Dooley and Cliff DeYoung), True Identity (with Andreas Katsulas and Frank Langella), John Carpenter's Memoirs of an Invisible Man (with Sam Anderson, Rosalind Chao, Ellen Albertini Dow, Shay Duffin, Chip Heller, Barry Kivel, Aaron Lustig, and Jim Norton), Man Trouble (with David Clennon and Saul Rubinek), Coneheads (1993, with Barry Kivel, Jason Alexander, Cameron, Susan Lewis, and Arvo Katajisto), Airheads (with Reg E. Cathey), The Brady Bunch Movie (with James Avery, David Graf, and Olivia Hack), Edie & Pen (with Louise Fletcher and Chris Sarandon), Jack (with Robin Williams and Keone Young), Nothing to Lose (with Randy Oglesby), True Crime (with William Windom and Anthony Zerbe), and Mystery, Alaska (with Colm Meaney).
In 1998, McKean worked with Voyager regular Robert Picardo as well as Ann Gillespie, Mel Johnson, Jr., Andrew Robinson, and Spice Williams in the independent drama Archibald the Rainbow Painter. This film was directed and produced by Star Trek veteran Les Landau and photographed by Marvin V. Rush, who directed McKean in "The Thaw". That same year, McKean and his Spinal Tap band mates, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer, were also heard as the voices of the Gorgonites in the film Small Soldiers. Led by the cat-like leader Archer, also voiced by aforementioned Deep Space Nine guest actor Frank Langella. Like Archibald the Rainbow Painter, Small Soldiers featured Robert Picardo, in addition to Kirsten Dunst, Gregory Itzin, Dick Miller, and Wendy Schaal.
In the 1999 romantic comedy Kill the Man, McKean and Star Trek: The Original Series guest star Terri Garr played a married couple. McKean's subsequent films have included 2000's Little Nicky (with Tommy "Tiny" Lister, Jr. and Clint Howard), the 2002 comedy Teddy Bears' Picnic (with Henry Gibson, Kenneth Mars, Kurtwood Smith, and Brenda Strong), Mel Brooks' 2005 version of The Producers (with David Huddleston and Andrea Martin), the 2007 horror thriller Joshua (starring Jacob Kogan in the title role), and the 2007 improvisational comedy The Grand (with Jason Alexander). In addition, McKean continued appearing in films with Ed Begley, Jr., namely the 2002 biographical drama Auto Focus, the 2006 comedy Relative Strangers, and Woody Allen's 2009 comedy Whatever Works.
McKean's first television work outside of sketch comedy and his role on Laverne & Shirley was the 1978 TV movie More Than Friends with Star Trek III: The Search for Spock actor Phillip Richard Allen. After Laverne & Shirley ended in 1983, McKean starred in an unsold pilot for CBS called The Bounder, which co-starred Jeannetta Arnette. McKean and Arnette again acted together two years later on the TV movie The History of White People in America: Volume II, directed by Harry Shearer. McKean then starred in the 1987 Disney movie Double Agent, which was directed by Michael Vejar. This was followed by A Father's Homecoming in 1988, with McKean acting alongside Brenda Bakke and DS9 regular Nana Visitor.
McKean was a regular on the NBC sitcom Grand during its first season in early 1990. His fellow Trek alumni Mark Moses and John Neville were also cast members on this series. McKean then became a regular on the short-lived HBO series Sessions, on which TNG guest star John P. Connolly portrayed McKean's character's father. McKean was nominated for a CableACE Award for his work on Sessions, and he received two more nominations for his recurring role as Gibby Fiske on the HBO series Dream On. He was also a frequent guest voice-over actor on the popular Jim Henson series Dinosaurs. In addition, between 1990 and 1994, he made guest appearances on such programs as Murder, She Wrote (in an episode with George Coe) and Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (with K Callan, Teri Hatcher, and Tracy Scoggins).
In 1994, McKean joined the cast of the long-running sketch comedy/variety program Saturday Night Live; having appeared twice in 1984 – as part of Spinal Tap in May and as host in November – he is one of only two people (along with Billy Crystal) to have hosted the show before joining the cast, and the only cast member to have appeared as a musical guest. His fellow Voyager guest performer, Sarah Silverman, was also a regular performer when he first arrived. He remained with the show for one season, leaving in May 1995. One of his sketches for the show had him playing TNG star Patrick Stewart filling in for William Shatner as host of Rescue 911.
Following his work on Saturday Night Live, McKean made recurring appearances as Barrington 'Barry' LeTissier on the HBO series Tracey Takes On..., in addition to directed several episodes of that show. He was a guest star on several other shows during the late 1990s, including The Nanny (starring Daniel Davis), Friends, LateLine (starring Miguel Ferrer and Robert Foxworth), Murphy Brown, Veronica's Closet (starring Kirstie Alley and Wallace Langham), Providence (starring Concetta Tomei), and Boy Meets World (with Lindsay Ridgeway), playing a character that was later played by Mark Harelik. He has also lent his voice to such popular animated shows as Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, Hey, Arnold!, Recess, and The Simpsons.
Between 1998 and 2002, McKean made four appearances as government agent Morris Fletcher on the hit science fiction series The X-Files. His first episode, "Dreamland", was directed by Kim Manners, while his last one, "Jump the Shark", was directed by Cliff Bole. Actors he worked with on the show included Michael Buchman Silver and Charles Rocket. McKean also played Fletcher on a 2001 episode of The X-Files' spin-off series, The Lone Gunmen.
Another of McKean's well-known roles is that of announcer and bandleader Adrien Van Voorhees on Martin Short's Comedy Central series, Primetime Glick (2001-2003). Following his work on this show, McKean landed a supporting role in the acclaimed HBO movie And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself marking his third time working with TNG guest actor Saul Rubinek (after the feature films Young Doctors in Love and Man Trouble).
Since 2000, McKean has appeared on such popular shows as Smallville (as Daily Planet editor, Perry White, a character later played by Frank Langella in the film Superman Returns), MADtv (with Debra Wilson), J.J. Abrams' Alias (with Victor Garber and Greg Grunberg), Boston Legal (starring William Shatner and Rene Auberjonois, in an episode with Henry Gibson), The Unit (with Abby Brammell), and Law & Order (including an episode with Brad Dourif). In addition, he has had voice-over roles in such animated shows as Batman Beyond, Justice League, Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, SpongeBob SquarePants, Grim & Evil, and Seth MacFarlane's Family Guy. He had a recurring role in The Good Place, which also included Eugene Cordero and Paul Scheer.
In 2018, McKean won the Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor in a series for his role on Better Call Saul (also featuring Jonathan Banks, Patrick Fabian, Mark Margolis, Raymond Cruz, Ann Cusack, Ethan Phillips, and Ed Begley, Jr.).
McKean sustained a broken leg in a hit and run collision in New York City. He made a full recovery. The collision forced McKean's first absence from the play Gore Vidal's The Best Man on the New York Broadway stage. Co-starring with McKean in the play was Trek movie performer John Larroquette. McKean's injuries turned out to be worse than expected with McKean needing to be transferred to a rehab facility. As a result, he was forced to quit the production.