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Jeffrey Tambor Biography


Home > Actors > T > Tambor, Jeffrey > Biography


Birth Name: Jeffrey Tambor
Born: 07/08/1944
Birth Place: San Francisco, California, USA


Born on July 8, 1944 in San Francisco, CA, Tambor was raised in a blue collar home by his father, Michael, a flooring contractor, and his mother, Eileen, a homemaker. He had ambitions to act at an early age and first began learning his craft when he was 11 years old. Tambor eventually studied acting at San Francisco State University before earning his master's in language and theater from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. He went on to teach theater at Wayne State and spent the next 15 years performing with various repertory companies, including the Seattle, Milwaukee and South Coast Repertory Theatres; the Old Globe in San Diego; the Actors Theatre in Louisville; and Harvard's Loeb Drama Center. After making his Broadway debut in the Larry Gelbart comedy "Sly Fox" (1976) opposite George C. Scott, Tambor appeared in his first feature film for the Al Pacino courtroom vehicle, "...And Justice for All" (1979), playing an attorney in the midst of a total mental collapse. Turning to television, he had a recurring role on "Three's Company" (ABC, 1977-1984) that led to his first regular series gig on its short-lived spin-off, "The Ropers" (ABC, 1979-1980), playing a snobby realtor who lives next door to the titular couple (Norman Fell and Audra Lindley).

Tambor next made his miniseries debut in the fictional "Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story" (NBC, 1980), and the following year started a recurring role as Judge Alan Wachtel on "Hill Street Blues" (NBC, 1981-87), which lasted throughout the decade. He had a memorable performance as the underhanded ex-boss of a fired automobile engineer (Michael Keaton) forced to take care of the kids once mom (Teri Garr) goes back to work in the hit comedy "Mr. Mom" (1983). After a starring role as the frantic head of a newsroom on the short-lived British series "Max Headroom" (Cinemax/ABC, 1987-88), Tambor lent his baritone voice to the syndicated animated series "The New Adventures of Jonny Quest" (1986-87). As a guest star, he frequented such popular shows like "Murder, She Wrote" (CBS, 1984-1996), "L.A. Law" (NBC, 1986-1994), "Doogie Howser, M.D." (ABC, 1989-1993) and "Empty Nest" (NBC, 1988-1995). Back on the feature side, Tambor had significant supporting roles opposite Billy Crystal in "City Slickers" (1991) and Mel Brooks in "Life Stinks" (1991), both of which put his unique comic gifts on display that later came to full bloom in the early-to-mid 1990s.

Tambor finally earned a name for himself as the vain, put-upon and attention-starved sidekick of the titular host (Garry Shandling) of "The Larry Sanders Show" (HBO, 1992-98). Tambor's Hank Kingsley was disliked by many of his coworkers because of his egoism and lack of common sense, and often irritated the show's cantankerous producer (Rip Torn) for unabashedly using his name to endorse questionable products, including the infamous Hankerciser 200 and his rotating restaurant. A genial everyman on stage, but condescending and narcissistic behind the scenes, particularly with underlings, Hank annoyed everyone around him, especially with his famous catchphrase, "Hey, now." For eight seasons, Tambor remained one of the show's favorite performers, while earning four Emmy nominations throughout its heralded run. Meanwhile, he appeared in a number of movies during the show's run, including the black comedy "At Home with the Webbers" (1993), the comedic mystery "Radioland Murders" (1994), and the rather lightweight Walt Disney kiddie comedy "Heavyweights" (1995). On the small screen, he turned away from comedy to play the head of an Israeli Mossad unit tracking a heinous Nazi war criminal (Robert Duvall) in "The Man Who Captured Eichmann" (TNT, 1996).

After "Larry Sanders" went off the air in 1998, Tambor saw his big-screen fortunes pick up with a variety of supporting roles in a wide variety of films that included "Meet Joe Black" (1998), "There's Something About Mary" (1998), "Muppets From Space" (1999), "Teaching Mrs. Tingle" (1999), "Girl Interrupted" (1999) and "Pollock" (2000). Following an especially wacky turn as Mayor Augustus Maywho in the live action version of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (2000), he delivered a fine performance in a rare leading role when he played a sexually dysfunctional Baby Boomer who swears off love, only to fall for a lonely empty nest mom (Jill Clayburgh) in the romantic comedy "Never Again" (2001). Tambor also appeared in several, small but memorable roles and cameos in films, including the bank heist comedy "Scorched" (2002), comic Jamie Kennedy's hip-hop white-boy romp "Malibu's Most Wanted" (2003), and the underwhelming Ashton Kutcher comedy "My Boss' Daughter" (2003). Following a turn as Diane Lane's divorce lawyer in "Under the Tuscan Sun" (2003), he played Scott Mechlowicz's father in the raunchy teen comedy "Eurotrip" (2004).Tambor was cast as the demanding, but comedy-challenged head of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense in the comic book-derived action film "Hellboy" (2004), figuratively locking horns with the red-skinned title character (Ron Perlman).

Tambor's post-"Larry Sanders" career kept him very busy on the small screen as well. After starring in the short-lived sitcom "Everything's Relative" (NBC, 1999), he was cast in the 1980s nostalgia comedy "That Was Then" (ABC, 2002), co-starring James Bulliard, Tyler Labine and Bess Armstrong. Unfortunately, the show only lasted two episodes. But that turned out to be a blessing when Tambor was almost immediately cast in his second most iconic role, playing George Bluth, Sr., the imprisoned millionaire patriarch of the dysfunctuional Orange County family at the center of the critically hailed hit, "Arrested Development" (Fox, 2003-06). Initially planning to appear only in the pilot, Tambor's performance was so well-received by the producers that he was immediately added to the cast on a full-time basis, delivering one of his finest comedic characters. He also played George's twin brother, Oscar, a long-haired, pot-smoking slacker who later becomes mistaken for his brother when the other escapes from prison. The scene-stealing Tambor received Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actor in 2004 and 2005 for his performance as George before the show was controversially cancelled in 2006. Meanwhile, he was a regular on the game show revival of "Hollywood Squares" and served as the show's announcer during the 2002-03 season.

After lending his mellifluous bass as the voice of King Neptune in "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" (2004), Tambor landed a regular role opposite John Lithgow on the short-lived sitcom "Twenty Good Years" (NBC, 2006). He went on to guest starring roles on "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990-2010) and "The New Adventures of Old Christine" (CBS, 2005-2010) before returning to the feature world to reprise his role in "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" (2008). Tambor next was the father of the bride (Sasha Barrese) and a socially-awkward soon-to-be brother-in-law (Zach Galifianakis) in "The Hangover" (2009), a raucous hit comedy about three groomsmen (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Galifianakis) who try to hunt down the lost groom (Justin Bartha) following a wild night in Las Vegas. Tambor reprised the role for the sequel "The Hangover: Part II" (2011). Back to voice work, Tambor was Carl Murphy in "Monsters vs. Aliens" (2009), Lord Jamie in "Tangled" (2010), and Mr. Calvin Curdles in the direct-to-DVD "Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo" (2010).

The indefatigable Tambor remained a ubiquitous presence in film and on television, in both large- and small-budget productions covering nearly every genre imaginable. He lent his talent to the acclaimed indie dramedy "Win Win" (2011) alongside Paul Giamatti and popped up beside Jim Carrey for a turn in the family comedy "Mr. Popper's Penguins" (2011). On television, Tambor earned high marks in his supporting role as a frustrated actor and supportive father in the all-too-quickly canceled sitcom "Bent" (NBC, 2012). The following year he picked up a supporting turn in the based-on-fact crime drama "For the Love of Money" (2012) and appeared as a Machiavellian marketing executive in the anti-capitalism sci-fi mystery "Branded" (2012), neither of which garnered much box office attention. Drawing far more press was the announcement that "Arrested Development" (Netflix, 2013- ) would return for a fourth season on Netflix. Returning with Tambor were cast members Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Jessica Walter, David Cross and Michael Cera, prompting devotees of the dysfunctional Bluth dynasty to once again hold out hope for a feature film adaptation.