On February 6th, 2018, the world lost actor John Mahoney - a man whose career had run the gamut of film, TV, and theatre, and who had seemingly done everything imaginable. And while he certainly has fans from Say Anything, Barton Fink, and Reality Bites, very few would disagree that the biggest mark he left on our collective psyche was as Martin Crane on NBC's Frasier, the curmudgeonly but tender-hearted father of foppish fancy men Frasier and Niles Crane.
And here's the thing: I love Frasier. With lots of my previous go-to Netflix shows dropping off the service (I miss you, 30 Rock and It's Always Sunny), Frasier has become my default thing to start up when nothing else is piquing my interest (which is most of the time). As a result, I watch A LOT of Frasier (and this is after a childhood of watching A LOT of Frasier, as reruns aired after The Simpsons at 10:30pm). And I truly believe it's one of the best sitcoms of all time - and John Mahoney's a major part of what made it work (since Frasier and Niles would have been unbearably insufferable if there weren't a polar opposite character like Martin to call them out on their elitist crap).
So I wanted to share some of John Mahoney's best moments, because he's been a weirdly comforting figure throughout my life - and throughout the lives of many others - without him even knowing it.
Here's an odd bit of trivia about the life of John Mahoney - of all of the main cast members of Frasier, only ONE was from Manchester, and it wasn't Jane Leeves (the actress who played Daphne Moon, a character from Manchester). The cast member was (obviously, if you've been paying attention) John Mahoney, who spent his formative years in Great Britain, but moved to the United States and joined the army in his late teenage years. Over the course of the next few decades, he lost his British accent - but you can definitely pick up the hint of authenticity in his mocking of Daphne's voice.
The greatness of Martin Crane is that he could maneuver between solid, honest advice for his constantly misguided sons and being a funny, unself-aware walking trope of a guy who only cares about beer, sports, and his dog. Lots of fathers on TV (especially older ones) tend to be portrayed as bumbling and stupid - Martin Crane could be a lot of things, but he was always a fully-realized dad to his sons.
One of the major themes of Frasier is that both Frasier and Niles are still essentially immature children - they never grew out of their petty rivalry with one another, they still misbehave and act childishly, and they still have much more respect for their dad than they would initially let on.
While Mahoney was great with one liners, he was also a legitimately fantastic and well-respected actor - and was able to infuse genuine pathos and gravitas into pretty much any semi-serious scene or plotline, that on another show might have been played too broad and silly. John Mahoney made it real, which in turn made the comedic bits play even better.
Rest in peace, John Mahoney. So much I could say, but I think this captures so much of why I love him. Martin Crane's message for future generations: pic.twitter.com/lZlM665M6y-- Anthony Oliveira (@meakoopa) February 5, 2018
Martin's "last message to future generations" video is probably Mahoney's finest comedic performance. It's perfect.
The wonderful thing about John Mahoney is that you believed him - that he would a grumpy ex-cop, that he both despised his children's obsession with class and status while loving them and wanting the best for them, and that he was someone who genuinely loved his dog. Roger Ebert said it best in his review of Say Anything:
The two lovers both have confidants. For Diane, it is her father, played by John Mahoney as a reminder that this actor can be as convincingly nice as anyone in the movies. He exudes decency.
And now one last thing - Martin being silly, because Martin was (secretly) a very silly guy: