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AN APPRECIATION

This experience was unforgettable

Dialogue coach Marty Nedboy was an unsung funnyman -- and lasting friend -- says comedian George Lopez.

October 29, 2007|George Lopez | Special to The Times

When we first started production of "The George Lopez Show" in 2002, my producer Frank Pace told me he had hired a dialogue coach named Marty Nedboy. I didn't think twice about it until Pace added, "Look, you need to trust me on this one. Marty can't be explained. He needs to be experienced." My trust was tested right off when Nedboy walked on the stage. He was already past his 70th birthday and had what he would refer to as a "bum arm," having contracted polio as an infant. I also learned something important that first day: Never stand between Marty and the craft service table. You could usually tell the soup of the day from looking at Marty's shirt.

For six seasons, I was lucky to experience Marty Nedboy. Pace was correct, you really can't explain him. Sadly, on Oct. 21, Marty Nedboy died due to injuries he suffered in a fall in August. He was 77.

I learned a lot about Marty during those six seasons. I learned that he was the son of Jewish immigrants who grew up in the heavily ethnic tenements of the Lower East Side during the Depression. I learned that as a young boy he used to sneak into Broadway musicals. Once, when he was caught crashing the musical "Laffing Room Only," Nedboy, then about 12, boldly proclaimed that he was a friend of the show's star Betty Garrett, whom he had never met. When the guard marched him backstage to confront Garrett, the star confirmed the boy's story and the two began a lifelong friendship.

That's the way it was with Marty. When you met him, he became your friend for life.

He was in fact, the funniest man I ever met. His timing was impeccable, his storytelling captivating. He was so funny that he made several appearances on "The George Lopez Show" as well as a number of other shows he worked on.

In the mid-'70s, tiring of his job as a bookkeeper in Manhattan's garment district, Marty moved west to pursue his true passion: show business. His big break came when his boyhood friend from the tenements, director Howard Storm, hired him to run lines with a young comic on a new series. The show was "Mork & Mindy"; the comic, Robin Williams. From that day on, Marty was never out of work. His credits included "Moonlighting," "Head of the Class," "Murphy Brown," "Love & War" and "Suddenly Susan." The stars he coached included Jonathan Winters, Bruce Willis, Candice Bergen, Jay Thomas, Brooke Shields, Billy Connolly and Broadway star Susan Egan. And I think they all showed up at one time or another at our Lopez stage at Warner Bros. lot just to say hello to Marty. It amazed me the loyalty that these stars showed this guy. Once he left a pass for one of the stars to visit him on the set of "The George Gobel Show." Hey Marty, all right.

Everyone from the president of the studio to the woman working the cash register in the commissary knew Marty. When word of his accident in August got out, it wasn't surprising that his room was flooded with cards. Garry Marshall for one wrote, "It's a great talent to be able to make people laugh and you do it as well as anyone I know."

My wife, Ann, and I saw Marty for the last time the week he passed away. He was in a hospital wheelchair, weak and very sick, but he still had his famous sense of humor.

As we were leaving, he said, "George, there is always a question I wanted to ask you . . . What would you do if they ever outlawed burritos?"

Marty Nedboy was a friend to me, Ann and our daughter Mayan. For the last five years, he spent his Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays at our home. We'll miss him this year, as will all his friends, but I promise you that no one will ever forget him. He was one of a kind. He was the man who made the stars laugh.

--

Comic George Lopez starred in the long-running ABC sitcom "The George Lopez Show."

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