Of all the indelible characters created on the beloved sketch comedy series Mad TV, few left as lasting an impression as Stuart. The dopey, vacant, sometimes scary little boy was played by Michael McDonald, the series’ longest-running cast member. But while Mad TV fans can instantly recognize Stuart, they might not know McDonald right away—he’s had an active career outside of the show, but he looks a lot different without the pasty makeup and bowl-cut wig. Read on to find out what else you might have seen McDonald in, and to see what he looks like now at 57.
Not to be confused with the singer of the same name—or a number of professional athletes—comedian and actor Michael McDonald joined the cast of Mad TV for the fourth season in 1998, starting as a featured player but getting a promotion to full-time halfway through the season. McDonald’s 10-season run made him the longest-running cast member. During his stint on the show, he created a number of recurring characters, including Stuart, but also Rusty Miller, Fightin’ Ron, and Marvin Tikvah, among others.
In a 2010 interview with Media Mikes, McDonald revealed the origin of the Stuart character. “A lot of the characters I did on MadTV, I originally developed on stage at a local improv theater in LA called [the] Groundlings,” he revealed. “Stuart, to name one, was what I like to call little dark windows from the past. The relationship between Stuart and his mother, played so brilliantly by Mo Collins, was based on the relationship I had with my mom. I would often just take things that happened and put that into sketches. When I originally gave the script to Mo, she read it and said, ‘Michael, this is really sick,’ and my response was, ‘Well, the year was 1975.'”
While McDonald’s background is in improv, he’s dabbled in plenty of scripted fare as well, with appearances on classic sitcoms like Seinfeld, Just Shoot Me, NewsRadio, and Scrubs. He served as a writer, director, and producer on the series Cougar Town.
“I’m so fortunate to be working with such talented and friendly people, we do have a lot of fun [on Cougar Town],” he told LAist in a 2011 interview. “I couldn’t ask for a better boss [Courteney Cox].”
McDonald also continues to book gigs as a stand-up comedian. In a 2014 interview with The Laugh Button, the funny man explained that his schedule allows for him to perform onstage during his TV downtime. “I like to perform—with television especially, there’s kind of a season, so you have a good four months when you’re off, and it’s kind of the perfect fit. It’s almost like—not a summer job, because it’s not respectful to stand-up to call it that. It just works out timing-wise and scratches that performing itch.”
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If the now 57-year-old McDonald looks familiar to you, it may be because of his role in the 2021 hit horror sequel Halloween Kills. McDonald played the character Little John, living with his husband Big John (Scott McArthur) in masked killer Michael Myers’ childhood home. Looking very different than he did on Mad TV decades prior, McDonald has a few memorable moments, including a heartbreaking death scene. For Bloody Disgusting, writer Jason Scott called out the positive LGBTQ+ representation in a Halloween film, writing, “Their deaths are as brutal as you’d expect with a film called Halloween Kills, but the aftermath is oddly touching.”
Other recent roles for McDonald include Spy, The Boss, Ghostbusters, and The Happytime Murders, all featuring fellow Groundlings alum Melissa McCarthy. McDonald has appeared in episodes of the series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the latter of which he also directed 12 episodes of. And while you won’t see him onscreen, you can hear his voice as Harold McBride on The Loud House, where he and Wayne Brady have voiced Nickelodeon’s first gay couple since their debut in 2016.
In his interview with LAist, McDonald acknowledged that he’s had hecklers at his comedy shows who are eager for him to revisit his iconic Mad TV character. “A lot of times it’s fans who are just a bit out of hand—they’re just really excited to see me, so why would I yell at them?” he said. “You do get the people who really want to see me do Stuart.”
The LAist interviewer called McDonald an “amazing success story,” which the comedy star admitted he was uncertain about before agreeing. “I don’t know, I think if you presented me with all the thing I had to go through… because there certainly were some tough times, you know?” he said. “But then I think about a lot of the things I’ve done, and some of the great people I’ve worked with… I’ll say yes!”