Ken Ober, a comedian and actor who as host of MTV’s “Remote Control” in the 1980s guided the raucous question-and-answer trivia contests on the irreverent cable TV game show, was found dead Sunday at his home in Santa Monica. He was 52.
Lee Kernis of Brillstein Entertainment Partners, who represented Ober, confirmed the death but said the cause was unknown. According to Kernis, friends said Ober had been feeling ill with a headache and flu-like symptoms Saturday and did not meet them later as planned. An autopsy is planned.
Ober was a stand-up comic when he landed the job as host of “Remote Control” in 1987. On a basement set featuring college-age contestants and audience members, Ober introduced categories spanning the universe of TV reruns -- beginning with the old black-and-white days of “Car 54, Where Are You?” and “Mr. Ed” but returning again and again to “The Brady Bunch.” If the players, who were strapped into garish reclining lounge chairs, answered correctly, they got to choose the next category. Those eliminated were ridiculed, then pitched backward in their chairs through the wall of the set.
Ober, who grew up transfixed by television, clearly had fun playing the host, even if it wasn’t his ultimate goal.
“I remember the first time it hit me,” Ober said in a 1989 interview with the San Diego Union Tribune. “I was in a supermarket line reading ‘TV Guide,’ and it said ‘Ken Ober, comma, TV game show host.’ And I said, ‘Oh, no, I’m a game show host.’ ”
Born July 3, 1957, in Boston, Ober studied communications and education at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He worked as a substitute teacher in Boston before performing in comedy clubs in New York.
Ober left “Remote Control” in 1989 to audition for acting jobs, but reruns of the show featuring Ober and other series regulars Colin Quinn and Denis Leary continued to air.
After acting in TV series such as “Parenthood,” “Who’s the Boss?” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Ober shifted his focus to writing and producing for the series “Mind of Mencia” and “The New Adventures of Old Christine.”
Ober, who was single, is survived by his mother, Claire Freeman of West Hartford, Conn.; his father, Burton, and stepmother, Iris, of Palm Beach, Fla., and a brother, Andrew, of Old Greenwich, Conn.