Peter Crombie, the actor who was probably best known for playing the role of “Crazy” Joe Davola on five episodes of the hit television sitcom “Seinfeld,” died on Wednesday in a health care facility in Palm Springs, Calif. He was 71.
Crombie had been recovering from unspecified surgery, said his ex-wife, Nadine Kijner, who confirmed his death.
In his role as Davola, Crombie played a temperamental character who stalks Jerry — a semi-fictionalized version of the comedian Jerry Seinfeld — and develops a deep hatred of him.
Tall and lanky, Crombie’s character had a flat, borderline menacing affect and an unblinking 1,000-yard stare. In the series, he also stalked the tough New Yorker Elaine, in one case plastering a wall of his apartment with black-and-white surveillance photos of her.
Crombie was born on June 26, 1952, and grew up in a neighborhood outside of Chicago.
His father was an art teacher, and his mother taught home economics, Ms. Kijner said. Crombie trained at the Yale School of Drama before moving to New York.
Crombie and Kijner met in Boston in the late 1980s before marrying in 1991. Though they divorced after about six years of marriage, the two remained friends.
“He was like a rock,” she said. “He was someone you could always call and lean on.”
Kijner said Crombie is survived by a brother, Jim. She said Crombie stepped back from acting around 2000, and worked on his other passion, one of which was writing.
The comedian Lewis Black commemorated Crombie on social media, calling him a “wonderful actor” and an “immensely talented writer.”
“More importantly he was as sweet as he was intelligent and I am a better person for knowing him,” Mr. Black wrote.
Larry Charles, a “Seinfeld” writer, also mourned Mr. Crombie.
“His portrayal of Joe Davola managed to feel real and grounded and psychopathic and absurd and hilarious all at the same time,” Mr. Charles wrote on social media. “This was a juxtaposition I was always seeking on my Seinfeld episodes and reached a climax of sorts with ‘The Opera.’ Seinfeld was a sitcom that could make you uncomfortable and no guest actor walked that line better than Peter.”