Rick Ducommun began and ended his life in Canada, but in between, the comedian became one of those character actors you’d see in many movies and sitcoms through the late 1980s and early 1990s. Ducommun died June 12 in a Vancouver hospice, surrounded by family, due to complications from diabetes. He was 62.* (or 58, if you go by Wikipedia and IMDB)
“He was crowd crush arena funny and also a great actor, with many memorable roles,” said friend and fellow comedian Rick Overton. “I had the great opportunity to work with him on Groundhog Day. We laughed the entire time. Rick and I would get on our motorcycles and cruise around. Damn. I miss him.”
They were barflies who Bill Murray’s character drove drunk during one of his many passes at passing through Feb. 2 in the 1993 classic film.
More than a decade earlier, though, Ducommun was co-hosting a popular children’s TV series in Canada called Zig Zag. He was half of the Biff and Bart segment that eventually became the whole show for a time. Here’s a fake ad he made called “Uncle Bob’s Tax Services.”
Born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada, Ducommun grew up on a farm and overweight. He’d slim down by 200 pounds by the time he crossed the border.
As most Canadian comedians do, Ducommun found going Hollywood too alluring — especially when Alan Thicke asked him to join in and make it big in late-night as Johnny Carson’s competition with Thicke of the Night. But that thinned out quickly. Good thing for Ducommun he had stand-up to fall back on, just as comedy was booming in the 1980s.
He found early breaks behind the desk of a late-night variety show in 1984 called Rock-N America which aired in NYC after Saturday Night Live. A couple of years later, he appeared on the Dick Clark Productions late-night showcase, Keep On Cruisin’, which placed stand-ups in unusual performance spaces.
Ducommun broke through in 1987 as part of HBO’s 11th Annual Young Comedians Special, in a class that featured Bobby Slayton, Allan Havey and Margaret Smith. Ducommun went on to record his own HBO specials in 1989 and 1992, as well as making an appearance performing in the all-star lineup of HBO’s Comic Relief III.
During the late ’80s and early ’90s, Ducommun made plenty of memorable turns on screens both big and small. Among them: Die Hard, The Last Boy Scout, Encino Man, The Hunt for Red October, Spaceballs, Max Headroom, 227, Moonlighting, and NYPD Blue.
Perhaps his most memorable supporting role, however, came in 1989 when he played Art Weingartner, Tom Hanks’s neighbor in The ‘Burbs.
His voice, his personality and his spirit will be missed.