He’s 83 now, and doesn’t look all that familiar, until you hear his schtick. Growling like a dog, clucking like a chicken, whirring like a helicopter, it all comes out of Lenny Schultz.
It all comes back to you if you’re old enough to remember television from the late 1960’s through the 70’s, and you recognize the man as a living, breathing comedy legend.
"They would go nuts, the people, it was very hard to follow my act because I’m doing silly and crazy things," Schultz said, reminiscing about his glory days. "That was my reputation, unique and different and wild and where, how does he think that way?"
Schultz was a fixture on television talk shows and a regular on "Laugh In." His extreme physical comedy influenced a generation of humor, including his close friend, the late Robin Williams. They came up together.
"Like, I do this iguana, a lizard, he does a lot of it, he did a lot of it," Schultz said.
Comedy giants such as David Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld, and Billy Crystal all cite Schultz as an icon of their field.
"Letterman mentions all the time, 'Lenny Schultz, should’ve been much more famous than he is,' you know? But I was satisfied," Schultz said.
Schultz was a baseball prospect until he hurt his arm. So he became a high school physical education teacher, the teacher every kid liked because he was an easy "A" and he kept the class in stitches with his antics. One of his colleagues persuaded him to try comedy. So Schultz went to amateur night at the Improv in New York and within four months, he was doing his whacky routines on television.
"This is me, Dangerfield, Andy Kaufman, Redd Foxx," Schultz says, pointing out pictures in a collage of his contemporaries who played at the Improv.
For years, Schultz kept his day job, teaching PE and yucking it up at night on national TV.
"I would go into the school, the principal and the teachers asking me for my autograph, they see me with Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Stewart, then the next day I’m in a smelly gym with kids! It was crazy!" Schultz explained.
He’s retired now, living in a beachside condo in Hallandale, but Schultz still leaves a trail of chuckles everywhere he goes, from the clubhouse to the pool to the deli down the street.
Does he get tired of making people laugh?
"No, I don't think so, It's in my blood," Schultz said.
Once a goofball, always a goofball.
New York filmmaker Alan Berman is currently at work on a documentary about the life of Lenny Schultz and his impact on comedy. We acknowledge his help on this story.