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Richard Roat, Seen on ‘Cheers,’ ‘Friends’ and ‘Seinfeld,’ Dies at 89


Richard Roat, a flexible character actor whose half-century-long profession was punctuated by notable guest appearances on three of the preferred sitcoms of recent many years, “Cheers,” “Friends” and “Seinfeld,” died on Aug. 5 in Newport Beach, Calif. He was 89.

Kathy (Arntzen) Roat, his wife and only immediate survivor, said the cause was a heart attack. She said Mr. Roat, who lived in Glendale, died in a condo while on vacation.

On a 1985 episode of “Cheers,” because the imperious boss of the barstool habitué Norm Peterson (George Wendt), he threatened to fireside Norm if he didn’t accept a promotion (and lift) to grow to be the corporate’s “corporate killer” — the one that terminates people.

“Studies have shown that it’s particularly humiliating whenever you’re fired by someone who’s clearly and markedly superior to yourself,” Mr. Roat’s character tells Norm coldly. “That wouldn’t be the case with you, Norman. You’re just an unusual Joe. We checked out your own home life. You could have absolutely nothing that anyone could possibly envy or resent.”

In 1996, on “Seinfeld,” Mr. Roat was a dermatologist who labeled Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) a “difficult” patient when she sought treatment for a rash. His character turned from friendly to stern when he checked her patient history.

“Well, that doesn’t look serious,” he says, barely examining her. “You’ll be nice.” He then adds notes to her history when she complains that the rash is “really itchy.”

And on “Friends,” in 2000, he was a professor at the faculty where Ross (David Schwimmer) taught. At one point he tells Ross that he was violating campus rules by dating a student.

“They’re going to fireside you,” he says.

“Really, it’s not only frowned upon?” Ross asks.

Mr. Roat worked primarily in television, starting in 1962 with two very different series about cops: the sitcom “Automobile 54, Where Are You?” and the drama “Naked City.” He was a daily on the daytime soap opera “The Doctors” from 1963 to 1964, and over the following 45 years was seen on comedies like “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Murphy Brown” and “Ellen” and dramas like “The Fugitive,” “Columbo,” “Matlock” and “Dynasty.”

In a 1986 episode of “The Golden Girls,” because the boyfriend of Rose (Betty White), he dies in bed after they sleep together.

He also worked repeatedly in regional theater. He starred with Jo Anne Worley in Ken Ludwig’s theatrical farce “Moon Over Buffalo” on the Pasadena Playhouse, and in William Luce’s one-man show “Barrymore,” concerning the actor John Barrymore, on the Dorset Theater Festival in Vermont. He played the title role, based on Lyndon B. Johnson, in Barbara Garson’s political satire “Macbird!” on the Players’ Ring Gallery in Los Angeles, and a married character in Mart Crowley’s “The Boys within the Band,” a few group of gay men, at what’s now the Montalbán Theater, also in Los Angeles.

In 1962 he played Mark Antony within the Recent York Shakespeare Festival’s production of “Julius Caesar.”

Richard Donald Roat Jr. was born on July 3, 1933, in Hartford, Conn. His father was a glazier, and his mother, Lois (Bowan) Roat, was a homemaker.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Trinity College in Hartford in 1956, Mr. Roat acted with the Mark Twain Masquers and other local theatrical groups. He also earned a living by driving a bakery truck and holding other odd jobs.

In 1961 he made his Broadway debut as a alternative for Michael Ebert in “The Wall,” a play about Jews in occupied Poland during World War II.

Mr. Roat played Dr. Jerry Chandler during 172 episodes of “The Doctors” and told The Portland Press Herald that he felt grateful for the chance to act repeatedly.

“There’s room for lower than one percent of the brand new actors in nighttime television,” he said. “Unless you’re a ‘regular’ and get a running project for a season-long series, your probabilities in nighttime television are practically nil.”

His last television role was within the drama “24” in 2009.

Mr. Roat had one other long-running role, which he pursued as an actor and continued after he retired that yr: as a tax preparer for people within the entertainment business. During a slow period in his acting profession within the late Sixties, he took a job in an accountant’s office. On April 15 of that first yr, the accountant had a nervous breakdown, Kathy Roat said, and Mr. Roat “took some tax forms and decided to grow to be a tax preparer.”

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