For 30 years, Close was known as the "father of improv," mentoring the likes of John Belushi, Bill Murray, and Mike Myers. But, four months after his death, he will play out a final role; he has bequeathed his skull to the Goodman Theater in Chicago.
Recalls Robert Falls, the theater's artistic director, "He said to me one time, 'I'd like to play Yorick.' And I said, 'Del, Yorick is the skull used in the graveyard scene' [in Hamlet]. And he goes, 'That's right.'"
Unfortunately, Hamlet isn't on the theater's schedule this year, but that isn't going to stop Close from appearing on the Goodman stage. Falls says he will find a role or a place for the Del Close skull on every set at Goodman Theater.
"He just wanted to keep working and basically have his last laugh on the world," explains Charna Halpern, Close's business partner in ImprovOlympic.
His friend Falls says Close will live on as an actor through his skull, "and there's something kind of wonderful about that."
Close directed the Second City comedy troupe in Chicago for 12 years, and co-created SCTV. He also was a performer with the Compass Players, which included Mike Nichols and Elaine May and eventually evolved into Second City. Close also worked as acting coach for Saturday Night Live.
His film credits include The Public Eye (1992), Opportunity Knocks (1990), Fat Man and Little Boy (1989), The Blob (1988), The Untouchables (1986), Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), Thief (1981), and American Graffiti (1973).