HomeLife StyleMichael Batayeh, Comedian and ‘Breaking Bad’ Actor, Dies at 52

Michael Batayeh, Comedian and ‘Breaking Bad’ Actor, Dies at 52

Michael Batayeh, an actor best known for his brief role in the Emmy-winning series “Breaking Bad” and a comedian who was popular in the Arab American community, died at his home in Ypsilanti, Mich. He was 52.

His sister Ida Vergollo said he died on June 1 in his sleep after a heart attack. A coroner later found issues with his heart, she said.

Mr. Batayeh appeared in “Breaking Bad” as Dennis Markowski, the steady manager of a laundromat that was a front for a meth lab. The character was killed after he showed interest in speaking to the Drug Enforcement Administration in exchange for immunity.

As a comedian, Mr. Batayeh performed in major clubs in New York City and Los Angeles, as well as around the country and internationally.

He also had credits on several popular television series, including “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “The Bernie Mac Show” and “Boy Meets World.”

Mr. Batayeh’s role as a cabdriver on “Everybody Loves Raymond” in 1998 signaled to his family that he had arrived as an entertainer, according to Ms. Vergollo, “because that’s when my dad first saw his last name on TV.” She said, “My dad was so proud of him and let him know that.”

Michael Anthony Batayeh was born on Dec. 27, 1970, in Detroit, the seventh child of Abraham, a Ford factory worker, and Victoria (Dababneh).

The couple immigrated to the United States from Jordan in 1955. Michael Batayeh attended Wayne State University for three years before dropping out and moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the arts and start his own comedy troupe with a friend.

“He was actually made to be a performer since he was very, very young,” said Ms. Vergollo, who recalled that her brother began playing the tabla, a pair of hand drums, at 5 years old and continued throughout his adult life.

“My dad used to drag him up onstage at all the weddings,” she said.

Mr. Batayeh is survived by his sisters Ida Vergollo, Diane Batayeh-Ricketts, MaryAnn Joseph, Madeline Sherman and Theresa Aquino. His eldest sister, Jeannie Batayeh, died from cancer in 2016.

Mr. Batayeh often used his family as fodder for comedy. “He made fun of us a lot,” Ms. Vergollo said.

And an affinity for accents made him popular in the Arab American community, said Ms. Vergollo, who called him “so spot on.”

At the invitation of the Jordanian royal family, his sisters said, he performed at a comedy festival in Amman, Jordan’s capital. He was also featured in a comedy special for Showtime Arabia.

The family is asking for memorial contributions to an organization that provides recreation and mentoring programs for youth in southwest Detroit.

“He would voice to us how important it was and how good he felt when he went back home and talked to kids or mentored people who wanted to start out,” Ms. Vergollo said.

“He cared about his community and wanted to give back,” she said, “and that’s the type of person he was.”

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