The Amazing Career Of Jerry Adler

FROM November, 2016 in Connecticut Magazine

It’s been several weeks since Jerry Adler tripped and fractured his leg while filming his final scene in the CBS series The Good Wife. Adler, 87, played Howard Lyman, a randy, politically incorrect attorney.

But now, confined to his Roxbury home — just down the road from series law partner Christine Baranski — he was getting antsy and welcomed a journalist eager to hear about his two careers.


For the past 25 years Adler has become a late-in-life actor, with continuing roles in The Sopranos (as Tony Soprano’s Jewish mob mentor, Hesh), Northern Exposure (as Joel’s rabbi), Rescue Me (as Chief Sidney Feinberg) and Mad About You (building super Mr. Wicker). He’s also acted in films and on stage, most recently on Broadway in Larry David’s Fish in the Dark and in Connecticut Rep’s The Sunshine Boys and It’s Connecticut.

ut the first 65 years were no chopped liver either, working as stage manager, producer or director on some of the greatest shows (including the world premiere of My Fair Lady at New Haven’s Shubert Theatre) and with some of the leading figures of the Golden Age of the American theater.

“There are very few of us left from that era, kiddo,” says the Brooklyn-born Adler.

Theater was the family business. His great uncle was Jacob Adler of the Yiddish Theatre; his father was Philip Adler, the general manager of the legendary ’30s Group Theatre; and his cousins included actor Luther Adler and famed acting teacher Stella Adler.

“I thought I was too goofy-looking to be an actor,” he says, so Adler set his sights on off-stage roles, starting in 1950 as assistant stage manager for the musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes starring Carol Channing.

His next backstage job was with the revival of Of Thee I Sing, directed by George S. Kaufman, who was also a playwright of classic comedies, known for his quick, acerbic wit.