It was on this day, February 28, 1913, American actor and comedian of stage and screen, Samuel "Zero" Joel Mostel was born.. He was best known for his portrayal of comic characters such as Tevye on stage in Fiddler on the Roof, Pseudolus on stage and on screen in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Max Bialystock in the original film version of The Producers.
Mostel was a student of Don Richardson, using an acting technique based on muscle memory.
Nicknamed by press agent Ivan Black when Mostel began his career as a nightclub comic.at the behest of Barney Josephson, proprietor of the Café Society nightclub, who felt that "Sam Mostel" was not appropriate for a comic. the name stuck. Zero was nicknamed a name which he used for both stage and screen.
Mostel's rise was rapid. In 1942 alone his salary at the Café Society went up from $40 a week (equivalent to approximately $571 in today's funds.) to $450.
He appeared on radio shows, opened in two Broadway shows (Keep Them Laughing, Top-Notchers), played at the Paramount Theatre, appeared in an MGM movie (Du Barry Was a Lady), and booked into La Martinique at $4,000 a week. He also made cameo appearances at the Yiddish theatre, the style of which influenced his own.
In 1943 Life magazine described him as "just about the funniest American now living".
During the 1950s, he was blacklisted and his testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities was well-publicized.
Zero died September 8, 1977. It is believed that he suffered an aortic aneurysm.
He was a Tony Award and Obie Award winner.