'00s Sitcom Stars Who Died Tragically

The '00s sitcom scene proved to be an interesting time for the genre as it continued to grow up and change from what had come before. The shows evolved and became smarter, such as "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Arrested Development," or they pushed the limits of their ratings, such as "Two and a Half Men" and "Eastbound & Down." Needless to say, it wasn't a boring time for sitcom fans, as the variety of options ensured there was always something to watch and laugh along with and at the shenanigans of these memorable characters and unpredictable situations.

Life is unforgiving, though, and nobody makes it out alive in the end — sitcom actors included. Just because they make everyone else laugh doesn't give them a free pass from the grim reaper's scythe. The harbinger of death comes for us all — sometimes a tad bit earlier than anyone might have expected. With that said, let's take a look at the '00s sitcom stars who left us far too soon and in sad circumstances.

Conchata Ferrell

Conchata Ferrell was no newcomer by the time "Two and a Half Men" hit the screens in 2003. She possessed a rich list of credits, having appeared in shows such as "L.A. Law" and "Hearts Afire" in significant supporting roles. However, it was her part as Charlie Harper's housekeeper, Berta, that turned out to be the best-known performance of her career.

Despite the focus of "Two and a Half Men" being first on Charlie, his brother Alan, and nephew Jake, then on the trio of Alan, Jake, and newcomer Walden Schmidt, Berta was ever-present in the storylines. As a straight-shooting, no-nonsense character, she possessed quick wit and was never afraid to remind the characters she wasn't there to clean up their mess — both figuratively and literally. Ferrell would receive two Primetime Emmy nominations for her role as Berta.

In October 2020, Ferrell died at Sherman Oaks Hospital following complications she experienced after cardiac arrest, as reported by Deadline. The 77-year-old actor was remembered by her co-star Charlie Sheen, who posted the following tribute to her on X, formerly known as Twitter: "An absolute sweetheart, a consummate pro, a genuine friend ... Berta, your housekeeping was a tad suspect, your 'people' keeping was perfect."

Jackson Odell

While Jackson Odell might be better known for his role as Ari Caldwell in "The Goldbergs," he also had a brief stint on "Modern Family" where he appeared in the first and fourth seasons of the sitcom. The actor played Ted Durkas, who attends the same school as Manny Delgado and Luke Dunphy. It wasn't a major part by any means, but it was a high-profile credit for the young actor at the time, and he went on to appear in "iCarly," "The Fosters," "Arrested Development," and eventually "The Goldbergs."

In June 2018, Odell was found dead at a sober living home in Los Angeles, California. People confirmed with the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office that the actor died of an accidental drug overdose. Odell was only 20 years old.

His family released a statement on his X account, writing: "He will always be a shining light and a brilliant, loving and talented soul. He had so much more to share. Our family will always carry that truth forward. Our wish is that the rest of the world who knew and loved him does as well."

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Carol Ann Susi

A recurring gag on "The Big Bang Theory" featured Howard Wolowitz's mother — known as Mrs. Wolowitz — appearing off screen. Fans would hear Howard's overprotective mother and her pearls of wisdom — usually at the most inopportune of times — but they would never physically see her. Although, there's a quick flash of her at Howard and Bernadette Rostenkowski's wedding in the Season 5 finale of the show.

Playing the role of Mrs. Wolowitz was Carol Ann Susi, who also appeared in other sitcoms such as "The King of Queens," "Married... with Children," and "Seinfeld." In November 2014, Susi died at the age of 62 from cancer. According to Deadline, her cancer was only discovered a week and a half before her death.

Co-star Melissa Rauch posted a sweet message to her on-screen mother-in-law on X. She wrote: "So grateful to have known Carol Ann Susi who brought laughter & light with her always. She'll forever be in my heart."

Sam Lloyd

The nephew of "Back to the Future" star Christopher Lloyd, Sam Lloyd carved out his own legacy in the comedy genre. He appeared in a number of sitcoms throughout the '90s and '00s, popping up in everything from "3rd Rock from the Sun" to "Malcolm in the Middle." However, it was his recurring role as lawyer Ted Buckland in "Scrubs" that turned him into a household name. In fact, he even reprised his part for a few episodes of "Cougar Town."

Unlike other television lawyers who come across as pompous or cocky, Ted was a sad figure who served Sacred Heart Hospital. He didn't seem to like himself or his job all that much and it was heavily implied that he was terrible in the courtroom as well. Nonetheless, he became an endearing character that the audience couldn't get enough of on screen.

In May 2020, Variety reported that Lloyd died at the age of 56 due to complications associated with lung cancer. A year before that, the actor was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, and the cancer had spread to other areas of his body by the time of his death.

Ken Howard

From theater to television and film, Ken Howard had a star-studded career filled with a number of unforgettable performances in high-profile productions such as "Clear and Present Danger," "Murder, She Wrote," and "Melrose Place." Naturally, he ventured into the world of sitcoms, too. In the '00s, Howard appeared as Ken Abbot in two episodes of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," as well as guest starring in episodes of "The Office" and "George Lopez."

Behind the camera, Howard was also elected as president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and served as the first president of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA).

In March 2016, Howard died at the age of 71. As The Hollywood Reporter reported, he had been receiving hospital treatment for shingles, while also having been diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer nine years earlier. Speaking about Howard to THR, Robert Duvall said: "Ken was a really decent and talented man. We had wonderful conversations. At any time of the day you could approach him and have a welcome visit and talk about any subject that came up. It was a pleasure to be around him."

Ben Best

"Eastbound & Down," created by the trio of Danny McBride, Ben Best, and Jody Hill, is mostly remembered for McBride's iconic and hilarious turn as the inimitable Kenny Powers, the disgraced baseball star with the foul mouth that needs several bars of soap to clean it out. Best also had a memorable turn as Kenny's old high-school pal and bartender Clegg in several episodes of the sports-themed sitcom.

As an actor, Best appeared in other comedies such as "Observe and Report," "Land of the Lost," and "Superbad," while as a writer, he contributed to the likes of "The Foot Fist Way" and "Your Highness."

In September 2021, production company Rough House Pictures announced Best's death on its Instagram account. The post read: "It's with heavy hearts we say goodbye to our good buddy Ben Best. We lost him the day before he would have turned 47. A hell of a friend and a creative force. He inspired us and made us laugh. Charming and hilarious. Gone way too soon. We love and miss you."

Shelley Berman

Shelley Berman had a storied career that spanned several decades across film, television, and stand-up comedy. He shared the screen with everyone from Robert De Niro (in "Meet the Fockers") to Richard Dean Anderson (in "MacGyver"). His journey through the world of entertainment resulted in him appearing in popular sitcoms such as "Night Court," "Friends," and "The King of Queens." However, one of his most recognizable performances came about in "Curb Your Enthusiasm," where he played Larry David's father, Nat David, across multiple episodes. The role also catapulted Berman back into the public sphere, and he even confessed how it brought with it a level of attention that he hadn't imagined.

In September 2017, Berman died at the age of 92. As per The New York Times' obituary, the actor's publicist confirmed that he passed away due to the complications of Alzheimer's disease, after dealing with the illness for many years.

Bernie Mac

Bernie Mac lit up the '90s with his special brand of comedy. Achieving success as a stand-up comedian, he quickly transitioned into the world of acting, appearing as Pastor Clever in "Friday" and Uncle Bernie in "Moesha." However, the '00s is when his star burned the brightest. From the "Ocean's Eleven" franchise to "Transformers," Mac showed up in some of the biggest blockbusters of the era.

He also received his own sitcom in 2001 titled "The Bernie Mac Show," which ran for five successful seasons. The show featured guest appearances from a large number of celebrities, including the likes of Chris Rock, Ice Cube, and Matt Damon.

In August 2008, Mac died at the age of 50 from complications associated with pneumonia. Mac had sarcoidosis, which, according to the Cleveland Clinic, affects the immune system and causes lumps to appear on organs. However, his publicist confirmed his death wasn't related to the illness. Remembering Mac, actor Don Cheadle said (via CBS2): "This is a very sad day for many of us who knew and loved Bernie. He brought so much joy to so many. He will be missed, but heaven just got funnier."

Hugh Dane

"The Office" fans didn't have a shortage of characters to adore and loathe on the U.S. version of the workplace sitcom. However, a fan-favorite character was the security guard Hank, who interacted with the Scranton employees of Dunder Mifflin on a regular basis and also engaged in the general tomfoolery. Actor Hugh Dane played Hank as the character featured from the second to the ninth season of the show.

Before "The Office," Dane portrayed smaller roles in sitcoms such as "Friends," "Boy Meets World," and "Sister, Sister." However, it was his antics as Hank alongside the likes of Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute that proved to be the most memorable performance of his career. 

In May 2018, Dane died from pancreatic cancer, as covered by TMZ (via People). Co-star Rainn Wilson posted a touching tribute to the actor on X, writing: "RIP Hugh Dane, aka Hank the security guard. He was one of the greats. So kind, funny, talented. We will all miss him." Dane was 75 years old.

Bob Einstein

Actor and writer Bob Einstein was every bit as talented as his younger brother, Albert Brooks. He first made a name for himself by creating the comedic stuntman Super Dave Osborne in the '70s. As the sketch routine took off, he became a regular on the variety television circuit and went on to become an Emmy Award-winning performer.

With the comedic juice running strong in the family, Einstein also found his way into the sitcom genre. Two of his most famous roles were as Marty Funkhouser in "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and Larry Middleman on "Arrested Development." In the former, Marty provided a wealth of entertaining and hilarious scenes, as his interactions with Larry David delighted fans.

In January 2019, Einstein died at the age of 76. As per Deadline, he had been diagnosed with cancer shortly before his death. Brooks posted a message about his sibling on X, stating: "R.I.P. My dear brother Bob Einstein. A great brother, father and husband. A brilliantly funny man. You will be missed forever."

Johnny Lewis

By the time of his death, Johnny Lewis was perhaps better known for playing Half-Sack in "Sons of Anarchy" and Chili in "The O.C.," but he spent a good chunk of the '00s appearing in sitcoms too. One of his first starring roles was as Gilby in "The Sausage Factory," where he shared the screen with his future "O.C." co-star Adam Brody. Lewis also had a brief run as Scottie on "Drake & Josh," before starring in 2004's "Quintuplets" where he plays Pearce Chase — one of the aforementioned quintuplets.

In September 2012, news reports surfaced that the 28-year-old actor was found dead on his 81-year-old landlady Catherine Davis' driveway. According to the police's comments to Yahoo, the belief is that Lewis killed Davis, who was found dead inside her home, as well as her cat. Lewis is alleged to have also gotten into an altercation with two men outside of Davis' house. Initially, it was unclear if Lewis jumped or fell from the roof of Davis' home; however, his death was eventually ruled accidental.

"Sons of Anarchy" creator Kurt Sutter posted about Lewis' passing on his now-deleted X account (via EW), stating: "It was a tragic end for an extremely talented guy, who unfortunately had lost his way. I wish I could say that I was shocked by the events last night, but I was not. I am deeply sorry that an innocent life had to be thrown into his destructive path."

John Witherspoon

When it comes to paternal figures in comedy, there's an argument to be made that John Witherspoon was the funniest of the lot. From Willie Jones in "Friday" to Pops in "The Wayans Bros.," Witherspoon delivered a number of performances that had audiences in stitches throughout his legendary 40-year-plus career.

While he'll mostly be remembered for his role as Pops, he also lent his talents to another iconic '00s show: "The Boondocks." In the animated series, Witherspoon played Granddad Freeman. The character loved his grandsons, Huey and Riley, but he would also lose his temper with them over their behavior at times.

In October 2019, Deadline published a statement from Witherspoon's family confirming his passing. It read: "It is with deepest sorrow that we can confirm our beloved husband and father, John Witherspoon, one of the hardest working men in show business, died today at his home in Sherman Oaks at the age of 77." Later reports confirmed that he died from a heart attack.

Patrice O'Neal

Patrice O'Neal began his career as a stand-up comedian in the '90s. As he built up a following and the gigs became bigger and bigger, more opportunities opened up for him in Hollywood. In the '00s, he took the leap into film and television, starring in all sorts of productions, such as "Head of State" and "The Jury." O'Neal also appeared in two popular sitcoms of the era: "Arrested Development" and "The Office." In the latter, he had a small role as the warehouse worker Lonny. Due to his imposing size, Lonny wouldn't back down from Michael Scott whenever the regional manager decided to conjure up one of his harebrained schemes.

As per his New York Times obituary, O'Neal died in November 2011 at the age of 41. According to his agent, the actor experienced a stroke in October of that year. He was then hospitalized and died from complications arising from his stroke. Fellow comedian Dane Cook posted a photo and message to O'Neal on X, writing: "I started my career [with] Patrice O'Neal. He was 1 of the best ever. Fond memories of road gigs, late night eats & laughs."