McClurg began her career with a role in the 1976 Brian De Palma horror film Carrie as Helen Shyres, one of Carrie's classmates. The following year, she was a member of the cast of The Richard Pryor Show. In 1980, she was a regular performer on The David Letterman Show in the persona of Mrs. Marv Mendenhall. She also had a role in Elvira's first motion picture, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, in which she plays the Town Council President Chastity Pariah who uses her uptight conservative views to convince the townsfolk to get rid of Elvira. She also had a minor role in Cheech & Chong's Next Movie.
She has performed in nearly 90 movies and 55 TV episodes, usually typecast as a middle-aged, somewhat stubborn and dimwitted Midwesterner. McClurg is known for a number of roles, including Mr. Rooney's secretary Grace in Ferris Bueller's Day Off; Lucille Tarlek on WKRP in Cincinnati; perky PTA member (and ally of Stella Johnson), Willamae Jones, in the television remake of Harper Valley PTA; motherly and very friendly next-door neighbor Mrs. Patty Poole on The Hogan Family, nosy next-door neighbor Bonnie Brindle on Small Wonder, the car-rental agent whom Steve Martin berates in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Mrs. Violet Bleakman on Clifford the Big Red Dog; and as Mrs. Beeker on the long-running family drama 7th Heaven. McClurg guest starred as Barri's mother in a January 2007 episode of Campus Ladies.
She performed as one of the wicked stepsisters in the Faerie Tale Theatre production of Cinderella. She appeared on several TV game shows, including Match Game, Password Plus and Super Password. She was in special celebrity episodes of Family Feud when Ray Combs was the host, playing on the FunnyWomen Team against the FunnyMen.
McClurg has also performed voice acting for animated shows. She contributed assorted voices for The Jetsons, Ms. Seabottom in The Snorks, Louie Anderson's sweet mom on Life with Louie, Doctor Flora, the nurse of Ant Island and member of the council in A Bug's Life and Minny in the animated film Cars. She is the voice of Carlotta in The Little Mermaid and Miss Right (a female crow) in The Secret of NIMH. She is the voice of Barsa in the Disney dub of Kiki's Delivery Service. She is the voice of Fran the squirrel on Higglytown Heroes on The Disney Channel and as Mrs. Claus in Holidaze: The Christmas That Almost Didn't Happen. She performed the voice of Grandma Taters in episodes of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron. When her nephew Chris McClurg asked her to do a children's show, she also appeared on and Invader Zim episodes Dark Harvest and Career Day. However she was voiced by Antoinette Spolar. She also appeared in an episode of "Roseanne" titled "Bingo" from the fourth season.
One of her best known on-screen moments is her two word reply to Steve Martin's ranting expletive-laden monologue in Planes, Trains & Automobiles. McClurg was also in an episode of the TV sitcom The Golden Girls, playing a nurse from Shady Pines that Sophia hated to see again. McClurg performed in an episode of Hannah Montana as Cindy Merriweather. On April 9, 2007, she made an appearance on the NBC show Thank God You're Here.
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