Best known as Elliot Carlin on The Bob Newhart Show, Jack was born in Cleveland in 1935. Jack attended St. Ignatius and John Carroll and he served in the United States Army. After being discharged, Riley became a popular Cleveland radio personality, along with his radio partner and “straight man” Jeff Baxter. The Baxter and Riley Show on WERE (1300 AM) featured not only music but comedy sketches and a menagerie of offbeat characters that Riley and Baxter voiced.
The show expanded for a time to WEWS TV. Riley gave up the radio show in the mid 1960’s and moved to Los Angeles, where his friend Tim Conway helped him receive work writing comedy sketches. Riley then got a gig as a semi-regular in the cast of the 1960’s sitcom Occasional Wife, a short-lived show on NBC. Perhaps his greatest fame came as Elliot Carlin, the neurotic, sour and selfish patient on The Bob Newhart Show. He soon became one of the busiest guest stars on television in the 70’s and 80’s. Among his other TV credits are such shows as Barney Miller, Hogan’s Heroes, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, One Day at a Time, Gomer Pyle, Different Strokes, and Night Court.
Riley was also a favorite of Mel Brooks, appearing in several of his films: High Anxiety, History of the World: Part 1, To Be or Not to Be, and (cameo only) Spaceballs. In 1985, he reprised his Bob Newhart Show role of Elliot Carlin on St. Elsewhere. Riley has also been a ubiquitous voice in television and radio commercials, most notably in spots for Country Crock margarine. He also voiced the character “P.C. Modem, the computer genius” in radio commercials for Comp USA that aired in the 90’s, and the character Stu Pickles in Rugrats and All Grown Up! He continued to make guest appearances during the 90’s in popular sitcoms, showing up in episodes of Seinfeld, Son of the Beach, Friends, Coach, The Drew Carey Show, That 70’s Show and, in a gag appearance, as an unnamed but obvious Mr. Carlin in an episode of Newhart.
“Yesterday morning…I was possessed by the devil”. Elliot Carlin