US Magazine
June 15, 1987

Perfect Strangers' Straight Man

Written by: Sheila Rogers


NEW YORK - As he strolls through the East Village on a cool spring day, it's easy to see that Mark Linn-Baker is in his element.  He looks fondly at Joseph Papp's Public Theater: "That's where I did Alice in Concert with Meryl Streep," he says.  Usually at this time of year, he'd be doing some theater or teaching at Vassar.  Instead, Baker, 32, has to go back to L.A. in a few days to shoot the second full season of Perfect Strangers.  Thus, his mildly melancholic mood.  "I don't ever know where I live," he declares.

Baker is nonetheless proud of his work as Larry Appleton, the timid Chicago photojournalist who plays straight man to Bronson Pinchot's offbeat Balki, a distant Mediterranean cousin.  "The humor of the show," Baker says, "is the two characters leading each other through life -- the blind leading the blind."  The show's made him a star, but his heart is still with the stage.  The Yale School of Drama grad has appeared in everything from Shakespeare (All's Well That Ends Well) to Garry Trudeau (the Broadway production of Doonesbury).  His first national exposure came in the 1982 film My Favorite Year, in which he co-starred with Peter O'Toole.

Baker shares his Manhattan loft with dancer Jennifer Muller, his girlfriend of three years.  It's a comfortable space, but by no means is it lavish.  "I go under the assumption that the last paycheck was the last paycheck," he says nervously.  He's still trying to cope with success.  "I'm having to learn how to work and live at the same time, " he explains.  "I'm used to doing theater -- when I'm in rehearsal for theater, I don't do anything else.  When the show opens and it's running, then the rest of my life resumes.  But doing a TV job like this, it goes on."  He sighs, then smiles, "I've never had a job that's lasted this long."