Steve Landesberg (November 23, 1936 – December 20, 2010) was an American actor, comedian, and voice actor known for his role as the erudite, unflappable police detective Arthur P. Dietrich on the ABC sitcom Barney Miller, for which he was nominated for three Emmy Awards.
Landesberg was born November 23, 1936, in the Bronx, New York, to a milliner mother and a grocery store-owner father.
He was part of improv group New York Stickball Team, which performed several shows that were aired on cable television shortly after Barney Miller went off the air.
Landesberg was a member of the cast of the 1974 CBS situation comedy Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers. He made guest appearances on the TV shows The Rockford Files, Law & Order, Saturday Night Live, The Golden Girls, Ghost Whisperer, That 70’s Show and Everybody Hates Chris.
He starred in Starz’s original show Head Case as Dr. Myron Finkelstein. He appeared in the motion pictures Wild Hogs, Leader of the Band, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Landesberg also co-starred in the TV movie Black Bart, a spin-off of Blazing Saddles.
Landesberg died from colon cancer on December 20, 2010, aged 74. He was survived by his widow Nancy Ross Landesberg and a daughter.
Landesberg is credited with the quote “Honesty is the best policy, but insanity is a better defense.”
In acknowledging that he was actually nine years older, his daughter Elizabeth said he had provided varying birth dates over the years.
“He got kind of a late start in show business,” she explained, “so he tried to straddle the generations.
He fooled the whole world. People were surprised to think he was even 65.”Landesberg commented on the issue in a 1979 Washington Post profile for which he refused to give his age:
“Let’s just say I started late. It hurts you with casting directors.… If you tell them your age—let’s say you’re middle-aged—and they’ve never heard of you, they figure you’re no good, or else they would’ve heard of you already. I tell my friends not to tell their ages.”