It’s always a little awkward when someone is as hard-working as David Proval, and your first thought remains, “Oh, right, he played Head Thug in UHF!” However, while Proval may have gotten his real start in Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets, a fair chunk of his career has featured a lot of cult classics, which he must know as well as anyone does. You can’t be in Monster Squad—not to mention on the original TV show—without knowing that about yourself. All the L.A. Law and Cinderella Liberty in the world won’t change that.
Proval is eighty-one and has four things listed as “in production” on IMDb. He’ll be playing himself in a short called “Written for Walken.” One of the other four is a desperately heartwarming movie about a dog. One is about an adult movie star in ‘70s and ‘80s New York. The fourth is about mobsters. That’s kind of the range Proval has had his entire career, albeit with one or two “Hey, I’ve heard of that” scattered in. It’s hard to mock performances on The Sopranos or West Wing.
But you know, there’s nothing wrong with a career like that, as we’ve established, and if nothing else there’s something for everyone in it. If you somehow don’t like Quantum Leap, there’s always Judging Amy. If you don’t love Raymond, maybe you like the ‘90s Brady Bunch movie. It doesn’t matter if you prefer Cagney and Lacey to Miami Vice, there’s a Proval performance in it for you. Snooze might not be the most memorable character in Shawhsank—I had to look him up; he’s one of the other convicts—but it’s still a pretty good job.
So okay, a lot of his roles are of the “I had to look him up” variety. If you have an encyclopedic memory of Pretender episodes, you might know that Jarod had to save him from execution once in the first season. And even that’s likely more memorable than “Mr. Grant (uncredited)” in Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous. And, yeah, the Rockford Files movies are bad enough that I’m not going to rewatch them and figure out who he is. Still, there’s a lot of variety there and a lot notable movies and TV shows, even if the characters aren’t the best known.
So sure, I know him best as Head Thug, but Head Thug’s a pretty noteworthy character. He’s the one who kidnaps Stanley in order to prevent the station’s fundraiser from succeeding. He has to confront Weird Al in mid-Rambo fantasy. He’s also the psychiatrist in the episode where Sam leaps into a mental hospital, and that’s an intense episode all the way ‘round. Small but pivotal. And even without those, we’ve talked many times before about the need for minor actors in Hollywood. Proval’s had a more visible career than other people we’ve covered!