Paul Dooley

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For the Australian rules footballer, see Paul Dooley (footballer).
Paul Dooley
Paul Dooley.png
Paul Dooley (2010)
Born Paul Brown
(1928-02-22) February 22, 1928 (age 87)
Parkersburg, West Virginia
United States
Alma mater West Virginia University
Occupation Actor
Spouse(s) Donna Lee Wasser (1958–?)
Winnie Holzman (1984–present)
Children Robin Dooley
Adam Dooley
Peter Dooley
Savannah Dooley

Paul Dooley (born February 22, 1928) is an American actor, writer, and comedian.

Early life[edit]

Dooley was born Paul Brown in Parkersburg, West Virginia, the son of Ruth Irene (née Barringer), a homemaker, and Peter James Brown, a factory worker.[1]

He has said that growing up, there was not much that interested him in the town. They had no theater, ballet, or opera. They did have a museum with an extensive collection of coal. Dooley said he fell in love with radio comedians (Red Skelton, Jack Benny, Burns and Allen and his favorite: Jimmy Durante), as he didn't have television.[2]

Dooley was a cartoonist as a youth and drew a strip for a local paper in Parkersburg. He joined the Navy. Dooley then returned home and graduated from West Virginia University in 1952.[3]


After graduating from West Virginia University, Dooley headed to New York City in a broken-down 1948 Dodge, with "just fifty dollars in his pocket and nothing to lose." To pay the rent, he worked as a clown, entertaining kids at birthday parties with his magic, juggling and cartooning skills.[4]

In New York he soon found success as a regular on the stage. In the early 1950s, he made his debut on the New York stage and was discovered by Mike Nichols. The director gave him his first break by casting him in 1965's The Odd Couple on Broadway. Dooley understudied Art Carney, who played one of Matthau's poker buddies. Eventually when Carney left the play Dooley got the part. He got an agent at William Morris Agency thanks to a referral from Walter Matthau.[3]

Dooley created and wrote characters for The Electric Company

Also having an interest in comedy, Dooley was a standup comedian for five years, eventually landing on The Tonight Show,[4] and a member of the Compass Players and The Second City troupe in New York City. Fellow members of The Second City at that time were Alan Arkin and Alan Alda.[5]

Dooley also worked as a writer. He created and was one of the head writers on The Electric Company, produced by the Children's Television Workshop (now called Sesame Workshop) for PBS in the United States. Teaming up with fellow writer-performers Andrew Duncan and Lynne Lipton, Dooley formed a company called All Over Creation, and "over the next ten years he appeared in over five hundred TV commercials and nearly a thousand radio spots."[4] They were called in to a meeting for 6 or 8 weeks and wrote sketches. Dooley wrote "runners," sketches with 8 or 10 characters that could come back, would continue week to week. He found out years later that Carl Reiner recommended him for the job.[2] The character Paul the Gorilla was named after, and appeared in commercials.

Dooley wrote:[2]


Dooley has appeared in many movies, including most notably Popeye, Raggedy Ann and Andy: A Musical Adventure, Sixteen Candles, Breaking Away, and the voice of Sarge in the Disney/Pixar film Cars and its sequel Cars 2.

He worked with Robert Altman regularly and is known as a prolific journeyman, character actor.[3] Altman saw Dooley in the Jules Feiffer comedy "Hold Me." Altman signed Dooley on the spot to play Carol Burnett's husband, and the father of the bride, in his film A Wedding.[4]

Through his relationship with Altman, he wrote the movie Health with Altman.[2]

He was also in the infamous alternate ending to Little Shop of Horrors, but was replaced by Jim Belushi in the final cut.

Dooley has worked with Christopher Guest on many films.[4]


Dooley has also appeared as a variety of recurrent characters on numerous television shows, including My So-Called Life, Dream On, Grace Under Fire, thirtysomething, Curb Your Enthusiasm, ALF (playing Whizzer Deaver) and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine where he played the recurring role of Enabran Tain. He guest starred in other primetime shows like Bewitched, The Wonder Years, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, The Golden Girls, Hot in Cleveland, and Desperate Housewives. In 2000, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for his role as an eccentric judge on The Practice.

In 2010, Dooley played the part of the head chef at Camp Victory, a fictional fat camp, on the short-lived ABC Family original series Huge, which was created and written by his wife and daughter.[6]

In 2014 he appeared in an episode of the NBC series Parenthood as Rocky, a fellow vet and retiree to Craig T. Nelson's Zeek Braverman.[7]


Dooley co-wrote the play, Assisted Living, with his wife Winnie Holzman.[5] The play had its world premiere April 5, 2013 at Los Angeles' Odyssey Theatre. Holzman and Dooley co-star in the four-character, three-scene work in their first theatrical collaboration.[8] The play, a passion project the couple had written as newlyweds finally came to being when they were stuck in New York last fall during Hurricane Sandy. It consists of three scenes of Holzman and Dooley playing four characters with intertwining stories: an aging soap opera star, his longterm girlfriend, a single, middle-aged woman and her curmudgeon of a father.[5][9]


Star Trek: Deep Space Nine appearances[edit]

Personal life[edit]

He has been married to Winnie Holzman (My So-Called Life, Once and Again, Huge), who he met at an improv acting class in New York,[10] since November 18, 1984.[5] It was a group of actors friends in the commercial world creating a Mary Hartman-esque soap opera for about two years. Holzman played columnist Bianca Littlebaum, the only Jew in a small town in Ohio. Dooley was Edgar Buchanan Wilson, the not-richest man in town, named after 1940s actor Edgar Buchanan (Uncle Joe on Petticoat Junction). They were both living with other people at the time.[2]

They have a daughter named Savannah Dooley.[11][2] They live in Toluca Lake in Los Angeles, California.[10]

He was previously married to Donna Lee Wasser on September 19, 1958, but their marriage ended in divorce. He has three children from that first marriage: Robin, Adam, and Peter.[1]


  1. ^ a b "Paul Dooley Biography (1928-)". Film Reference. Advameg, Inc. Retrieved 3 January 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Pollak, Kevin (January 17, 2011). "Episode 96 – Paul Dooley and Winnie Holzman!". Kevin Pollak's Chat Show. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c "Paul Dooley". Bio. A+E Television Networks, LLC. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Paul Dooley". Film Bug. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d Friedlander, Whitney (March 29, 2013). "Wicked Writer Winnie Holzman and Her Husband Paul Dooley Wrote and Star in a Play Together. It Only Took Them 28 Years". LA Weekly. Retrieved 3 January 2014. 
  6. ^ Hale, Mike (June 18, 2010). "A Close-Knit Team on a Plus-Size Show". New York Times. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  7. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (January 2, 2014). "Review: 'Parenthood' - 'Promises': Seeing you, seeing me -- Hank makes a discovery about himself, Sarah has a date and Joel and Julia have another fight". HitFix, Inc. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  8. ^ Gans, Andrew (February 21, 2013). "EXCLUSIVE: Assisted Living, New Play By Wicked's Winnie Holzman and Husband Paul Dooley, Will Debut in April". Playbill. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  9. ^ Cronen, Patrick (April 17, 2013). "Winnie Holzman and Paul Dooley of Assisted Living at the Odyssey Theatre". Theater Mania. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  10. ^ a b Ng, David (April 10, 2013). "Finally a go: A couple finishes writing 'Assisted Living,' at Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, nearly 30 years after its inception.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  11. ^ Strouse, Lainie. "Home > Writing Tools > The Craft > Huge’s Savannah Dooley & Winnie Holzman: Secret Burdens, Huge Challenges". WGA (Writer's Guild of America). Retrieved 3 January 2014. 

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