Jerry Lazar

  • "Risa-I'm so saddened to hear of Jerry's passing. What a..."
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Jerry Lazar of Tenafly, a burly actor and a founding member of the northern New Jersey improvisational comedy troupe Lunatic Fringe, died last Friday. 4/6 He was 51.

The cause was complications after colon cancer surgery, his wife, Risa cq Rosenberg, said.

Mr. Lazar succeeded in being funny despite the restraints of his day job: freelance technical writer.

"Sometimes I'm doing business reporting that's so dry and full of itself that it's impossible to listen to it without starting to laugh," he said in a 2007 interview with The Record.

"When faced with that kind of sober, self-important world, you either laugh at it or go a little nuts. Or both."

Or establish an improv group.

Mr. Lazar, Paul Murphy and Deb Maclean founded Lunatic Fringe in 1997. Mr. Lazar and Murphy also had a separate comedy act, "Two Big Guys from Jersey."

"Jerry always made his fellow performers look good," said Maclean, director of Glen Ridge-based Lunatic Fringe. "He was generous on stage and generous off of it."

Mr. Lazar also acted in community and regional theater in New Jersey and New York. Six years ago at the Shadowland Theatre cqin the Catskills, he had the role of Dr. Bayliss in "All My Sons," starring Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss.

He was a mainstay of the Garage Theatre cqGroup in Teaneck and served as its volunteer publicity manager. He was to have portrayed a 100-year-old in the Mark Doherty three-man play "Trad," opening next Thursday.

Michael Bias, Garage Theatre's artistic producing director, described the 6-foot-3, 300-pound Mr. Lazar as a "gentle giant."

"He was an incredible talent every year I'd look for something he could be in," Bias said. "This is so crazy, so sad."

Mr. Lazar enjoyed working with and performing for children. He taught improv to Tenafly youngsters; toured in a Liberty Science Center tobacco education program, "Hot Air," and even authored a book geared to middle-schoolers a biography of the Sioux chief Red Cloud.

"The past couple of years he was busier as an actor than as a writer, although he was doing a lot of writing for the stage," his wife said.

Gerald Lazar grew up on Long Island and majored in communications at Cornell University, where he met his wife. They married in 1983 and moved to Cliffside Park, then to Tenafly.

"When Jerry walked into a room, you knew he was there," Rosenberg said. "He was a big presence with a big voice, and he was big-hearted. He loved puns and every kind of humor, and loved being with people. The world is too quiet without him."

Mr. Lazar also is survived by his children, Alexander and Katherine, and his sisters, Janet Lazar and Karen Lazar, both of West Orange.

Services were held Wednesday at Gutterman and Musicant Jewish Funeral Directors, Hackensack.

Published in The Record on Apr. 13, 2012
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