We knew Shelley Berman as Larry David's fictional father on "Curb Your Enthusiasm", an elderly gnomish Jew with oversized glasses whose obliviousness was the source of much cringe-worthy amusement.
But Berman was more than a late-life actor; he was a full-fledged comedian, whose pioneering style revolutionized stand-up comedy in the 50s and 60s. Did we say stand-up? Well, actually Berman was the first comedian to... sit down during his act.
Berman's innovations went beyond using a chair. Before him, comedians unleashed a stream of one-liners. Together with colleagues like Mort Sahl and Lenny Bruce (all Jews, natch), Berman transformed comedy into storytelling. What distinguished him from his contemporaries is that Berman focused on observational humor; he was one of the first to point out life's little nuisances and blow them up for the sake of comedy.
So, one can say that Berman wasn't just David's fictional father... he was his spiritual father as well.