Highly gifted, heavy-set character actor Fred Melamed was born in New York City, the son of Syma (Krichefsky), an actress, and Louis Melamed. His father was a television producer, having contributed to such watershed comedies as Car 54, Where Are You, and Sergeant Bilko. He received his theatrical training at the Yale School of Drama, after which he appeared with resident companies including Minneapolis' Guthrie Theater, The Kennedy Center, The Yale Repertory Theater, and as a founding member of Shakespeare & Co. In 1983, he made his Broadway debut in the Tony Award-Winning Amadeus.
On television, Melamed headlines with Maria Bamford on the hit Netflix series, Lady Dynamite, from Mitch Hurwitz and Pam Brady. He recurs as errant father Charles Cole on Hulu's Golden Globe-nominated Casual, patrician chick-magnet J. Cronkite Valley Forge on New Girl, sports casting legend Glen Klose on Now We're Talking, and Sir Patrick Stewart's messed-up psychiatrist Dr. Mendelson on Starz' Blunt Talk. In the past, Melamed's major small screen roles have included Harvey Oberholt on House of Lies, Avi Mensusen on Girls, Professor Donald Holt on Married, Leonard Hillman on Childrens Hospital, Larry David's name-dropping psychiatrist Arthur Thurgood from Curb Your Enthusiasm, tough-guy jurist Alan Karpman on The Good Wife, and irascible voiceover legend Fred Melamed opposite Robin Williams on The Crazy Ones.
In film, Melamed has had a long association with Woody Allen. He has appeared in 7 Allen films, including the Oscar-Winning Hannah and Her Sisters, Another Woman, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Radio Days, Husbands & Wives, Hollywood Ending, and Shadows and Fog.
But it was for his portrayal of "sensitive" villain Sy Ableman, in Joel and Ethan Coen's A Serious Man, nominated for Best Picture at the 2010 Academy Awards, that Melamed became most widely known. For his performance, he won the Independent Spirit Robert Altman Award, New York Magazine listed his as among the Best Performances of The Decade, and Empire called Sy Ableman "One of The Best Coen Bros. Characters of All Time." Melamed appeared on the Best Supporting Actor Oscar ballot of several American critics, including A.O. Scott of The New York Times, Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times, and Michael Phillips of The Chicago Tribune. He was named by Harry Domenico Rossi as among The 25 Greatest Screen Villains of All Time.