Erdman's passing was first reported on Saturday by film historian Alan K. Rode on Twitter. It caused an outpouring of love from fans and colleagues, but no further details were immediately available. Erdman hailed from Oklahoma originally, but his film and television credits reveal a lifetime spent in Hollywood.
Erdman is most recognizable in recent years for playing Leonard Rodriguez, the elderly prankster of Greendale Community College. The character began as a joke about retirees filling the halls of community colleges and blossomed into a chaotic figure that could not be predicted and could talk circles around Jeff Winger (Joel McHale).
Goodbye pal. Dick Erdman 1925-2019 pic.twitter.com/oA9pjz04O9— Alan K. Rode (@alancinephile) March 17, 2019
Over the course of Community's six season run, Leonard was seen skinny-dipping in broad daylight, vandalizing school property, stealing the dean's car and drinking on campus. In spite of his advanced age he took part in every major schoolwide event on the show, including paintball fights and pillow fort construction.
Erdman's Community co-stars took to social media on Saturday to mourn with the rest of the fans. As the news spread, one of the first people to say their piece about Erdman was Ken Jeong, who played Senor Chang on the series.
"Rest In Peace, Richard," the comedian tweeted. "Thank you for blessing us with your brilliance." Jeong then retweeted many fans who replied with their favorite GIFs of Leonard, or anecdotes about Erdman.
In honor of Richard, a page of Shut Up Leonard jokes. pic.twitter.com/MzlBaCnCYQ— Andy Bobrow (@abobrow) March 17, 2019
"Ugh, awful. I just looked at his IMDb two days ago and was reminded about what a legend he was," added Charley Koontz, who played Neil. "Sweet, funny and game for anything. Plus great Brando stories. What more was there even left to do? RIP to legend [and] friend Richard Erdman."
Community writer Andy Bobrow even shared an old page full of the show's classic "shut up, Leonard" punchlines in honor of Erdman's death on Saturday night.
Outside of the zany sitcom, Erdman had a career any performer would envy. He began his professional work as a teenager when he signed a contract with Warner Bros., based largely on his audition with director Michael Curtiz, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He played a long list of soldiers, sailors and sharp-tongued blue-collar characters over the years.
Some of Erdman's best-loved roles include his character Leo in The Men (1950), which a critic once praised his acting above the performance of Marlon Brando in the same film.
"Mr. Brando is impressive, however, he has a few things to learn from a Hollywood actor named Richard Erdman," wrote New York Times critic Bosley Crowther at the time.0comments
He also had starring roles in Cry Danger, Stalag 17 and many other lauded films over the years.
Fans have continued to eulogize Erdman online throughout the weekend.