Born November 15, 1929, in Kansas City, Missouri, Mr. Asner began his professional theatrical career in the Chicago comedy scene in 1953, following two years of military service. He co-founded Playwrights Theatre Company, who later regrouped as Compass Players, the predecessor of The Second City. He returned for several guest appearances with the famed comedy troupe.
A move to New York found him in the long-running 1955 Off-Broadway revival of The Threepenny Opera at Theatre de Lys in Greenwich Village. He made his Broadway debut in the short-lived play Face of Hero, starring Jack Lemmon.
However, it was his 1961 move to Los Angeles where the character actor really started to find success in the business, appearing in several television and film projects before he landed the role that would win him five Emmy awards. The character of Lou Grant was introduced to TV audiences in 1970 on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the title character's endearing crank of a boss at the Minneapolis news station. The show ran from 1970–1977, and Mr. Asner was nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series every year, winning three times. He won the Emmy twice again in the Best Actor category for Lou Grant, the drama series spin-off based on his sitcom character. Lou Grant aired from 1977–1982.
Mr. Asner won two more Emmys for his TV work in the 1976 mini-series Rich Man, Poor Man and in the 1977 mini-series Roots.
He returned to Broadway in 1989, starring as Harry Brock opposite Madeline Kahn's Billie Dawn in a revival of Born Yesterday. His final Broadway appearance was in the 2012 play Grace with Paul Rudd and Michael Shannon.
A new generation of audiences met Mr. Asner, again playing a lovable curmudgeon, in the 2009 animated movie Up. He also took a turn as Santa Claus in the hit holiday film Elf in 2003. Other film credits include Fort Apache, the Bronx and JFK. In more recent years he had been seen on the small screen with guest appearances in Dead to Me, Cobra Kai, The Good Wife, Grace and Frankie, and Hot in Cleveland, among many others.
The always-working performer was scheduled to appear in a staged reading of Two Jews, Talking with fellow TV veteran Jamie Farr at a North Carolina theatre in September.
Ed Asner is survived by four children and 10 grandchildren.