On November 25, 1947 John Bernard Larroquette was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. His mother, Barthalla, was a department store clerk, and his father, John Edgar, was a Navy man. Growing up in New Orleans exposes an adolescent to many distinct diversions. John grew up an avid boater and hunter, with an appreciation for the French culture that is so prominent in New Orleans, but he was also exposed to a negative New Orleans attribute - alcohol.
Growing up, John followed a haphazard career path, but with a somewhat discernable direction. He polished his New Orleans accent, with the anticipation of working in radio. He eventually worked as a DJ in a New Orleans radio station for a short time, then moved to KRBE in Houston during the early 70’s.
His aspirations ultimately outgrew radio, and he moved to Los Angeles in '73, where he joined the Colony Theatre Company. In the company, John met his future wife Elizabeth during the production of “Enter Laughing.” Larroquette, an admitted anglophile, immediately fell for the very English Elizabeth.
In 1974 he got his first taste of film, with his unaccredited opening narration of the cult classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The February 2001 Premiere Magazine had this exchange with the film’s director and John:
Hooper (Director):We edited and scored the movie in my house. I needed a voice to read the opening crawl, and I asked John. I asked him to do a John Larroquette imitation of Orson Welles.
John:I just used my most senatorial, serious tone. There will be a footnote in my biography forever that I narrated The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But I’m the only person in America who hasn’t seen the movie.
During the 70’s and 80’s there was a noted, but rarely discussed, bout with alcoholism. John’s relatively reclusive nature being a celebrity has prevented the public from knowing the details of this period. Later, his experience with alcoholism and recovery would serve him in another TV venture. One of John’s most famous, and only, quotes on alcoholism comes from Larry King Live (aired July 10, 2000):
“I thought that once I got the cure, that I would be able to, you know, be a man and a gentleman and drink like an Earthling. And I was proven many times that I could not do that. You know, the old -- the man once told me that the definition of insanity is repetition of the same action expecting different results. So I just, you know, I'm just better without it.”
John hadn’t received a distinguishable movie or television role until 1981. He played the part of Captain Stillman in the Bill Murray and John Candy vehicle, Stripes. In that movie he played a self-indulged drill sergeant, more concerned with his own stature than the proper training of those underneath him. This part was a precursor to his largest acting success.
The year was 1984, and a new NBC sitcom situated in a Manhattan courthouse premiered. Night Court quickly became a hit. In it John played the part of Dan Fielding, an egotistical prosecutor primarily concerned with his very active, and often extravagant, sex life. Theoretically this character would seem shallow and bland, but his sheer grasp of the character’s spirit won him critical acclaim. John won the Emmy for “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series” four consecutive years (‘85 to ‘88); a record only matched by Helen Hunt. In ‘89 he asked that his work no longer be submitted for Emmy consideration.
During his time on Night Court he continued taking parts in motion pictures. Despite his apparent talent for acting, he was never able to find a suitable role. John had multiple small parts in films such as JFK and Meatballs 2, but his only starring role was in the disappointing Madhouse with Kirstie Alley. His roles in movies bounce from serious to trivial, giving the impression that movies have never been a serious ambition for him.
Night Court’s run ended in ‘92, but NBC executives didn’t want to lose their most prominent member of the cast. He was given an opportunity to create his own TV series. What spawned was The John Larroquette Show; a dark comedy where John plays a recovering alcoholic, who’s getting his life in order while managing the night shift at a Chicago bus station. It was a distinct jewel among the other formulaic sitcoms. Its balance of serious issues and dark humor was well received by critics, but struggled to find an audience. As per typical TV studio blundering, its time slot was repeatedly shifted further distancing itself from any fan base. NBC then began toying with the show’s themes, trying to brighten the show’s subject matter and increase viewers. This incessant meddling alienated the show from its unique personality, and was the catalyst for its cancellation in ‘96. The show currently runs in syndication on the USA Network, but has since been relegated to a 4:30am timeslot.
He continues his sporadic work on television. John won another Emmy in ‘98 for his guest appearance on The Practice, playing an upper class murderer who outsmarted the legal system. To date, his only major starring role on television was as Maury Manning in the ABC miniseries The 10th Kingdom. He’s remained out of the spotlight since The John Larroquette Show, and his only regular appearances are as host of A&E’s The Incurable Collector.
John Larroquette’s life is enigmatic, and his career has had moments of prestige and pedestrian. His movie role choices are by a guy who appears to have no intention of taking the medium seriously, while his television roles have varied from failed sitcoms and television movies, to award winning guest appearances. In addition, his stage-acting career is not well documented, with only sporadic parts in productions by the Colony Theatre Company. His life is out of the spotlight, and was so even during his peak playing Dan Fielding on Night Court. John realized that Hollywood couldn’t fulfill him with what he needed, so he takes his career secondary to his life. What does his life entail? Only he knows, but one can be certain it involves his wife, three children, and their home in Idaho.
Personal Note: Most readers will probably view this as a glorification of a man who’s had only a single determining role, playing a pervert lawyer on a popular show. Unfortunately, John doesn’t have sufficient credentials to properly dissipate those arguments. My only suggestion is to watch The John Larroquette Show’s first season, watch his appearances on The Practice, and consider his role as Dan Fielding. When I watch those performances, I see his impressive grasp of acting. He gives credibility to characters that would fail in the hands of lesser actors. A television actor and a movie actor are two different professions, and John is a premiere TV actor. His enigmatic tendencies only add to a fan’s curiosity. A celebrity who’s overcome alcoholism and not made a publicity campaign of it is as rare as it is commendable. Alcoholism is a personal battle, an embarrassing one, and its exploitation is disrespectful to others involved with the struggle.
Abridged Bibliography and Highlights:
02: Nominated for an Emmy for "Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series" for The Practice
01: The Incurable Collector – host
00: The 10th Kingdom – Maury Manning
98: Won an Emmy for "Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series" for The Practice
94: Richie Rich – Lawrence Van Dough
94: Nominated for an Emmy for "Outstanding Leading Actor in a Comedy Series" for The John Larroquette Show
93-96: The John Larroquette Show
91: JFK – Jerry Johnson
90: Madhouse – Mark Bannister
88: Won a Golden Globe for "Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Comedy" for Night Court
85-88: Won Emmy's for "Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series" for Night Court
84: Meatballs Part 2 – Lt. Felix Foxglove
84: Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock – Maltz
84-92: Night Court – Dan Fielding
81: Stripes – Captain Stillman
74: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – narrator
73: Joined the Colony Theatre Company
Night Court and The John Larroquette Show reruns
Any mistakes / suggestions / criticisms / comments / arguments / down-vote explanations appreciated, Woburn