One of our great comedic screenwriters has died.
Buck Henry, born Henry Zuckerman in 1930 New York City, died Wednesday. He was 89.
Though his many nominations and awards honored his writing, Henry also enjoyed success from his acting, even from the beginning of his career. An early bit involved Henry pretending to be the the president of the Society for Indeceny to Naked Animals, which proclaimed a need to clothe animals. His long-running prank even ensnared the legendary CBS News reporter/anchor Walter Cronkite.
In 1961, Henry joined The New Steve Allen Show along with other young unknowns Tim Conway and Jim Nabors as performers.
He’d earn his first Emmy nomination a few years later as a writer on David Frost’s satirical program, That Was The Week That Was. That same year, 1965, saw Henry co-create the classic sitcom Get Smart with Mel Brooks. The Cone of Silence was Henry’s idea, among others. He’d win his first Emmy a couple of years later for an episode of Get Smart.
That coincided with his great run on the big screen with screenplay adaptations, starting with The Graduate, which earned him his first of two Oscar nominations (his other came for co-directing Heaven Can Wait with Warren Beatty), and going on to include Catch-22, The Owl and the Pussycat, and To Die For. He also had writing credits on Candy, What’s Up, Doc?, Town & Country, and The Humbling.
You could count on seeing Henry in many of his creations, too. A desk clerk opposite Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. A lieutenant in Catch-22.
He lampooned himself in The Player, pitching a sequel to The Graduate.
Comedians and writers loved Henry.
To wit: He was the most frequent host of Saturday Night Live during its initial incarnation, hosting 10 times during those five seasons with the original cast. He even survived a samurai sword cut from John Belushi during a live sketch.
But here’s a classic from season five, regarding one Lord Douchebag.
A generation later, another SNL writer-actor Tina Fey, cast Henry to play Liz Lemon’s dad, Dick, on 30 Rock.
Henry also appeared on The Daily Show as a “Senior Senior Corresponddent,” as well as episodes of Will and Grace, Hot in Cleveland, and other shows.
But his wit and wisdom shall be missed, and celebrated. Rest in peace, Buck.