Dark-haired character actor Sam McMurray has made a career of playing gaseous windbags of low moral fiber, often adding a salacious sneer to heighten the effect. However, his comic persona also sometimes slants toward lovable obliviousness, making McMurray a desired commodity in broad comedy, as well as a sitcom mainstay.
The New York native got his start in acting with bit parts on television and in the movies in the late '70s and early '80s. In 1987, McMurray had a breakout year of sorts, appearing as a regular on The Tracey Ullman Show (which led to vocal work in the early seasons of The Simpsons) and snagging the film role for which he is best known. In Joel and Ethan Coen's Raising Arizona, McMurray was cast as Glen, Nicolas Cage's factory foreman boss, who runs afoul of Cage's H.I. McDonnough after he proposes swapping wives. In only a handful of scenes, McMurray creates an indelible and hilarious image of a loud, crass, humor-impaired buffoon who resides over a brood of ill-mannered children, but wants to add at least one more to the mix.
Raising Arizona paved the way for supporting work in a number of high-profile comedies in the ensuing years, including National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989), L.A. Story (1991), and Addams Family Values (1993). In 1991, he voiced a character in the Disney/ABC live-action TV show Dinosaurs; he would later also provide vocal work for the animated Disney program Recess (1997). Television has provided McMurray with his most regular paychecks, most often in the capacity of a guest performer, both in dramas and sitcoms. He guested as Chandler's boss on several episodes of Friends in 1997, and also made repeat appearances in such shows as The King of Queens, Freaks and Geeks, and Chicago Hope. His recent film work has included a shady detective in The Mod Squad (1999) and a scoundrel cheerleader dad in Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999).