Hesseman, who made a career portraying off-the-wall characters, died Saturday from complications from colon surgery last summer. His death was confirmed by his wife, acting teacher Caroline Ducrocq. Hesseman earned two Emmy nominations playing disc jockey Dr. Johnny Fever for four seasons on the 1978-1982 CBS comedy WKRP in Cincinnati and its 1991-1993 syndicated sequel series The New WKRP in Cincinnati. “In the pilot, I said (to Hesseman), ‘You’ve got to play it like you’re sleepwalking, because you should be asleep by 8, but 8 is just when you’re going out,'" said WKRP creator Hugh Wilson, who based the show on his experience as a former sales executive at a Top 40 radio station. Hesseman went on to star as history teacher Charlie Moore from 1986 to 1990 on ABC's Head of the Class. After four seasons, he quit to pursue a movie career. Hesseman began his career as a member of the San Francisco improv group The Committee, working as a real-life DJ in the 1960s. In the early to mid-1970s, he recurred as a psychiatrist on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and as a patient in group therapy who comes out as gay on The Bob Newhart Show. He joined the final season of One Day at a Time, playing an architect who marries Bonnie Franklin's Ann Romano. Hesseman hosted Saturday Night Live three times, including twice in the 1982-1983 season. In recent years, Hesseman guest-starred on Fresh Off the Boat and Chicago Med. "Impossible to overstate Howard Hesseman’s influence on his and subsequent generations of improvisors," tweeted Michael McKean. "The first time I saw him on stage (Troubadour, ’71, with The Committee) I saw that he was the real deal. He was a friend for 50 years. Howard’s character in Spinal Tap didn’t even exist until 24 hours before the shoot: we’d discovered that the musician we’d hired to play Duke Fame couldn’t improvise, so Rob said let’s give him a manager. I’ll call Howard. He blitzed it, of course. We'd go years without seeing each other (Howard and Caroline lived mostly in Europe) but when we did, he'd hilariously fill me in on the great music, dumb show biz and silly-ass humans he'd encountered. RIP Don Sturdy."
TOPICS: WKRP in Cincinnati, The Bob Newhart Show, Head of the Class, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, One Day at a Time (1975 series), Saturday Night Live, Howard Hesseman, Hugh Wilson, Michael McKean, Obits