Menning began his career in the 1950s as a photographer in New York City before switching to acting during the 1980s. His talent agent, Bonnie Howard, made him her first professional client. Howard noted that Menning was the last person to photograph pin-up model Bettie Page before her retirement from the modelling industry.
Before becoming a professional actor in the 1980s, Menning worked in a number of positions within the entertainment industry, including a still photographer, grip, gaffer and lighting technician. His television credits included Yes, Dear, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch (in the episode "Pancake Madness") In Case of Emergency and portrayed a homeless man called Pickled Egg Guy in My Name Is Earl. In film, Menning appeared in Mel Brooks' 1991 movie Life Stinks, portrayed another homeless man in Speedway Junky, and a blind stagehand in the 2006 thriller, The Prestige, directed by Christopher Nolan.
Sam Menning died of emphysema at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California, on March 31, 2010, at the age of 85. He was survived by his daughter Sherree Casusol, and her four children; his brother, Rod Menning, and his nephew Garrett Menning. His memorial service was held at Angeleno Valley Mortuary in North Hollywood.
- "Character actor Sam Menning dies at 85; Credits include 'My Name Is Earl,' 'The Prestige'". The Hollywood Reporter. 2010-04-05. Archived from the original on April 9, 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-17.
- Catlin, Roger (2010-04-06). "Sam Menning: Photographer, Character Actor". Hartford Courant. Archived from the original on 2010-04-18. Retrieved 2010-04-17.
- "Sam Menning - January 5, 1925 - March 29, 2010". Los Angeles Times. 2010-04-07. Archived from the original on 2010-04-18. Retrieved 2010-04-17.