Ed Asner of ‘Mary Tyler Moore’ fame has died at age 91

Ed Asner in 2014.
Ed Asner in 2014.

Credit: Don Ryan

Credit: Don Ryan

The legendary, prolific actor’s Atlanta-based work included ‘Cobra Kai,’ ‘MacGyver’ and ‘Doom Patrol’

Ed Asner, who played the lovably tough boss on classic TV shows “Mary Tyler Moore” and “Lou Grant,” has died at age 91.

His family confirmed his death on Asner’s Twitter page without citing the cause: “We are sorry to say that our beloved patriarch passed away this morning peacefully. Words cannot express the sadness we feel. With a kiss on your head – Goodnight dad. We love you.”

Asner won seven Primetime Emmys, five of them for his portrayal of Lou Grant.

The prolific actor never stopped working and has more than 400 acting credits, including some that are forthcoming. He shot a few small roles on shows shot in Atlanta, including Netflix’s “Cobra Kai,” HBO Max’s “Doom Patrol” and CBS’ ‘MacGyver.”

ExploreRemembering Ed Asner

He did a one-man show at the Strand in Marietta in 2019, and I had the honor to interview him.

Here’s the story:

Grouchiness is a trait many a TV character has embraced over the years from Al Bundy on “Married With Children” to Red Forman on “That 70s Show”to House on, well, “House.”

An earlier era grump was Ed Asner’s Lou Grant, the irascible newspaper editor on the ‘70s classic “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and his own spin-off show that ran into the ‘80s.

Asner, now 90, has made a career playing cantankerous people, including Carl Fredricksen in 2009′s animated Pixar classic “Up.”

“I’m a grouch,” Asner said in a recent interview. “I have to admit it.”

But grumpiness does not equal laziness. More than six decades after he began his career, he is still acting on TV shows, including three shot recently in Atlanta: DC Universe’s “Doom Patrol,” YouTube’s “Cobra Kai” and CBS’s “MacGyver.”

And the Emmy-winning actor will be manning a one-man show at the Strand in Marietta for three days Friday-Sunday for a humorous play called “A Man and His Prostate.”

The show was written by a 74-year-old “Mary Tyler Moore Show” producer Ed. Weinberger (and the period after Ed’s name is deliberate, not a typo).

“Weinberger wrote it about the blight of having prostatitis,” said Asner. “It’s a lovely piece. It’s also informative. Hopefully, it encourages people to get their prostate checked!”

Asner doesn’t mind kvetching, be it Los Angeles traffic ( “Traffic is a snake pit!”), a hotel in New York City ( “My toilet seat was damaged!”) and multiple hip replacements ( “I’ve had five. It’s a scam!”).

So Asner will be seated during his show at the Strand. “I’ll charge double if I have to get up during the show,” he cracked.

But he complains without overt rancor. He is thrilled to be still out and about and doing what he loves.

The actor celebrated his 90th birthday earlier in November and talked to the AJC four days later. More than 300 people showed up to fête him, including actors Rob Schneider, Brad Garrett and Ed Begley Jr.

Sadly, he said, many of his former “Mary Tyler Moore” castmates have passed, two recently: Valerie Harper and Georgia Engel. The only one to make it to his party was Cloris Leachman, a sprightly 93. [Leachman died in January, 2021. She was 94.]

“I’m still worn out,” he said. But he added, “You could say I’m luckier than Rudy Guiliani or Donald Trump.” (Asner is an avowed liberal and believes his “Lou Grant” show was canceled by CBS in 1982 due to his strong political views.)

The party also doubled as a fundraiser for the Ed Asner Family Center, where people with special needs learn about the arts created by his son Matt Asner and Matt’s wife, Navah Paskowitz-Asner. His youngest son, Charlie, has autism. “They kept telling me it was autism,” he said. “I just thought he was high spirited.”

Asner, who separated from his second wife in 2007 and divorced in 2015, is still open for love.

“I’m a great lover!” he said. “Sixty-year-olds throw themselves at me!”

His most famous Lou Grant line from “Mary Tyler Moore” is from the first episode directed at Moore’s character, Mary Richards: “You now what? You got spunk! I hate spunk!”

Asner is a bit flabbergasted that the line is still thrown at him nearly 50 years later. “I actually love spunk! I really love it. I hate having that quoted all the time!”

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