Jay Thomas dead: 'Cheers' and 'Murphy Brown' actor dies aged 69

Jay Thomas at an event in 2013: Getty
Jay Thomas at an event in 2013: Getty

Actor Jay Thomas, known for playing the character Eddlie LeBec on Cheers, has died aged 69.

“Jay was one of a kind, never at a loss for words and filled with so much fun and wonderfully whacky thoughts and behavior,” Thomas' agent Don Buchwald said in a statement. He added that Thomas had been suffering from cancer.

Comedian Thomas played hockey player LeBec, husband to Carla (Rhea Perlman) in the long-running sitcom Cheers from 1987 to 1989. He also played the role of tabloid talk-show host Jerry Gold on Murphy Brown for nearly a decade from 1989 to 1998, which earned him two Emmy awards for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series in 1990 and 1991.

“Jay Thomas was one of the funniest and kindest men I have had the honour to call both client and friend for 25 years plus,” his publicist Thomas Estey told Us Weekly. ”He will be dearly missed by so many,“ Mr Estey added.

Thomas starred as a sportswriter in sitcom Love & War from 1992 to 1995, as well as roles across a number of other programmes, including Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Cold Case and Boston Legal.

The actor's first role was in ABC's Mork and Mindy, with the late Robin Williams, while his last was on drama series Ray Donovan.

Thomas was a frequent guest on Late Night With David Letterman, often appearing on Letterman's show around Christmas from 1998 and re-telling the same anecdote about being involved in a car accident with Clayton Moore, star of TV's The Lone Ranger. He and Letterman would also take turns throwing an American football to try and dislodge a meatball from the top of a Christmas tree.

Talking about his appearances as a regular Christmas guest alongside Letterman in 2014, Thomas said "has been fun."

"I've always wanted to be one of those guys on late-night talk shows who everybody wants to see," he told The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. "Like on Carson, when [Don] Rickles would come out. I became that guy. And I love football, so my two big dreams were totally realised."