‘Fernwood Tonight’ and ‘Roseanne’ Star Martin Mull Passes Away at 80

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Martin Mull, the witty comedian and actor who became famous in the 1970s and later starred in shows like “Roseanne” and “Arrested Development,” has passed away, according to his daughter on Friday.

Mull’s daughter, Maggie Mull, a TV writer and comic artist, shared that her father died at home on Thursday after battling a long illness.

Mull, also a talented guitarist and painter, gained national attention with his role in the satirical soap opera “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” created by Norman Lear, and its spinoff, “Fernwood Tonight.”

“He excelled in every creative field imaginable and even did Red Roof Inn commercials,” Maggie Mull said in an Instagram post. “He would find that joke funny. He was always funny. My dad will be deeply missed by his wife, daughter, friends, coworkers, and many dogs.”

Mull, known for his blonde hair and mustache, was born in Chicago, grew up in Ohio and Connecticut, and studied art in Rhode Island and Rome.

His first step into show business was as a songwriter. He wrote the 1970 semi-hit “A Girl Named Johnny Cash” for singer Jane Morgan.

He mixed music and comedy in an act that he performed at hip Hollywood clubs in the 1970s.

“In 1976, I was a guitar player and sit-down comic at the Roxy on the Sunset Strip when Norman Lear saw me,” Mull told The Associated Press in 1980. “He cast me in ‘Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.’ Four months later, I got my own show.”

His time on the Sunset Strip was immortalized in the 1973 country rock song “Lonesome L.A. Cowboy,” which mentions him along with Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge.

On “Fernwood Tonight,” he played Barth Gimble, the host of a local talk show in a midwestern town. Fred Willard, a frequent collaborator, played his sidekick. The show was later called “America 2 Night” and set in Southern California.

Mull also filled in as a host for Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show.”

He often played characters that were a bit sleazy and smarmy, like in 1983’s “Mr. Mom” and as Colonel Mustard in the 1985 movie “Clue.”

In the 1990s, Mull was known for his role on “Roseanne,” where he played a kinder, openly gay boss. He later played private eye Gene Parmesan on “Arrested Development” and earned an Emmy nomination in 2016 for “Veep.”

Mull is survived by his daughter and his wife, Wendy Haas, who he married in 1982.