Michael McKean is an American musician, actor, and comedian who has delivered multiple popular characters in films, TV shows, and stage plays. He is best known for his portrayal of ‘Lenny Kosnowski’ in the ABC sitcom ‘Laverne & Shirley’. He also featured in the adult comedy show ‘Dream On’ and played various roles in the late-night show ‘Saturday Night Live’. McKean has done voice acting on many television shows including ‘101 Dalmatians: The Series’, ‘The Huntress’, ‘Oswald’, and ‘Hopeless Pictures’. Interested in music and drama from a young age, he pursued a BFA degree in college followed by an MFA degree from the prestigious New York University. He began his career as a comedian and started taking up small TV roles soon after. Over the years, McKean has become known for portraying versatile roles in the show business. Besides acting and performing comedy, he has also hosted a number of TV shows. He has composed and written several songs as well. McKean was nominated at the Academy Awards in the Best Music, Original Song category for his contribution to the single ‘A Mighty Wind’. The single also won a Grammy Award in 2004.
Childhood & Early Life
Michael John McKean was born on October 17, 1947, in New York City, to Ruth McKean and Gilbert McKean. His mother was a librarian and his father was one of the founders of the British record label Decca Records.
McKean grew up in Long Island and completed his education there. As a young man, he joined the American baroque pop band ‘The Left Banke’.
He attended Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to pursue a BFA degree. There, he partnered with David Lander in different comedy groups. He eventually acquired an MFA from New York University.
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Michael McKean was part of several comedy groups including ‘The Credibility Gap,’ where he worked alongside Harry Shearer and David Lander. Eventually, his career took off and he made his debut on television in 1976 after he was signed for the role of ‘Leonard 'Lenny' Kosnowski’ in the television sitcom ‘Laverne & Shirley’.
After being part of the show ‘Laverne & Shirley’ for more than seven years, McKean was an established name in the television industry. He then got a big break on the silver screen and portrayed the role of ‘David St. Hubbins’ in the mockumentary film ‘This is Spinal Tap’. McKean portrayed the lead guitarist of the heavy metal band ‘Spinal Tap’.
McKean appeared in the late-night show ‘Saturday Night Live’ as a musical guest in 1984 and later joined the regular cast. He is still one of the oldest persons to join the show as a cast member.
In the 1990s, McKean appeared in several films including ‘Flashback’, ‘True Identity’, ‘Memoirs of an Invisible Man’, ‘Still Breathing’, ‘True Crime’, and ‘Teaching Mrs. Tingle’. In the 1995 comedy film ‘The Brady Bunch Movie’, McKean appeared as ‘Mr. Dittmeyer’, a villainous character.
McKean appeared in the adult-themed comedy show ‘Dream On’ as ‘Gibby Fiske’ from 1991 to 1996. His association with the show earned him two nominations at the CableACE Awards for the Best Actor in a Comedy Series category.
He did various voices in the sitcom ‘Dinosaurs’ between 1992 and 1994. His other popular roles during that time were in the TV series ‘Tracey Takes On...’, ‘Jungle Cubs’ and the animated series ‘101 Dalmatians: The Series’ as a voice artist.
In the early 2000s, Michael McKean appeared in small roles in shows like ‘The Huntress’, ‘Family Guy’, ‘Clerks: The Animated Series’, ‘Law & Order’, and ‘Strip Mall’. He portrayed ‘Adrien Van Voorhees’ in the series ‘Primetime Glick’ for 30 episodes.
In the 2003 comedy film ‘A Mighty Wind’ by Christopher Guest, McKean appeared as an actor as well as wrote several songs for the film. His portrayal of ‘Jerry Palter’ was much appreciated as was his contribution to several songs including ‘A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow.’ He partnered with his wife Annette O'Toole to compose the songs.
Michael McKean portrayed the role of ‘Chuck McGill’ in the series ‘Better Call Saul’. The show is a spin-off of the neo-western crime drama series ‘Breaking Bad’. McKean won the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA award for the Best Supporting Actor on Television in 2018. He was also nominated at the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards and Critics Choice Television Awards for his role.
Michael McKean’s debut work on the television is still considered one of his greatest works. His portrayal of ‘Lenny Kosnowski’, the neighbor of the title characters ‘Laverne DeFazio’ and ‘Shirley Feeney’, in the sitcom ‘Laverne & Shirley’ earned him much fame. His character was so popular among the audiences that it sometimes surpassed the title characters’ popularity!
His role in 'A Mighty Wind’, a parody film dedicated to the American folk music revival of the 1960s made McKean a recognized figure in Hollywood.
For composing the single, ‘A Mighty Wind’, along with his wife Annette O'Toole, he was nominated at the 2004 Academy Awards for the Best Music, Original Song award. The single also earned him the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media.
Family & Personal Life
Michael McKean has been married twice in his life. His first marriage with Susan Russell lasted almost 23 years (from 1970 to 1993). They had two children together.
McKean married ‘Nash Bridges’ actress Annette O'Toole in 1999.