In Charles Addams's original cartoons, Lurch is often seen accompanying the rest of the Family, sometimes carrying a feather-duster. In a couple of illustrations, the Family is seen decorating Lurch like they would a Christmas tree.
Lurch is a 6 ft 9 in (2.05 m) tall, shambling, gloomy butler who somewhat resembles a cross between Frankenstein's monster (as played by Boris Karloff) and a zombie. In the original Addams Family television series, Lurch has a deep, resonant voice unlike that of Herman Munster, a character on the show's main competitor, The Munsters. Although fully capable of normal speech, Lurch often communicates via simple inarticulate moans, which, much like the dialogue of Cousin Itt, his employers have no trouble understanding.
This towering mute has been shambling around the house forever...He is not a very good butler but a faithful one...One eye is opaque, the scanty hair is damply clinging to his narrow flat head...generally the family regards him as something of a joke.
Like any butler, Lurch tries to help around the house, but occasionally his great size and strength cause trouble. He clearly takes pride in his work and is willing to do even the most arduous task.
His character often demonstrates signs of frustration towards his employers, however his continued presence also suggests loyalty. As a result he appears to be one of the family.
The family summons him with an ever-present bell pull (in the form of a hangman's noose). When pulled, it produces a loud gong noise that shakes the house, to which Lurch instantly appears and responds, "You rang?", even if wide-angle shots reveal that he was clearly nowhere in the vicinity before; on a few occasions Lurch arrives even before the bell pull is tugged.
Lurch largely shares the family's macabre standards, although he occasionally looks askance at some of their activities. He has a similar attitude toward visitors — almost a sixth sense. When a plainclothes policeman (played by George N. Neise) visits, Lurch pats him down and removes something from inside his suit coat: his service revolver. Lurch groans at the affront of bringing a weapon into the house. Neise shows Lurch his badge, and Lurch hands the gun back to him.
Aside from a headless Marie Antoinette doll, Lurch is Wednesday's best friend. He has a paternal affection for both Wednesday and Pugsley. Although his job title is limited to "butler", he seems to be a "jack of all trades" when it comes to the children, doing everything from taking them to school to making them lunch to keeping an eye on them around the house. He is close friends with the disembodied hand Thing.
He is often seen playing opening theme tune on the harpsichord. (Cassidy played on a dead keyboard; Vic Mizzy, the show's musical director, played the actual tunes.)
As originally conceived, Lurch was to have no lines, but in the show's pilot episode, Ted Cassidy ad-libbed the line "You rang?" in his trademark deep voice, and it was so impressive that it led to Lurch getting more dialogue; he ultimately had three lines in the pilot. In the films, however, this butler was totally mute except for the occasional expressive grunt. The 1990s revival returned to the original 1960s sitcom style, right down to the noose that rang a gong. In it, Lurch also seemed a little more polite than his earlier counterparts.
In Latin Spanish-speaking countries, he is known as Largo, because of his height. In Brazil, he is known as Tropeço ("stumbling block"; also "I stumble, trip over").
Much of Lurch's history, including his first name and the nature of his relationship to any other Addamses, was originally unspecified. "Lurch" was revealed during the original TV series to be a surname, as there was a "Mother Lurch" who appeared in one episode. She addressed Lurch as "Sonny", which could either be a parental nickname or his actual first name. As for his father, he was mentioned twice, once in the second animated series, and in an apparent reference to his Frankenstein's monster-like appearance, Lurch said, smiling, "He put me together." And another time in the original series where Lurch mentions his father wanted him to be a jockey (typically short and light people) instead of a butler.
It was stated in Addams Family Reunion that Lurch is part Addams. This plays into his being a creation similar to Frankenstein's monster. The only definite body part that is from an Addams is his heart. Lurch's mother appears to be a physically normal, elderly woman, although she does not see anything unusual about the Addams family or their home, with the exception of Thing.
In The New Addams Family, a woman comments to Morticia about Lurch, "Where did you dig him up?", to which Morticia responds, "Funny, I can't remember which cemetery it was." Lurch is also referenced as having "two left feet".
On October 30, 1965, a song and dance based on Lurch, entitled "The Lurch", were introduced on the ABC music program Shindig!. This mirrored an earlier episode of the television series, entitled "Lurch, the Teenage Idol" (which was remade in 1999 for The New Addams Family). In it, Lurch records a song on his harpsichord and becomes a pop sensation.
Lurch makes a momentary appearance in the Batman TV episode entitled "The Penguin's Nest" (1966), when he opens a window and sticks his head out and observes Batman and Robin climbing the wall to the Penguin's kitchen. He returns to playing his harpsichord afterwards.
Lurch appears in the NES game Fester's Quest. Uncle Fester can get the famous noose from Grandmama, which, when used, shakes the screen with a loud gong (just like the TV show). Lurch's picture appears, says "You rang?", and destroys all on-screen enemies.
Lurch is mentioned the 1995 film Die Hard with a Vengeance. During the fight on the cargo ship, John McClane (Bruce Willis) repeatedly tries to provoke and mock his opponent, terrorist Mathias Targo (Nick Wyman), including by comparing his appearance with Lurch from The Addams Family.
In the 1998 game Might and Magic VI, a Minotaur named Lurch can be found behind a door in a castle.
On at least two episodes of Scrubs, the Janitor (played by Neil Flynn) has been called "Lurch" by other characters, alluding to his vague physical resemblance to the Addams Family character and certain behavioral traits they share, such as appearing out of nowhere or the jack-of-all-trades element. The Janitor character on Scrubs had not been meant to have lines (except when talking to J.D., the viewpoint character), but this was changed, as he speaks with all other characters as of Season Two. A further similarity is that the Janitor's name is never revealed (until the final episode of the 8th season, which had been intended to be the series finale). The Janitor has also changed his address in his profile to say that he lives at "1313 Mockingbird Lane" (the address of the Munsters). On one occasion he responded to a summons with "You rang?", and stated that he was imitating Lurch.
Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, soon joined by other conservative pundits, used the nickname Lurch to describe the tall and slim 2004 Democrat presidential nominee, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.
In 2012, the Lego theme "Monster Fighters" released a set entitled "10228 Haunted House" that featured a butler minifigure based on Lurch.
In a season 5 episode of Mad Men, Don calls Stan and Ginsberg to his office. Upon arriving at the door Stan says, "You rang?"
In the 2012 movie The Expendables 2, Gunner (played by Dolph Lundgren) says "You rang?" after Barney (played by Sylvester Stallone) wakes him up after being irritated by Gunner's loud snoring.
In the 2014 biography Soul on Fire: The Life and Music of Peter Steele, Steele's heavy-metal group Type O Negative is described as sounding like "Lurch from The Addams Family backed up by Black Sabbath."