Richard Stahl was one of the hardest-working actors on TV shows throughout the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s.
While not a household name to modern audiences, anyone who has watched a decent amount of seventies television has likely seen the actor in some way or another. In one series, The Odd Couple, Stahl played nine characters throughout the series’ run.
‘The Odd Couple’: Who is Richard Stahl?
According to IMDb, Stahl’s first on-screen appearance was as Swacky in a series called Hey, Landlord. While that particular role may be forgotten in time, it kicked off a career that brought Stahl all over television. Before long, he appeared in popular series like That Girl, the famous film Billy Jack, and more television shows than one could think of.
The Partridge Family, Love, American Style, Bonanza, Columbo, All in the Family, and Good Times all welcomed the actor onto their sets in roles both big and small. While he failed to secure a recurring gig on most of his early work, his name was out there. Not only did Stahl find a niche as a hard-working television actor, but he began to get more film roles, too. He briefly appeared in the 1972 adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. He played a small role as a doctor in Mel Brooks’ Hitchcock farce High Anxiety.
Stahl kept this busy work schedule for much of his remaining life. Up until the late 1990s, he appeared in memorable series and movies alike. However, his most significant role came in the popular 1980s sitcom, It’s a Living. The series featured several workers at a restaurant atop a skyscraper. This made him a bigger name and helped him secure more roles until he died in 2006.
However, despite a stunning resume featuring many of the biggest shows ever, nothing sums up Stahl’s career like his shapeshifting performances in the wildly popular sitcom, The Odd Couple.
What was ‘The Odd Couple’?
According to IMDB, The Odd Couple was an adaptation of what was already an adaptation. It began as a Broadway play by a young Neil Simon. However, after finding success on the stage, it was adapted for the big screen in a film starring Walter Matthau and Art Carney. After the film became a hit, too, ABC brought the concept to television. The plot, which focuses on two polar-opposite roommates, seems tailor-made for television. Since the series’ success, it’s been copied several times.
The series starred Tony Randall and Jack Klugman as Oscar and Felix, a neat freak and a party animal who live together, fight, and make up as a couple may. The show was a smash hit from Emmy nominations to several other offshoots, rip-offs, and remakes. It gave audiences a healthy dose of laughs every Friday night. The show was also a jump-off point for several actors. Few, however, had the dynamic range of Stahl, who appeared in nine different episodes as nine unrelated characters.
The man of many faces
Already an up-and-coming character actor, Stahl helped anchor in the tradition of having actors appear in series several times as many different characters. Even by television’s standards, however, Stahl pushed this concept to a limit. From court bailiffs to businessmen and shop owners, MeTV notes that Stahl was a familiar face and had just enough anonymity to pull off such a feat.
He never reached the A-List, but Stahl became a recognizable face thanks mainly to his willingness to jump into any role and add his unique spin. This was the case on nine separate occasions on the Odd Couple, and it’s part of the reason that he kept on working until his death. Time may have forgotten Stahl, but his work lives on thanks to reruns of the dozens of shows he guest-starred on throughout his career.