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Spaceballs Actors You May Not Know Are Dead

Though it's sometimes disregarded by critics as one of Mel Brooks' lesser films, as far as we're concerned, it doesn't get much funnier than "Spaceballs." A loving spoof of the "Star Wars" film series, this delightfully silly romp is endlessly rewatchable. Not only does a decent chunk of the humor hold up to modern sensibilities, but so do the visuals, most likely because the company that did the post-production effects for the film — Industrial Light and Magic — is the same group of folks who worked on the actual "Star Wars" movies. Seriously, do yourself a favor and check this thing out on Blu-Ray. For a film from the 1980s, these sets and costumes are, at times, confusingly good-looking.

But sadly, since this film came out in 1987 — well over 30 years ago at this point — a fairly large portion of the cast is no longer with us. And there's a fair chance that with some of these actors, you didn't hear much about it when they passed away. That's because much of the "Spaceballs" cast is made up of lesser-known characters actors who aren't especially famous nowadays. There are a few notable stars in the cast whose deaths you definitely would've heard about, but most of the others, their passing probably wasn't a huge news story. That's why today, we're running down all the "Spaceballs" cast members who are sadly no longer with us and paying a brief tribute to each of them. May the Schwartz be with them all.

Joan Rivers

Look, if you're doing a "Star Wars" spoof, you're gonna need a robot sidekick. In "Spaceballs," this takes the form of Dot Matrix, Princess Vespa's "Droid of Honor." Though she looks like a fem C-3PO, Dot's personality couldn't be more different. In fact, this sassy and defiant droid probably sounds a lot more like how we imagine R2-D2 would sound if he could talk. And who was chosen to voice this wisecracking character? Who else but Joan Rivers.

Fearless and controversial, comedian Joan Rivers was famous for humor that was largely based around insulting people, both herself and others. In addition to a long and successful career in standup comedy, Rivers was the host of many television programs over the years, including "The Late Show," "The Joan Rivers Show," and "Fashion Police." Later in life, she was also the focus of the critically acclaimed documentary "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work."

On August 28, 2014, Joan Rivers went in for what was supposed to be a minor procedure at Yorkville Endoscopy in New York City. However, unexpected complications arose, and she was transferred to Mount Sinai Hospital, where she died a week later. It was believed by some that mistakes made by the clinic may have been a contributing factor in Rivers' death, so the Rivers' family ended up filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against the clinic. In 2016, the two sides finally settled out of court.

Dick Van Patten

Younger film fans might not be able to identify the actor who played King Roland, Princess Vespa's well-meaning yet ineffectual father, but Americans who came of age in the '70s and '80s will almost certainly recognize him as Dick Van Patten, an actor who's best known for his role as Tom Bradford, the father in "Eight Is Enough."

Van Patten's appearance in "Spaceballs" wasn't his only collaboration with Mel Brooks. He also played the abbot in "Robin Hood: Men in Tights," and he was Dr. Philip Wentworth in "High Anxiety." Van Patten also had a long career in Hollywood outside the world of comedy, appearing in numerous iconic films like "Westworld," "Soylent Green," and "Charly," the film adaptation of the short story "Flowers for Algernon." A true workhorse of an actor, Dick Van Patten continued to receive steady acting gigs right up until his last few years of life, appearing in comedy TV shows such as "Arrested Development," "That '70s Show," and "The Sarah Silverman Program."

Van Patten was also, famously, a big animal lover. He co-founded the pet food brand "Natural Balance" in 1989, a brand that markets itself as essentially health food for pets. He also famously donated the money he made from the sales of his autobiography to an organization that trains guide dogs. Sadly, Dick Van Patten died on June 23, 2015, at 86 years old, due to complications from type 2 diabetes.

Ronny Graham

One of the many funny minor roles in "Spaceballs" is the character of the short-tempered minister who tries repeatedly to marry Princess Vespa and Prince Valium but continually gets interrupted. You probably recall his most memorable moment at the end of the film, when he finally marries Vespa and Lone Starr in perhaps the shortest wedding ceremony of all time, saying "Do you? ... Do you? ... Good, you're married. Kiss her."

What you might not know, however, is that the actor portraying the minister, Ronny Graham, is also one of three screenwriters of "Spaceballs," along with Mel Brooks and playwright Thomas Meehan. He also co-wrote "To Be or Not to Be" and had small roles in several other Mel Brooks films, including "History of the World, Part 1," "To Be or Not to Be," and "Robin Hood: Men in Tights." Outside his work with Brooks, Graham also wrote multiple episodes of "M*A*S*H" and "The Brady Bunch Variety Hour," and he wrote the lyrics for the musical "Bravo Giovanni," which was nominated for three Tony Awards.

And believe it or not, "Spaceballs" wasn't Graham's only well-known appearance as a character who gets increasingly frustrated by being forced to repeat a simple task. He portrays the beleaguered crew member who repeatedly drops the clapperboard in the famous 1969 "spicy meatball" ad for Alka Seltzer.

Ronny Graham died of liver disease at age 79 on July 4, 1999.

Dom DeLuise

A fairly minor antagonists in "Spaceballs" — who is nonetheless totally unforgettable — is the alien crime boss Pizza the Hutt. We don't get many details about Pizza's backstory. All we know is that our hero Lone Starr owes him some serious dough. The voice actor who brought this greasy gangster to life was the legendary Dom DeLuise, a regular fixture of Mel Brooks films, including "The Twelve Chairs," "Blazing Saddles," "Silent Movie," "History of the World, Part I," and "Robin Hood: Men in Tights."

But Brooks wasn't the only famous celeb that Dom Deluise regularly collaborated with. Deluise frequently acted alongside his real-life friend, Burt Reynolds, in films like "The Cannonball Run," "Smokey and the Bandit II," "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," and the controversial dark comedy "The End." He also lent his voice to many of the films of Don Bluth, such as "The Secret of NIMH," "An American Tale," and "A Troll in Central Park." Once, DeLuise even collaborated with both Reynolds and Bluth in the same film. Reynolds and Deluise voiced a pair of dogs who were best friends, Charlie B. Barkin and Itchy Itchiford, in Don Bluth's "All Dogs Go To Heaven."

On, May 4, 2009, after battling cancer for a year, Dom Deluise passed away due to kidney failure. After his passing, Mel Brooks was quoted as saying, "[Deluise] created so much joy and laughter on the set that you couldn't get your work done. So every time I made a movie with Dom, I would plan another two days on the schedule just for laughter." It makes sense why Brooks would want to cast a man like that as Pizza the Hut. Based on his description, it sounds like it was in DeLuise's nature to be cheesy.

Rick Ducommun

Perhaps the most subtly delightful thing about "Spaceballs" is the fact that even the smallest supporting roles are played by notable actors and comedians, though it might be somewhat tough to recognize them when they're wearing giant plastic balls on their heads. Among the familiar faces that have been conscripted into Dark Helmet's ranks are character actor Stephen Tobolowsky, voice actor Rob Paulsen, and actor Tim Russ, who played Tuvok on "Star Trek: Voyager."

One notable Spaceball who's sadly no longer with us is Rick Ducommun (pictured right). In addition to a long career in standup comedy, Ducommun also played countless small bit parts in a wide variety of classic films from the '80s and '90s, such as "Die Hard," "Groundhog Day," "The Hunt for Red October," "Gremlins 2: The New Batch," "The Last Boy Scout," and "Encino Man." His most notable role was most likely in the 1989 dark comedy "The Burbs," where he played Tom Hanks' eccentric motormouth neighbor, Art Weingartner. Ducommun also had a sizable part in the 1994 family comedy "Blank Check," in which he played Henry, the child hero's faithful chauffeur and wacky sidekick.

Rick Ducommun died on June 12, 2015 at just 62 years old. According to his wife, Leslie, the cause was "serious complications from diabetes."

Jack Riley

Among the many memorable bit parts that occur throughout "Spaceballs" is the minor role of the newscaster who announces the death of Pizza the Hutt, played by actor Jack Riley. It's a relatively short scene, and one of the funny things about it is the fact that the newscaster has to drastically change his tone on a dime, first making lighthearted jokes, then talking about death, and then returning once again to jokes. It causes a sort of tonal whiplash that's somewhat unavoidable whenever you discuss death and comedy in close proximity. 

Jack Riley got his start on the radio, on "The Baxter & Riley Show" in Cleveland, Ohio. After moving into to TV acting, Riley scored one of the more notable roles in his career on the "The Bob Newhart Show," where he played the neurotic and misanthropic Elliot Carlin. After that, Riley continued to appear in countless shows across many decades of television, including "M*A*S*H," "Hogan's Heroes," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Diff'rent Strokes," "Night Court," "Seinfeld," "Friends," and "That '70s Show." His other appearances in Mel Brooks films include parts in "High Anxiety," "History of the World, Part I," and "To Be or Not to Be." And for all you '90s kids out there, Riley also notably voiced the character of Stu Pickles in the cartoon "Rugrats." 

In 2016, at 80 years old, Jack Riley died of pneumonia.

Bryan O'Byrne

During Princess Vespa's first attempt at marrying Prince Valium, the man playing the pipe organ in the background might strike you as having somewhat of a familiar face. However, you'll probably find him somewhat difficult to place. This is partially because he's wearing robes, instead of his usual suit and tie, and partially because we don't get a chance in this film to hear his trademark high-pitched voice.

This actor is a man named Bryan O'Byrne, a veteran character actor who has played the part of various high-strung white-collar pencil pushers in pretty much every hit tv show from the '60s and '70s, including "The Munsters," "Get Smart," "Batman," "Murder, She Wrote," "Happy Days," "The Bill Cosby Show," "The Partridge Family," "Sanford and Son," and "Gunsmoke." He also made countless appearances in commercials. For a while there, if you needed a remarkably unremarkable bald man, Bryan O'Byrne was the man for the job. Outside of his acting career, Bryan O'Byrne was also an acting coach, who helped launch the careers of many famous actors, including the likes of Nick Nolte and Christopher McDonald.

Bryan O'Byrne died on December 4, 2009, at 78 years old. The cause of his death was not made public.

Felix Silla

Midway through "Spaceballs," Lone Starr's Space Winnebago runs out of fuel and is forced to crash land on a desolate planet. After wandering the desert for a while and passing out due to heat and dehydration, our heroes are rescued by the Dinks, a friendly group of little aliens in sparkly robes. One notable Dink is played by a man named Felix Silla (pictured in the center). Though you might not know his face, you certainly know his work, as Silla has played the parts of many inhuman creatures in science fiction and fantasy movies and TV shows over the years, typically buried under many layers of costuming and visual effects

Silla was born in Italy in 1937 and got his start as a circus performer. He later found his way into Hollywood, where he found consistent work as an actor and stunt performer. Notably, he played Cousin Itt in the "Addams Family" television series, the robot Twiki in "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," and a penguin in "Batman Returns. He also played an Ewok in "Return of the Jedi," making him perhaps the only actor who has appeared in both "Star Wars" and "Spaceballs." In one of his few notable appearances outside a monster costume, Silla gives a surprisingly commanding performance as the villainous Litvak in "The Black Bird," an otherwise unimpressive comedy sequel to "The Maltese Falcon."

Felix Silla passed away on April 16, 2021, at age 84, due to pancreatic cancer.

Lorene Yarnell

Sometimes in sci-fi films, it takes two or more actors to bring a character to life. When suits or heavy makeup are involved, you'll often have one actor who supplies the voice and another who provides the physical performance. In the case of Dot Matrix, Joan Rivers may have voiced the character, but the person wearing the suit was actress, dancer, and mime Lorene Yarnell.

Yarnell is best known as one half of "Shields and Yarnell," a mime duo that consisted of her and her husband, Robert Shields. The pair were quite famous in the '70s and '80s for their appearances on programs such as "The Muppet Show," "The Tonight Show," and "Wonder Woman." And if you've ever seen Yarnell in her prime, then you know why she was the clear choice for the role of Dot. In her work, Yarnell consistently displayed a truly astounding degree of control over their body. In fact, if Mel Brooks had decided to not give Yarnell a costume at all for the role of Dot, we're pretty sure her performance as an automaton would've been just as convincing.

Later in life, after her marriage with Robert Shields ended, Lorene Yarnell moved to Norway. It was there that she eventually died, at age 66, due to a brain aneurysm. Reflecting on the life of his former partner, Robert Shields said, "I'm devastated by her death. Lorene was an incredibly gifted and magical person."

John Hurt

Just when you think "Spaceballs" has shown you everything it has to offer, in the last few minutes of the film, we're unexpectedly treated to one of the most mind-blowing cameos in movie history. As Lone Starr and Barf are grabbing a quick bite at a diner, suddenly, another patron seems to be having some digestive trouble. You might not believe your eyes at first, but yes, that is indeed beloved English actor Sir John Hurt, apparently reprising his role as the character of Kane from the movie "Alien." And then, the same thing happens to him in "Spaceballs" as it does in Ridley Scott's horror classic. His body seizes up, he falls onto his back, and an alien bursts forth out of his stomach. Before he slips away into unconsciousness, Hurt mutters, "Oh, no. Not again."

In addition to his part in "Alien," John Hurt is also famous for starring in moody epics like "1984" and "The Elephant Man," the latter of which was also produced by Mel Brooks. From there, Hurt went on to play many memorable roles in science fiction and fantasy films. He voiced the villainous Horned King in the Disney film "The Black Cauldron," played the wand salesman Ollivander in the "Harry Potter" films, and played Hellboy's adoptive father in Guillermo del Toro's "Hellboy" films. Later in life, Hurt also delivered some truly heartbreaking dramatic performances in various dark and artsy dramas like "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" and "Only Lovers Left Alive."

On January 25, 2017, at age 77, John Hurt passed away, two years after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

John Candy

The first cast member of "Spaceballs" to tragically pass away was the wonderful comedic actor John Candy. In the film, Candy plays Lone Starr's co-pilot — Barf the "Mawg," a half-man, half-dog. He's clearly an homage to the character of Chewbacca, but in this film, our hero's canine co-star actually gets to talk. Why else would you cast John Candy? And also, since he isn't wearing a mask, we get to see his beautiful face!

John Candy rose to prominence on the sketch comedy show "Second City Television," better known as just "SCTV." He then moved into film, appearing in supporting roles in films such as "The Blues Brothers" and "Heavy Metal." After delivering a hilarious breakout comedy performance in the movie "Splash," Candy went on to have prominent parts in many notable films of the '80s and early '90s, such as "JFK," "Cool Runnings," "Uncle Buck," and "Planes, Trains and Automobiles."

By 1994, Candy was still very much a man who was in the prime of his life at the top of his game. But then, on March 4, his life was cut tragically short. During production of the film "Wagons East," John Candy suffered a heart attack and died at just 43 years old. In addition to having a history of heart disease in his family, Candy had multiple unhealthy habits that may have contributed to his death, including frequenting binge eating, smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, and a history of cocaine use.

Ken Olfson

Ken Olfson had just a few minutes of screen time in "Spaceballs" — he was the agitated head usher at the wedding of Princess Vespa and Jim J. Bullock's Prince Valium — but he invested those moments with an energy that helped establish him as a comic scene-stealer in films and on television throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Olfson specialized in fussy, anxious characters on series like "One Day at a Time," "Three's Company," and "Amazing Stories," and in films like "Mr. Mom." Though Olfson was rarely afforded more than a scene or two in any project, he did become a series regular on "The Nancy Walker Show," a short-lived Norman Lear production for which he also earned headlines as one of the first gay characters to appear regularly on a primetime sitcom (via the Wilmington Star-News).

An obit for Olfson in the Los Angeles Times noted that the Massachusetts native stepped away from acting in the early 1990s and focused his energy on training lay counselors at the Southern California Counseling Center. He died of a heart attack at the age of 60 on December 31, 1997.

Ira Miller

Blink and you might miss Ira Miller, who appears as the short order cook at Gus's Galaxy Diner, where Lone Starr and Barf are unlucky enough to witness an uncredited John Hurt spoof the chestburster scene from "Alien" ("Check, please!"). 

Miller was a longtime collaborator with Brooks and enjoyed minor comic roles in a number of his feature films, including "Blazing Saddles" and "Robin Hood: Men in Tights," as well as his rarely-seen 1975 comedy series "When Things Were Rotten." A native of Chicago, Miller began his career as a writer, performer and teacher with the city's famed Second City improvisational troupe, and later performed and recorded with the Conception Corporation, another comedy troupe who released three albums in the early 1970s. He also recorded several song parodies in the early '80s as Gelfite Joe and the Fish.

The group filmed a parody of TV shows called "Void Where Prohibited By Law," which brought them to Los Angeles. Miller later took a similar route when co-writing and directing the comedy feature "Loose Shoes" (1978), a raunchy spoof of TV programming that featured appearances by Bill Murray, Harry Shearer, and "Spaceballs" co-star Sandy Helberg. Additional acting roles included minor parts in several John Candy features ("Who's Harry Crumb?") and episodes of series like "Scarecrow and Mrs. King." Miller died of cancer at the age of 71 on September 23, 2012.

Dee Booher

When Dark Helmet accidentally triggers the self-destruct button on the "Megamaid," he rushes to the ship-turned-robot's escape pods, only to be thwarted with each attempt. One attempt ends when a bearded lady in an elaborate dress bumps him out of the way ("Who are you — one of the freaks?"). That Bearded Lady was played in "Spaceballs" by Dee Booher, an actress and entertainer who had a great deal of experience in playing larger-than-life characters.

The 6'3" Booher earned lasting pop culture notoriety in the mid-1980s as a member of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW), the outlandish professional wrestling promotion that later served as inspiration for the Netflix series "Glow." The 6'3" Booher, who had performed on the amateur wrestling circuit under the name "Queen Kong" helped to not only recruit and train fellow wrestlers, but also performed as "Matilda the Hun," one of the promotion's most outrageous "heels" (bad guys). The cult popularity of GLOW led to acting opportunities for Booher, though most, if not all, were variations on her wrestling persona: she played lady grapplers, bikers, nurses and truck drivers in films like "Brainsmasher... A Love Story" with Andrew "Dice" Clay and "Meet Wally Sparks" and on series like "Married... with Children." Between these efforts, Booher also turned up as (what else?) a wrestler dancing with a little person on her shoulders in Aerosmith's music video for "Love in an Elevator."

Years of wrestling and other physical jobs — Booher even delivered singing telegrams with wrestling elements — left her with spinal deterioration that required the use of a wheelchair. Booher also struggled with multiple serious health problems (via the Washington Post), including lupus, before her death (via Wrestling Inc.) at the age of 73 on January 7, 2022.

Johnny Silver

The Caddy is little more than one of many visual puns that run throughout "Spaceballs." He was the diminutive elderly man in old-fashioned golf wear who stands behind Dr. Irving Slotkin as Dark Helmet threatens to return Princess Vespa's nose to its pre-rhinoplasty size. However, Johnny Silver, the actor who played the Caddy, was an accomplished film, television, and stage star whose career stretched from the years before World War II to the mid-1990s.

As Variety noted, Silver, who stood just shy of 5 feet in height, began singing as a boy and later expanded into radio and burlesque. He teamed with opera singer Mario Lanza to perform for troops during World War II and upon his return to the United States, earned his big break in the original Broadway production of "Guys and Dolls." The 1955 film version of the musical provided his entry into the movies, though he found more consistent work on television series like "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "The Untouchables," and "The Dick Van Dyke Show." Silver also netted an Emmy Award in 1967 for a segment on "Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theater" that starred John Cassavetes and Ben Gazzara.

Silver remained active in minor roles on TV throughout the '70s and '80s: he played costumed characters on "H.R. Pufnstuf" and appeared in multiple episodes of "Mannix," "The Odd Couple," and "Cagney and Lacey." He closed his film career with "Spaceballs" and an appearance in Bob Goldthwait's "Shakes the Clown" in 1992; his final TV credit came in a 1995 episode of "Seinfeld." The 84-year-old Silver died of heart and kidney failure on February 1, 2003.

Phil Hartman

The "Spaceballs" version of the Jawas was the hooded Dinks, who rescued the heroes on the desert moon of Vega and later aided Yoghurt in displaying the impressive array of "Spaceballs" merchandise. While the Dinks were played on-screen by a host of veteran little person actors like Felix Silla and Tony Cox, their nattering voices — in which they only uttered "Dink!" — were provided by some of the most accomplished voice actors in the industry: Rob Paulsen ("Rick and Morty"), Corey Burton, Tress MacNeille, John Paragon, and the late Phil Hartman.

Hartman initially worked as a graphic artist, designing album covers and logos for bands like America and Crosby, Stills & Nash before joining the Los Angeles improvisational group The Groundlings in the mid 1970s. He teamed with another member, Paul Reubens, and helped create the character of Pee-Wee Herman. After appearing on "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" and co-writing "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure," Hartman parted ways with Reubens and found work as an actor and voice performer, joining the cast of "Saturday Night Live" in 1986.

Hartman earned two Emmy nominations for writing for "Saturday Night Live," winning one, and netted a third for his performances, which included note-perfect imitations of President Bill Clinton, Ed McMahon, Charlton Heston, and others. He departed the show in 1993 and earned a fourth Emmy nomination as a pompous newsreader on "NewsRadio." Hartman's career soon encompassed multiple voices for "The Simpsons" and character turns in films like "So I Married an Axe Murderer" and "Jingle All the Way." At the height of his popularity, Hartman was murdered by his wife, Brynn Omdahl, who shot him while he slept on May 28, 1999 before turning the gun on herself.

Jerry Maren

Among the uncredited little person actors who played the Dinks in "Spaceballs" was one bona fide legend — Jerry Maren, an actor and stunt performer who began his screen career as a member of the Lollipop Guild in "The Wizard of Oz," and for a long period up until his death in 2018, was the last surviving cast member with an identifiable role in that fabled musical (via The New York Times). Maren's large and varied body of work included collaborations with the Marx Brothers and appearances in "Planet of the Apes" and "Tron" and on "Get Smart," "Charlie's "Angels," and "Seinfeld."  Between these efforts, Maren also appeared in commercials for Oscar Meyer hot dogs and played Mayor McCheese in commercials for McDonald's, tossed confetti on "The Gong Show," performed stunts in "Dirty Harry," and donned costumes to play various monsters, robots, elves, and demons in movies and on TV series. 

With fellow short-statured actor Billy Barty, Maren co-founded Little People of America, a non-profit organization that supports individuals with dwarfism and their families. He was also a frequent participant in Oz-related promotions until 2011, the same year he made his final screen appearance in the ABC special "Best in Film: The Greatest Movies of Our Time." Maren died of congestive heart failure at the age of 98 on May 24, 2018.

Terence Marsh

If you're going to do something momentous — or momentously evil, for that matter — a little fanfare really helps to sell the action. So when Dark Helmet transformed "Spaceball One" into the robotic "Megamaid," he brought out the Spaceball drummer — an orchestra musician in helmet and tuxedo who pounded out an impressive beat to signify the sheer magnitude of the occasion. The drummer later turns up during the evacuation of the "Megamaid," as Colonel Sandurz attempted to enter an escape pod. The drummer was inside and paused to bop Sandurz on the head with a mallet before taking off with the pod.

An uncredited Terence Marsh, who also happened to be the film's production designer, played the Spaceball drummer. A four-time Academy Award nominee and two-time winner (for "Doctor Zhivago" and "Oliver!"), Marsh previously teamed with Mel Brooks on his 1983 comedy "To Be Or Not To Be" and with Brooks' longtime friend and collaborator Gene Wilder on "Haunted Honeymoon" and "The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother." Marsh began his career as a draughtsman on films in his native England during the 1950s and worked his way up to assistant art director on David Lean's epic "Lawrence of Arabia" in 1960.

A string of UK successes like the aforementioned "Doctor Zhivago" led to production designer work in the United States on films like "The Hunt for Red October," "Basic Instinct," and "The Shawshank Redemption." He capped his film career in the late 1990s with a pair of hits — "The Green Mile" and "Rush Hour 2" — and accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Art Directors Guild in 2010. Marsh died at the age of 86 on January 9, 2018.

Thomas Meehan

It's likely that the appearance of Thomas Meehan in "Spaceballs" won't register with most viewers. He wasn't credited for his turn as King Roland's aide, and his screen time was exceptionally brief. But Meehan was an important figure in both the career of Mel Brooks and in the history of the American theater as well. He collaborated with Brooks on the screenplays for both "Spaceballs" and "To Be or Not to Be," but also wrote the book for the musical versions of Brooks' "The Producers" which netted 12 Tony Awards (including one for Meehan) — and "Young Frankenstein." If that wasn't enough, Meehan also won Best Book Tony Awards for "Annie" and "Hairspray."

Meehan's other stage credits included the books for "Elf the Musical" and "Rocky the Musical," and he earned three Emmy nominations, including a win for the 1970 TV special "Annie, the Women in the Life of a Man," which starred Brooks' wife, actress Ann Bancroft. A former writer for both "The New Yorker" and the celebrated satirical news program "That Was the Week That Was," Meehan died of cancer one week after his 88th birthday on August 21, 2017.

John Paragon

Joining Phil Hartman as one of the uncredited voices of the Dinks in "Spaceballs" is fellow Groundlings alum John Paragon. He was perhaps best known for his collaborations with Paul Reubens, for whom he played Jambi the Genie and voiced Pterri the pterodactyl in both the live "Pee-Wee Herman Show," "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" TV series, and "Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway" in 1991. Paragon, who earned five Daytime Emmy nominations for writing and directing episodes of "Playhouse," also collaborated with another Groundlings member, Cassandra Peterson, as writer and performer on the "Elvira's Movie Macabre" show and two Elvira features. Paragon appeared on-screen in several of Reubens' films projects as well, including "Cheech and Chong's Next Movie" and "Pee-Wee's Big Holiday."

Paragon also appeared in episodes of "Cheers" and "Seinfeld," among many other series, and directed "Double Trouble" and "Twin Sitters," a pair of feature comedy vehicles for bodybuilders/actors Peter and David Paul, who were also known as the "Barbarian Brothers." Paragon died of heart disease and chronic alcoholism at the age of 66 on April 3, 2021.

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