Arts & Entertainment

Taylor Negron, comedic underdog, dies from cancer

Taylor Negron attend the
Taylor Negron attend the "Mothers And Sons" special performance benefiting The Actors Fund at John Golden Theatre on May 18, 2014 in New York City.
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Actor Taylor Negron, a fixture in L.A.'s comedy scene whose acting career spanned film, television, radio and online performances, has died at 57. Deadline reports he died after a long battle with cancer.

Ami Albea, road manager for Negron's cousin, musician Chuck Negron, confirmed his death to KPCC. She said the family is not giving interviews while they grieve his death. 

Negron was a native of Glendale, California whose career started early. As a teenager, he was an intern for Lucille Ball. 

Deadline has published an extensive biography of Negron which runs down many of his appearances on television, film and along the comedy circuit in New York and L.A.  

It was hard not to spot Negron in any film as his credits were numerous in a melange of cult pics such as Punchline, One Crazy Summer, Angels in the Outfield, Nothing But Trouble, Stuart Little and The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas. He even reprised his role as the peeved Pizza Guy in Amy Heckerling’s 2012 film Vamps. 

In TV, Negron started off with appearances as himself on 1970’s The Dating Game, and made a reputation as a hysterical guest star on 2001’s Hollywood Squares. On TV he also guest-starred frequently, playing both comedy and gravitas on a slew of hit series including Hill Street Blues, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Ben Stiller Show, Seinfeld, ER, Hope and Gloria, Party of Five, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Zoey 101 and The Wizards of Waverly Place.

KCET recently interviewed Negron about his paintings, which were on display at a solo show in West L.A. over the summer.

In a 2013 TED Talk, Negron characterized his place in Hollywood as "fame-ish" — prolific and familiar but rarely center stage.

"I became the alternative everyman in the movies," he told the KCET. Perhaps his most well-known part — as a pizza deliveryman to a young Sean Penn the 1982 cult film "Fast Times At Ridgemont High" — epitomized that role, he said:

The New York Times said I was the first onscreen slacker, which meant that I was just slightly older and more prepared for the job that I was given. People remember "Fast Times" because it was almost like the "Purple Rose of Cairo" moment, where anybody could have been knocking at that door. Even now I look at Sean Penn as, 'I can't believe you get lines in this movie — and I'm delivering you a pizza.' I'm slightly perturbed by it all.

Video: Taylor Negron in 'Fast Times At Ridgemont High'

Negron went on to talk about his history and view of creativity in a recent TED Talk. "My Nature is that I'm a comic wise-ass," he said. "And it works.":

Video: TED talks with Taylor Negron

On Sunday, Actors from Billy Crystal to Pee Wee Herman took to Twitter to remember Negron. Patricia Scanlon, who worked with Negron on "Three Feet Under," a play he directed in 2004, said Negron had a nearly magical presence. 

"Taylor had a way of making each moment a celebration," she told KPCC. "When you were with Taylor you were truly deeply in the moment and you felt understood and authentic."

Actor/ director Kiff Scholl agreed, telling KPCC Negron had an uncanny way of making people feel comfortable. He was a master conversationalist, Scholl added. 

"It [was] never small talk. He always found something fascinating to talk about — whether it was in the immediate environment, or a cultural issue, or just a coincidence," Scholl said. "He made you immediately feel like you were close friends."

Scholl said over lunch at a popular restaurant in 2008, Negron recounted how he'd found out he had cancer. He said he'd then asked the doctor how bad his prognosis was. 

— And the doctor looked at him and said "Yeah. It's bad. Do you know the movie 'Terms of Endearment'?"

[...]

And Taylor said he looked at the doctor, dead in the eye, and said "Doctor, are you telling me I'm going to win an Oscar?" 

I couldn't believe how hard I laughed in that restaurant, filled with minor celebrities at other tables who must have turned and looked at me and wondered what the hell was wrong with this guy, because I was crying and laughing and trying to be reserved...

But that was Taylor. He had the uncanny ability to find humor in the darkest of situations — even when it was his own.

No plans have yet been announced for a memorial.