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Why Captain Stan Yenko From East New York Looks So Familiar

"I irritate people; I know this about myself," says Stan Yenko in the pilot episode of "East New York" as he tries to convince Deputy Inspector Regina Haywood (Amanda Warren) to make him her executive officer. "You know people write me off ... and I'd like them to take a second look at what I'm capable of." Right off the bat, Yenko comes off as a sympathetic character. The quirky oddball who doesn't get the respect he deserves is an easy character to relate to. Haywood decides to give Yenko a chance and grants his request to give him the position. Deadline described the character as "a captain who hides his loneliness and insecurity behind a gregarious demeanor and quest for camaraderie with everyone around him."

Part of what makes Captain Yenko so relatable is the actor who plays him, that familiar smiling face of Richard Kind. Kind is far from new to the game, and it's hardly surprising that fans would recognize the actor from his long and prolific career in acting. His first acting credit was for a made-for-TV movie in 1985 called "Two Fathers' Justice," where he played District Attorney Turpin. He's come a long way since, and there are a lot of places you might have seen him before.

He was a sketch actor with Carol Burnett

Richard Kind's first starring role was in a long-forgotten police procedural called "Unsub" in 1989, which only lasted eight episodes before being canceled. But shortly after that, he became part of a cast led by comedy legend Carol Burnett.

While Burnett's most famous sketch comedy show was the original version of "The Carol Burnett Show" which ran from 1970-1978, there were multiple attempts to launch a new sketch comedy series starring the comedy giant years after her most famous show ended. In 1990, Burnett started a show called "Carol & Company." Unlike "The Carol Burnett Show," "Carol & Company" had episode-long sketches, with each episode being completely separate from the one before it. The show only lasted 34 episodes, with Kind appearing in 33 episodes, acting alongside such future stars as Peter Krause and Jeremy Piven. In 1991, Carol Burnett started a new series that shared the same title as her famous 1970s series. The new "Carol Burnett Show" only lasted seven episodes, and Kind starred in that show too (via IMDb).

In an interview with the podcast "At Home with the Creative Coalition," Kind explained what it was like to work on the show. "It was superficial acting. You know, this week we're doing a musical. This week we're doing a Jules Feiffer-esque play. This week we're doing a farce. This week we're doing — it was all different types. It was like 'Twilight Zone' but for comedy. I loved it. I just loved it." In another interview with The Guardian, Kind mentioned that Burnett told him that he was "born in the wrong era" and could have been a star of Vaudeville.

He played Dr. Mark Devanow in Mad About You

In 1992, Richard Kind was cast on the sitcom "Mad About You" as Dr. Mark Devanow, Jamie (Helen Hunt) and Paul's (Paul Reiser) friend, the socially awkward OBGYN married to Fran (Leila Kenzle). Mark was written out of the show in the Season 1 finale, "Happy Anniversary," when Mark left his wife, but returned to the show late in Season 2, in "Storms We Cannot Weather," and remained a semi-regular through all seven seasons of the show's original run. "Mad About You" was brought back for a revival in 2019, 20 years after its initial finale, and Richard Kind returned as Mark, but this time it was Fran that had to be written out because Kenzle had long since retired from acting.

According to an interview with Kenzle in the New York Post, the former actress left acting shortly after "Mad About You" ended its initial run, and earned her master's degree in clinical psychology from Antioch University in 2002, then finished her clinical hours in 2006 to become a fully licensed psychotherapist. Kenzle explained that, after the show wrapped, she didn't feel up to going back to auditions. "I was 37, and the idea of having to parade myself in front of 27-year-old executives began to feel a bit silly," she told the New York Post. "I wanted to be treated like a grown-up." Since Mark and Fran had such a rocky relationship in "Mad About You," a new character was created to be Mark's second wife in the reboot, and his new wife was, ironically, a psychotherapist.

He played Paul Lassiter on Spin City

While still maintaining his semi-regular status on "Mad About You," Richard Kind was cast in a lead role in a new series, the 1996 Michael J. Fox vehicle "Spin City." Kind played Paul Lassiter, the press secretary for the New York City mayor's office, who was chosen because his naivete made it easy to feed him lies that he could then sell to the press. Kind was a cast member across all six seasons, staying on after Michael J. Fox left due to illness and was replaced by Charlie Sheen.

In a 2021 interview with Jim Conlan Chats, Kind explained that it wasn't that intimidating to work with a legend like Michael J. Fox because this wasn't the first rodeo for anyone in the cast. "Usually, if you're playing tennis with a better tennis player, you play better," Kind explained. "You rise up to that other tennis player. We had, as Michael will attest to, the best that acting can offer. ... We were all veterans, not extensive veterans, but we were all veterans of our craft. We had all been on stage, knew about stage, knew about camera work. We had been around the block a few times." That certainly goes to show why "Spin City" was such a funny show in its day.

Bill Lawrence, who was a co-creator of "Spin City," went on to create "Scrubs." As a result, almost every cast member of "Spin City" made a guest appearance on "Scrubs," including Michael J. Fox. Richard Kind made four appearances on "Scrubs" as the hypochondriac patient, Mr. Corman, or Korman, depending on how they felt like spelling his name for each particular episode.

He plays Cousin Andy on Curb Your Enthusiasm

Following his work on "Mad About You" and "Spin City," Richard Kind became a successful character actor, mostly taking on smaller roles and voice work. In a 2015 interview with Assignment X, Kind was asked if he enjoyed being a character actor, and he said that he considers himself very lucky. "​​I'm a lucky guy, in that they don't hire me because I've got a pretty face," Kind explained. "You've got smarter people making better products, and then they'll hire me. I'm sort of one of those guys who's under the radar. You walk down the street ... I live in New York, [people think], 'Do they know me? Do I owe them money? Did I go to college with them, high school? Am I related to him?'"

One of Kind's recurring roles after "Mad About You" and "Spin City" was as Cousin Andy on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," the semi-autobiographical sitcom from the mind of "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David. In an interview on "The Rich Eisen Show," Kind told the story of first meeting David, and Kind explained that he was on a golf course and David told him about a show he was developing with Jerry Seinfeld, to which Kind told David, "Oh, good for you" in the most doubtful and condescending voice possible. Apparently, David either didn't notice Kind's condescension or else forgave him because he eventually gave Kind the role in "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Kind first appeared during Season 3 of the show and he made his most recent appearance in Season 11. 

He played Sam Meyers on Red Oaks

It would be a while before Richard Kind was cast as a lead in a live-action role again, but in 2014 he co-starred in the Amazon Prime series "Red Oaks." He played Sam Myers, the father of the main character, David Meyers (Craig Roberts). Sam set the plot in motion when he suffered a heart attack in the first scene of the pilot.

In an interview with The AV Club, Kind explained a bit about his character. "Sam Myers is the father of our lead character, David, who our series centers around, and he's going through his own emotional and marital troubles," the actor said. "He's an accountant, and he wants his son to succeed in all ways, maybe even being an accountant himself, because at least you have the stability of a good life and money and income, and that's what life is all about to this gentleman. You have to remember what the '80s was all about." Kind went on to explain that Sam was the kind of person who missed out on the free feeling of the 1960s because he had to become a responsible adult, something that the character has a certain amount of regret about.

"Red Oaks" also starred his "Mad About You" co-star Paul Reiser. In a 2015 joint interview with both Kind and Reiser for Decider, they explained that, despite being back together on the same show, they rarely worked together on "Red Oaks." Riser joked "it's in my contract that even if he's not in the scene, I want Richard floating near the coffee and doughnuts because that makes my day better." So, it would seem the two actors remained friends, even if their paths rarely crossed on "Red Oaks."

He played mayor Aubrey James on Gotham

Around the same time he began starring in "Red Oaks," Richard Kind landed another role in the Batman prequel "Gotham" in which he played the mayor of the crime-ridden city of Gotham, Aubrey James. In this series, James is depicted as a corrupt politician who is frequently under the thumb of a variety of criminal enterprises. He's not the smartest mayor, nor the bravest, causing him to lose his re-election bid. From 2014 to 2019, Kind appeared in a total of 13 episodes of the DC series. 

In the aforementioned Assignment X interview, Kind explained the difficulty and great accomplishment that comes with being a character actor playing disparate roles like the mayor of Gotham. "So here I am a father, there I am an imaginary friend, there I am the mayor of Gotham City," Kind explained. "What do they have in common? Nothing. And I have to pull out of my a**, 'What will it be that will make me different for each part?' And that's a challenge." The actor went on to explain that he doesn't think of roles in terms of advancing his career but rather tries to focus on that particular role. That strategy seems to have worked very well for him.