‘M*A*S*H’: Comedian Robert Klein Turned Down Role of Trapper John as Well as ‘Night Court’ Starring Role

by Anna Dunn
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Comedian Robert Klein Turned down the role of Trapper John in M*A*S*H as well as the starring role in Night Court. Those are two major roles, but Klein felt they weren’t for him at the time, though he later went on to regret his decision to reject the Night Court role.

Robert Klein is a comedian whose career soared to new heights in the 70s and 80s. But he wasn’t keen to take on many of the roles that were offered to him. In the book Comedy at the Edge: How Stand-up in the 1970s Changed America, it’s revealed the Klein rejected the iconic M*A*S*H role because his stand-up career was just taking off.

One Hollywood manager, Larry Brezner, discussed in the book that Klein had multiple conversations where he discussed how he regretted not taking the role. Apparently, Klein told Brezner at one point that “you should have made me take it,” before he was reminded that rejecting the role was his decision.

Klein would have even more regrets about turning down the role in Night Court, which would have also lead to major success. But while Klein may have expressed regrets, his comedic style made an important impact on modern satire. It’s odd to imagine someone else in the role of Trapper John other than Wayne Rogers. But it really almost happened.

Wayne Rogers left ‘M*A*S*H’ Following a Contract Dispute

It would be curious to see how long Klein would last on the show. The Trapper John character had to be written off only three years in. Trapper John was an absolutely crucial part of the first few seasons. Unfortunately, no show is immune from an actor leaving.

Unfortunately, Rogers left M*A*S*H due to a contract dispute after season 3 of the hit show. The actor played a crucial character alongside Alan Alda’s Hawkeye. Alda, of course, stayed on the series until the very end. After Rogers left, however, it didn’t seem like production thought to call back Klein.

Instead, Mike Farrell joined the cast as B.J Hunnicutt. The actor was absolutely thrilled to get the role on M*A*S*H. He went on to become an iconic part of the series that helped balance out the wacky cast of characters.

Rogers tragically passed away from pneumonia on New Year’s Eve in 2015. He was 82 at the time.

Everyone who was on M*A*S*H was a part of an absolute classic, but nobody who was offered parts could ever have guessed how big the show would become. For actors like Alan Alda and B.J Hunnicutt who gleefully accepted their roles, that’s a wonderful thing. But for actors who turned down a role on M*A*S*H, that may be a bit bittersweet.

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