Childhood & Early Life
Martin Eugene Mull was born on August 18, 1943, in Chicago, Illinois, to Harold Mull, a carpenter, and Betty Mull, an actor and director. He was in high school when his family moved to New Canaan, Connecticut.
In 1965, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the ‘Rhode Island School of Design.’ He earned his MFA degree from the same college in 1967. He went to Rome, Italy, in 1965, as part of the ‘European Honors Program.’
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Following the music trend at the time, Mull started by playing college music in a rock ‘n roll band but soon found himself doing paid solo and group gigs to earn some extra money, like most graduate students. What set him apart from a generation full of aspiring musicians were his quirky folk lyrics and a hilarious set before every song he presented. He eventually formed a band named ‘Martin Mull and His Fabulous Furniture,’ which included famous keyboardist Greg Hawkes for a while.
In 1972, he was signed by ‘Capricorn Records.’ He then released his first commercial album, ‘Martin Mull.’ Though the album did not see much success in terms of sales, it did create a lot of curiosity among listeners, which became obvious upon the release of his live album ‘Martin Mull and His Fabulous Furniture in Your Living Room’ in 1973.
He released two more albums under the same label, ‘Normal’ (1974) and ‘Days of Wine and Neuroses (1975). Deviating from the folksy plainness seen in his earlier albums, Mull added a hint of jazz to his music, giving it more depth and sophistication. These albums became special for one more reason: their fusion of humor and music. Despite his growing fan base, the albums were not commercially successful. Capricorn decided to remove them from the label. Years later, after Mull’s TV success, they released a compilation named ‘No Hits, Four Errors: The Best of Martin Mull.’
Unlike his music career, which was devoid of commercial success, his career as a comedian flourished since its beginning. His transition from music to comedy was seamless, given the amusing sets in his music albums. His album ‘Sex and Violins’ (1978) saw huge success, including a ‘Grammy’ nomination in the category of the ‘Best Comedy Album.’
Mull signed with ‘Elektra’ after much persuasion by ‘ABC Records’ and came out with his final album, ‘Near Perfect/Perfect,’ in 1979.
In 1976, Martin Mull met producer Norman Lear regarding a writer’s job in the satirical soap opera ‘Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.’ Mull was a huge fan of the show. Back then, he had no idea how significant that meeting was. After waiting for 6 months to hear from Lear, Mull got a call. To his amazement, it was not about the writer’s job. He was offered the role of ‘Garth Gimble,’ who stayed on the show for 49 episodes only to be impaled by a star on a Christmas tree.
Mull’s character in ‘Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman’ became so popular that he was resurrected as his twin brother, ‘Barth Gimble’ for the spin-offs, ‘Fernwood 2 Night’ (1977) and ‘America 2 Night’ (1978).
He stepped into the shoes of a writer and an actor for the ‘CBS’ sitcom ‘Domestic Life (1984). However, the show did not do well and was discontinued. In the 1980s, Mull was not seen on TV much. He appeared in ‘The History of White People in America’ (1985) and a telefilm named ‘Lots of Luck’ (1985). He spent most of the 1980s on the big screen, playing supporting roles in movies such as ‘Serial’ (1980), ‘My Bodyguard’ (1980), ‘Take this Job and Shove It’ (1981), ‘Mr. Mom’ (1983), and ‘Bad Manners’ (1984).
He achieved success on TV in the 1990s, with regular roles in the ‘ABC’ sitcom ‘Roseanne’ (1991–1997) and ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ (1997 – 2000). He was with ‘The Ellen Show’ for 18 episodes in 2001–2002. In the ensuing years, he made numerous guest appearances in a lot of top-rated TV shows, such as ‘That '70s Show,’ ‘American Dad,’ ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,’ ‘Two and a Half Men,’ and ‘Psych.’
In 2013, he was cast in the ‘Fox’ live-action sitcom ‘Dads,’ as ‘Crawford Whittemore.’ He also played ‘Jerry’ in the Ashton Kutcher-starrer ‘The Ranch.’ Currently, he is part of the cast of ‘I’m Sorry’ (2017) and plays a series-regular role in ‘The Cool Kids’ (2018–2019).
His book, ‘Paintings, Drawings, and Words’ (1995), showcases his paintings and a few essays.