Beloved comic TV actor Bill Daily has died in New Mexico at 91, THR reports. His death, from natural causes, was confirmed by his son.
Born in Iowa, Daily's career in entertainment began in a comedic jazz trio. He studied to be a theatrical director at the Goodman Theatre School in Chicago, where he would go on to work at WGN and write and star in a daily variety show called "Club 60" for WMAQ-TV.
Bob Newhart was his accountant at the time, before the two men became TV stars.
While working for "The Mike Douglas Show" behind the scenes, Daily caught the eye of TV pioneer Steve Allen, who recommended him for an appearance on the sitcom "Bewitched," his 1964 TV debut. Along with appearances on the sitcoms "My Mother the Car" and "The Farmer's Daughter," that spot led to his casting as Major Roger Healey on "I Dream of Jeannie" (1965-1970).
Our favorite zany astronaut, Bill Daily has passed. Billy was wonderful to work with. He was a funny, sweet man that kept us all on our toes. I'm so thankful to have known and worked with that rascal. Until we meet again Billy, xo -B #RIPBillDaily pic.twitter.com/OVZjaWB9CP
A pilot created around him failed to go to series, but a winning guest spot on "Mary Tyler Moore" (1972) paved the way for Daily's other most famous gig, as kooky Howard Borden on "The Bob Newhart Show" (1972-1978) — playing second banana to his former accountant, who had since become a comedy icon.
A classic Daily reaction on "The Bob Newhart Show," with Newhart and Newhart's TV wife Suzanne Pleshette
After that series ended, Daily acted frequently on TV until the late '90s, including recurring roles on "Aloha Paradise" (1981), "Small & Frye" (1983), "Starting from Scratch" (1988-1989), and "ALF" (1987-1989); an "I Dream of Jeannie" reunion special in 1985; and a visit to his old co-star's next series, "Newhart," in 1990. He was also a regular on the game show "Match Game" throughout the '70s.
Daily reuniting with original "Jeannie" castmates Hayden Rourke & Barbara Eden, plus newcomer Wayne Rogers, in 1985
His final appearance was in the film "Horrorween" (2011).
Daily, an advocate for adoption, adopted two of his three children. He was married three times, and was preceded in death by his wife Becky and two of his children. He is survived by his son, J. Patrick Daily, and his daughter-in-law.
Daily was said to have requested no funeral, but instead a party, an outlook reflected in Bob Newhart's remembrance of him on Twitter:
Bill Daily & I go back to Chicago in the 50's. He and I were both trying to get into standup. Later, he joined the Bob Newhart Show. He was our bullpen guy - you could always go to him. He was one of the most positive people I've ever known. I will miss him dearly