"Sad-sack character actor Fred Stoller ... was just another Hollywood schnook. But then he found an unlikely home at a Los Angeles mall, where he drinks coffee, schmoozes with legendary director Paul Mazursky, and, if he's lucky, gets recognized by strangers."
Remember that comedian from the '80s who seemed to define the lovable loser? The one who later showed up in "Seinfeld" as the guy who couldn't remember Elaine; the same one who seemed to out-Raymond Raymond in "Everybody Loves Raymond"?
That's Fred Stoller: nice, neurotic, funny Fred Stoller. The 51-year-old comedian and character actor has been popping up more and more these days, having recently appeared on both Nerdist and Marc Maron's WTF Podcast. He's now the subject of a profile by George Gurley in the new issue of iPad-only entertainment magazine Punch (download the app here).
At turns both depressing and whimsical, the article focuses on how Stoller has found a new day-to-day routine at Los Angeles mall, The Grove.
The clock above Abercrombie & Fitch chimes eight, and Fred reveals something “really pathetic” he does at the Grove’s multiplex: “Sometimes I’m so isolated, I’ll walk into the lobby. I love the smell of popcorn—and pretend to be a normal person waiting for a friend. I’ll look at my watch and sometimes I’ll see someone—‘Hey, Fred!’ or ‘Come see a movie with us!’ I’m just looking for interaction. Or I’ll see a movie and then I’ll wait for the people coming out, and I’m thinking they’re going to compliment me. I’m socially retarded. If somebody recognizes me, I’m so glad that I start bothering them!”
Gurley also delves into the bittersweet turns of Stoller's love life over the years:
Fred says he has always had bad luck with relationships. He came close to cohabitating once. The woman even sent boxes of her stuff to his apartment before backing out. Then there was the waitress who was moonlighting as a stripper. She conned him out of some money. Another “fairly attractive” woman had potential. She kept a gun under her bed and called Fred a pussy for signaling when changing lanes (“You drive like my grandmother!”). Before Fred, she had dated Ed Begley, Jr. and Harry Dean Stanton. “Only in Hollywood,” he says. “It’s so warped.”
Then there was the redheaded comic and reality-show star Kathy Griffin, who told him she hated men because they rape, go to strip clubs, and watch porno.
“I only do two out of three,” Fred told her.
She asked if she could punch him in the face.
“No, I’d rather not,” he said.
Stoller's is certainly not your usual Hollywood success (or train wreck) story, but he has an undeniable charm that makes Gurley's profile of him and his mall family (including director Paul Mazursky) hard to put down.
Read the full piece by downloading the Punch app, and check out the short clips below of Stoller performing stand-up and one of his appearances on "Everybody Loves Raymond."