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The Man with the Popping Eyes

Lawrence Bush
December 2, 2017

Comedian Marty Feldman, a Brit who became known to American audiences playing Igor, Gene Wilder’s laboratory sidekick in Mel BrooksYoung Frankenstein, died at 48 on this date in 1982. His parents were emigrants from Kiev. Feldman suffered from thyroid disease and Graves’ ophthalmopathy, which caused his eyes to protrude and misalign — a very weird physical attribute that became an aspect of his comedy but also confined him to character roles. In the 1950s and ’60s, he was a first-rank writer for BBC radio and television, and he gained his own show, Marty, in 1968. Feldman also worked with the Monty Python crew. An avowed atheist, he described himself as “a socialist by conviction, if not by lifestyle” and “a socialist from way back, but in order to pay my back taxes I have to live in America to earn enough money to pay the back tax I owe to the socialist government that I voted in.” To see excerpts from his BBC television show, look below.

“The pen is mightier than the sword, and also considerably easier to write with.” —Marty Feldman

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.