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Michael Batayeh, Comedian and ‘Breaking Bad’ Actor, Dies at 52


Michael Batayeh, an actor best known for his transient role within the Emmy-winning series “Breaking Bad” and a comedian who was popular within the Arab-American community, died at his home in Ypsilanti, Mich. He was 52.

His sister Ida Vergollo said he died on June 1 in his sleep after a heart attack. A coroner later found issues along with his heart, she said.

Mr. Batayeh appeared in “Breaking Bad” as Dennis Markowski, the regular manager of a laundromat that was a front for a meth lab. The character was killed after he showed interest in chatting with the Drug Enforcement Administration in exchange for immunity.

As a comedian, Mr. Batayeh performed in major clubs in Latest York City and Los Angeles, in addition to across the country and internationally.

He also had credits on several popular television series, including “It’s At all times Sunny in Philadelphia,” “The Bernie Mac Show” and “Boy Meets World.”

Mr. Batayeh’s role as a cabdriver on “Everybody Loves Raymond” in 1998 signaled to his family that he had arrived as an entertainer, in line with Ms. Vergollo, “because that’s when my dad first saw his last name on TV.” She said, “My dad was so happy with him and let him know that.”

Michael Anthony Batayeh was born on Dec. 27, 1970, in Detroit, the seventh child of Abraham Batayeh, a Ford factory employee, and Victoria (Dababneh) Batayeh.

The couple immigrated to the USA from Jordan in 1955. Michael Batayeh attended Wayne State University for 3 years before dropping out and moving to Los Angeles to pursue a profession in the humanities and begin his own comedy troupe with a friend.

“He was actually made to be a performer since he was very, very young,” said Ms. Vergollo, who recalled that her brother began playing the tabla, a pair of hand drums, at 5 years old and continued throughout his adult life.

“My dad used to tug him up onstage in any respect the weddings,” she said.

Mr. Batayeh is survived by his sisters Ida Vergollo, Diane Batayeh-Ricketts, MaryAnn Joseph, Madeline Sherman and Theresa Aquino. His eldest sister, Jeannie Batayeh, died from cancer in 2016.

Mr. Batayeh often used his family as fodder for comedy. “He made fun of us loads,” Ms. Vergollo said.

And an affinity for accents made him popular within the Arab-American community, said Ms. Vergollo, who called him “so spot on.”

On the invitation of the Jordanian royal family, his sisters said, he performed at a comedy festival in Amman, Jordan’s capital. He was also featured in a comedy special for Showtime Arabia.

The family is asking for memorial contributions to a company that gives recreation and mentoring programs for youth in southwest Detroit.

“He would voice to us how necessary it was and the way good he felt when he went back home and talked to kids or mentored individuals who wanted to begin out,” Ms. Vergollo said.

She noted that Mr. Batayeh moved back to Michigan from California permanently in 2016 when his sister Jeannie was sick, but would travel backwards and forwards for work.

“He cared about his community and wanted to present back,” she said, “and that’s the form of person he was.”

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