Fred Stoller – Sitcom Staple
by Ronald Sklar
The in-demand character actor describes the unique dilemma of typecast success.
Fred Stoller goes though life watching people slowly recognize him. Point at him, snap your fingers, scratch your head, search your memory. You don’t know his name, but you’ve seen him on TV, most notably in a classic Seinfeld episode in which his character does not remember meeting Elaine, causing Elaine to become obsessed with him.
Is the lightbulb above your head flickering now?
He says, “A lot of times, people come up to me and say, ‘Where do I know you from?’ Or they go, ‘Are you famous? It’s like, if you have to ask, I’m not.”
Our obsession with Fred is already as familiar and comfortable as endless reruns. In the last decade alone, the New York native (accent intact) has made countless appearances everywhere you need to be, including a semi-regular run on Everybody Loves Raymond.
“I only did one Seinfeld and eight Everybody Loves Raymonds,” he says. “I say the difference on Raymond between being the cousin and the brother is $77 million.”
It seems that everybody loves Fred too. His calling card: playing the clueless schmuck, the waiter you love to hate, Man#2. Yet it takes somebody rather smart to play somebody that dumb, over and over and over again.
“In a way, it’s frustrating,” he says, “because people recognize me and they think I’m rich. They think I have a big house.”
His memoir, Maybe We’ll Have You Back, details the life of a character actor and the frustration of always being the bridesmaid but never the bride. That lifestyle includes a lot of downtime.
“I walk around aimlessly,” he says about his longtime LA home turf. “People will recognize me and think I’m a star. They’ll say, ‘I hate to bother you,’ but I’m so glad that they are going to break up the isolation.”
With a resume that includes Scrubs, Hannah Montana, My Name Is Earl and Friends, we want to assure Hollywood that we can stand Fred in more than just small doses. Now if Hollywood would just man up and do the right thing.
“I learn to come to terms with it,” he says. “The first thing is to be frustrated. People would say, ‘You were so great on Seinfeld and on Raymond. What are you doing wrong? Why hasn’t it turned into something much bigger?’”