Mike Batayeh, an actor and stand-up comedian best known for his role on the TV series “Breaking Bad,” died June 1 of a heart attack at his home in Ypsilanti. The southwest Detroit native is 52.
“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the sudden passing of our dear brother Michael (Mike) Batayeh, who passed away unexpectedly of a massive heart attack at his home,” his family said in a statement provided to the Free Press of his sister, Ida Vergollo.
Batayeh took action in several popular TV shows, including “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “The Shield,” “Sleeper Cell,” “Touch” and “Breaking Bad,” where he played the character of Dennis Markowski, the manager of a laundromat with a hidden meth lab. He too co-star in movies, including “American Dreams,” “Gas,” “American East” and “Don’t Mess With The Zohan,” the comedy featuring Adam Sandler as an Israeli agent and hairdresser. And he played a major role in “Detroit Unleaded,” a 2012 comedy set in a Detroit gas station.
Batayeh, part of Jordanian American community in Michigan, did the same stand up–up comedy and often joked about his Middle Eastern heritage, touring with other Arab American comedians. He posted a few weeks ago on his Instagram account one of his stand-up routines.
“He just performed with me two weeks ago in Canada,” said Amer Zahr, a Dearborn attorney and comedian of Palestinian descent who is a friend of Batayeh’s and toured with him. “He was energetic and energetic. … He was a well-known and respected person in our community.”
Batayeh grew up in southwest Detroit, the youngest of seven children – six of whom were older sisters – born to the late Abraham and Victoria Batayeh. He moved to Los Angeles in his early 20s to become an actor, his family said in a statement. In addition to being an actor and comedian, he is a screenwriter, actor and hand drum musician.
“He was well known in the Arab-American community,” his family said. “Mike was part of the first wave of Western comics to perform for local audiences in the Middle East in places like Dubai, where he filmed a comedy special for Showtime Arabia.”
He also performed in Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan, where he was invited two years in a row by the Royal family for a comedy festival. He traveled to Palestine twice with Zahr and others, Zahr said.
“Mike never lost touch with his Detroit roots, and he gave back to the community in countless ways,” his family said. “He was a kind, sensitive, intelligent, and gifted soul. This is a tremendous loss of a great life and Mike will be missed.”
Zahr recalls that he was an intense performer.
“He was a small person … but always very energetic and bubbly, and passionate,” Zahr recalled. “He loved his art form very much. And he loved his community very much. So he did a lot of shows for the Arab American community, and Arab communities around the world. He was … very- fire. And he brought that to the stage as well.”
Known to his family as ‘Funcle,’ Batayeh is survived by five sisters, several nieces, and great nephews. He was preceded in death by one sister.
Visitation will be Friday, June 16, 2 to 8 pm at Vermeulen-Sajewski Funeral Home, 46401 Ann Arbor Road, Plymouth. He lies in state Saturday, June 17 from 11 a.m. until the funeral service at noon at Risen Christ Lutheran Church, 46250 Ann Arbor Road West, Plymouth.
The funeral home said memorial contributions may be made to The Clark Park Coalition Fund, which helps support recreational opportunities for youth in southwest Detroit, 1130 Clark Street, Detroit, MI 48209, 313- 841-8534 or online at firstname.lastname@example.org.