Len Lesser
Len Lesser was a veteran character actor best known for his recurring role as Uncle Leo on “Seinfeld." (Craig Schwartz)

Len Lesser

Veteran character actor

Len Lesser, 88, a veteran character actor best known for his recurring role in the 1990s as Uncle Leo on the hit NBC-TV comedy "Seinfeld," died Wednesday in Burbank, publicist Laura Stegman said. He had pneumonia and cancer.

Starting in the early 1950s, Lesser built a reputation for mostly playing the heavy in dozens of movies and hundreds of TV appearances, while nurturing his love of the theater. But the bald, hook-nosed actor took his career to a higher plane once he established himself as Jerry Seinfeld's annoying Uncle Leo with his trademark greeting "Hello!"

"He's the kind of guy who is a total nuisance at times and the kind of guy you avoid," Lesser said of Uncle Leo in a 1998 interview with The Times. "He's a very expansive character, and that has an attraction to it."

Born Dec. 3, 1922, in New York, Lesser received a bachelor's degree in economics and government from the City College of New York in 1942. He served in the Army during World War II, then returned to New York to study acting.

He moved to Los Angeles in 1954 and began working in television and commercials. Movie roles followed, including small parts in "Kelly's Heroes," "Papillon" and "The Outlaw Josey Wales."

Besides "Seinfeld," he also had a recurring role on the CBS sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond" as Raymond's father's friend Garvin.

He appeared frequently on local stages, including in "Cold Storage" at the Gnu Theatre in 1993, "Cantorial" at the Actors Alley in 1992 and "Awake and Sing!" at A Noise Within last year.