Supporting and occasional leading actor Charles Grodin built a successful career playing low-key, uptight, and frequently wholesome comic roles, with occasional turns as an arch-villain. Whereas many funnymen have been popular for their ability to overreact and mug their way around everyday obstacles, Grodin belonged, from the beginning, to the Bob Newhart school of wry comedy that values understatement and subtlety. Grodin learned to act under the guidance of Lee Strasberg and Uta Hagen before making his 1962 Broadway debut opposite Anthony Quinn in Tchin Tchin. Two years later, Grodin made his first film appearance in Joseph Adler's Sex and the College Girl. Though offered the leading role in The Graduate (1967), Grodin refused, thereby providing a lucky break for Dustin Hoffman. In 1968, he played a small but memorable role as a naive obstetrician in Rosemary's Baby, and then tackled another villainous role as heartless navigator Aarfy Aardvark in Mike Nichols's Catch-22.
Grodin got his big break when director and Nichols's former comedy partner Elaine May, who had been a longtime friend and mentor of the young actor, cast him in the lead of the Neil Simon-scripted The Heartbreak Kid (1972), in which he played a salesman who falls in love with Cybill Shepherd during his honeymoon. Though Steven Spielberg wanted him to play the role of shark expert Matt Hooper in Jaws (1974), Grodin preferred to direct the play Thieves on Broadway instead. In 1977, Grodin signed for the leading role in the film version. He also added spice as the villain in Warren Beatty and Buck Henry's remake of Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), Heaven Can Wait (1978). Since then, Grodin continued as a supporting actor in such films as The Woman in Red (1984) and The Couch Trip (1987).
After receiving rave reviews starring opposite Robert De Niro in the 1988 hit comedy Midnight Run, Grodin's career began to slow down. He played the long-suffering patriarch in the first two Beethoven films and turned in a memorable performance in 1993's Dave, but by 1995 Grodin had decided to switch gears, opting to host a talk show. After The Charles Grodin Show ran for several years on CNBC, Grodin later took a gig doing Andy Rooney-esque commentary on CBS's 60 Minutes II.