Dinello was born November 28th, 1962 in Oak Park, Illinois. One of five
children, he has a brother, David, and three sisters. Paul hasn't given
many hints as to what his childhood years were like. He once described
his high school years as "dark years", but the level of seriousness of
the statement is unknown and he hasn't divulged much information
He attended De Paul university where he
learned about The Second City through a paper he had to write for a
class. This inspired him to attend Second City improv classes and
shortly thereafter he was asked to audition.
He was hired on the same day as Amy
Sedaris and Stephen Colbert and another famous comedian, Chris Farley
("a real sweetheart and just pure fun," Paul says). Of him and his
three friends Paul says, "we were misfits even there. And Second City
is like the island for broken toys. Dirty, broken toys and the
collection of outcasts."
His first reaction to Stephen was not a
favorable one. "I thought he was pretentious and sort of cold," Dinello
says, "and he thought I was just an illiterate thug."
"Paul and I did not get along," says
Colbert. "He thought I was uptight and I thought he was a Neanderthal.
Amy likes to say we 'were both right.' Six months later he was my best
They were brought together by force, an
assigned project for Second City that Paul, Amy and Stephen were given.
Stephen described the assignment as a show for a McDonald's Christmas
party. They sang the McDonald's menu to a combination of the Ode to Joy
and Hallelujah chorus.
"And then we toured and we, like, fell in love with each other," Dinello says. Sedaris recalls, "They were inseparable."
Paul has said of his years at Second
City: "Imagine suddenly getting paid to do what you love, and until a
week before, you were gladly performing in bars for free. And not only
getting paid, but sharing the stage with the funniest people in the
city and in front of sold-out audiences. It was like going to the
greatest college in the world. A place where you could learn, you were
encouraged to fail, you got paid and the beer was free."
After eight years of being on the touring
company, Paul, Amy, Stephen and Mitch Rouse moved to New York City in
1994 to develop a TV show which became Exit 57. Comedy
Central aired the show, which ran for two years. It wasn't a big hit
for the network, although it did receive five CableACE awards
After the series ended, Paul worked on
several independent films with his uncle, Dan Dinello. He wrote,
starred in and co-directed Shock Asylum, Beyond the Door, and Wheels of Fury.
They were shown at film festivals and received various accolades.
Aspects of the future Mr. Jellineck can be most obviously seen in his
Dusty Bits character in Wheels of Fury.
Although Exit 57 didn't last, it
gave Paul, Amy and Stephen an in at Comedy Central. They started
working on a new TV show, which became Strangers With Candy. They had
long been looking for an excuse to do a project related to the cheesy
after-school specials of their teenage years. "We've always been
fascinated with after school specials. We'd find it funny how they
create a problem and then wrap everything up in the end. A lot of stuff
on television does that: it creates this problem, and regardless of
how...tragic the problem is they can wrap it up in 22 minutes." And of
course the inevitable, "then it's a big dance party," which was the
inspiration for the dance sequences at the end of each episode.
"Anything that tries to teach morals
really opens itself up to mockery," Dinello said. "You have to get up
on a pedestal to teach people morals, and you've got to take yourself
Thus the idea for Strangers With Candy
was born, and came to full fruition when Paul stumbled across a
charming woman named Florrie Fisher. She had lived a life of drug-use
and prostitution and went around to schools in the 1970's warning kids
not to make the same mistakes. "I had seen that separately and we sort
of married those two ideas."
very smart move for Strangers With Candy was to avoid any cultural
references. "We tried to create sort of a parallel universe, so we're
not really commenting on real high school kids. It's our perception of
what high school is like." The end result ended up striking a chord for
misfits everywhere, "for some reason, high school just looms larger
than life, and we never can…escape it."
Even though SWC was the first live action
series on Comedy Central, they did not record it in front of an
audience. "We wanted to have the feel of a little movie, not a sitcom,"
Paul's character, Geoffrey Jellineck is
based on "a teacher when I was in high school who used to dress like a
student and go to parties and stuff. He used to think he was one of us,
but we used to just laugh at him behind his back. It made us all really
uncomfortable, but he thought it was the coolest thing in the world
that a teacher would hang out with the kids and try to be like one of
When formulating the character of
Geoffrey, Paul looked to the work of Jack Lemmon. "I'd have him in
mind. He often played a lovable loser, he was always playing very
vulnerable characters. . .That was more interesting to me than Errol
Flynn, who-good luck finding any weakness."
Sadly, the people at Comedy Central
didn't get behind Strangers With Candy enough to keep it on the air
more than three seasons. But Paul and his team of friends continued to
look for ways to work together. In 2003 this culminated in their first
book, Wigfield, about a "can-do town that just may not."
Paul and Amy pitched a book idea about a
worm to the publisher. It was turned down, but before they left they
came up with the concept for Wigfield. "We have this little
saying which is 'fooled them again. If we manage to sell something, or
someone is pleased with what we have done, all we can think of is how
we deluded them. How could they possibly like our ideas? Why are they
laughing? Didn't they hear those words?"
The project started out with the
intention of mostly revolving around the elaborate photographs Todd
Oldham created. Paul, Amy and Stephen posed for all of the characters,
in various stages of make-up and prosthetics. When they checked their
contract and realized they had 50,000 words to write, things changed.
Their purpose "became sort of clear once we created the Hokes
character," says Dinello. "Because we had never written a book, we
created a character who had never written a book and probably never
read one. This sort of covered our inadequacies, as well as freed us up
to use the language in any way that Hokes saw fit, because he was not
aware of any of the rules."
Upon the book's release they created a stage show that toured to several cities and gave a whole new life to the characters. They also recorded the audio book, which brings another element to the characters' personalities.
While writing Wigfield together,
they found themselves coming up with material for their old friend,
Jerri Blank. A file was started for material that couldn't be used in
the book and they soon realized they had enough content for a new
project, and thus the Strangers With Candy movie was born.
It was decided that Paul would direct the
film, his first feature. Amy and Stephen decided that it was the
logical step since the directors from the TV show weren't available and
Paul had directed before. "We've always wanted Paul to direct
something. He was the perfect person," Sedaris said.
The process was wrought with
difficulties from the beginning "Mark Roberts said, 'I have these
silent business partners who have this cash, and if you make a movie
I'll just give you the money. You'll have total control and freedom.'
So I wrote a script with Stephen and Amy, and we went into
preproduction and blocked off time. We had a one-month window, and then
my friend said, "Guess what. Those guys high-tailed it out of town and
they took all the money."
On the verge of a nervous breakdown,
Worldwide Pants, David Letterman's production company, decided to fund
the movie. "They essentially said, 'You guys have done 30 episodes.
We're going to assume you know what you're doing, and we're going to
let you do it.' It worked out great, and we were happier. Letterman's
an idol of mine, and if I could pick any partner in the world it would
be Worldwide Pants."
The film was also in trouble of being in
permanent limbo, even after being finished. After a screening at
Sundance Film Festival, Warner Independent picked up the movie but
proceeded to stall on releasing the film. "Some sort of problems arose.
They stated that there were clearance issues or something. They wanted
us to clear, like, a thousand things in the film."
Eventually THINKfilm picked up the movie
and it was released in June of 2006. Paul has said that the directing
affected his ability and desire to act. "Once I started directing I
became obsessed with that and that made the acting part difficult. But
luckily I had Amy and Stephen to watch my back. And they're easy to
direct, Amy's like a wind-up toy. You just wind her up and point her in
the right direction."
The film, like the TV show, flew under
the radar of many and didn't break any box office records. But it
brought out the die-hard fans and converted some new ones who had
missed out on the days of the show. "It's the oddest assemblage of
people," who like Strangers With Candy. But they're loyal to the end.
Paul has been doing consulting work on
Stephen Colbert's TV show "The Colbert Report" since it started airing
in October 2005. He appears as Stephen's
Building Manager, Tad. His appearances and consulting work have been
uncredited thus far. Their interactions have taken on a
Noblet/Jellineck-esque interaction with gay innuendos and of course,
tumbling. (Be sure to check out the multimedia page for these videos.) The longest segment for Tad thus far has been the three part series (the first on TCR) of Tad's journey to Colbert County Alabama to open the Stephen Colbert Museum and Gift Shop.
Since the Strangers With Candy premiere,
news of Paul directing a new movie, "Mr. Burnout" has been released.
The movie, by screenwriter Eric Gravning for Nala Films, concerns a
small-town English teacher who spirals into bitterness and depression
after a decade on the job. On a bet from an attractive new colleague,
he works to get three of his most problematic students into a top
college. Production is scheduled to begin in January.
In a June 30th, 2006 interview, Paul mentioned working on a new movie script: "Right now it's called The Exorcists.
It's about two young, renegade exorcist priests who are trying to break
away from the fold. They're sort of hotshots, their egos get inflated,
and they have a falling out like Lewis and Martin. Then they have to
come back together and save the day." There has been no further word as
to the progress of the project.
Were You Aware?
-Paul's beloved dog of 16 years, Cagney
(named for actor James Cagney), made several appearances in Paul's work
throughout the years. She can be seen in a several Exit 57 sketches,
"Wheels of Fury", "How to be Popular", in the Strangers With Candy "The Trip Back" episode and in Wigfield as the Grimmets' dog.
-Second City senior associate producer
Beth Kligerman says Paul is "the most handsome person to come out of 43
years of Second City".
-Paul's favorite line in the Strangers With Candy movie is when asked "What's your I.Q.?" Jerri responds "Pisces."
-Paul and Amy Sedaris dated for eight years. This is what Amy had to say about their relationship:
"Paul and I dated for eight years then, when we were doing Exit 57
we said if it got picked up for another season, one of us has to move
out because we had just been working together, it's New York City, I
was living here with a dog and five guitars. It was like, "Ugh." So,
actually, when he moved out, I also introduced him to this girl I
thought he would be perfect for. So, we never really broke up either,
which is so funny. But we're best friends. I talk to Paul every day.
It's no big deal: His girlfriends completely accept me. He's my best
friend, and I don't do anything without running it by Paul." [link
-Amy's quote on her first impression of Paul: "I remember Paul being really silly, like a kid. He still is."
-Paul's comment on Stephen Colbert: "He's
got a huge heart. I can't say enough nice things about him. Except he's
jealous of my work. He's jealous of my skill. He's stolen a lot of
stuff from me, and he's a heavy drinker."
-Paul resides on an organic date farm on the Tunisian coast with Stephen Colbert.
-One of the film festivals that
"Strangers With Candy" was accepted into was NEWfest, which is the NY
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual film festival.
-Paul was in a comedy troupe with Greg Hollimon (Principle Blackman) called the Yardstick Boys.
-Paul described Jerri Blank once as "almost like a dangerous Alzheimer's patient"
-Paul helped Stephen Colbert write his now-famous White House Correspondence Dinner speech
-Paul also helped Amy Sedaris write her cookbook, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence.
Amy said: "A lot of the humor came from Paul commenting on the fact
that I was trying to take something seriously. I'd write everything
first, then I'd show it to Paul, then we'd hone it, rewrite it, or
think what was funny about it."
-In writing Strangers With Candy Paul
said, "We always keep our mistakes in. Typos and mistakes." Like 'I'll
be back in a shortly' or 'this was this one time'
-While editing the Strangers With Candy movie, Paul inadvertently saved a dog. He saw it in the L.A. river and climbed down to get it but got stuck. Some people noticed and called the fire department, but he was able to climb back up. Since they were already there, the fireman rescued the dog. To hear him talk about it, go here.
-Paul and Stephen Colbert have had an
idea for Jellineck and Noblet that they never got to use (and sadly got
cut from the movie due to budget restraints) "They ram each other with
their cars and then come to each others aid and end up having sex in
the back of their car."
-Paul took the temporary music for the Strangers With Candy movie from Shawshank Redemption and Schindler's List. "We knew we always wanted the music to be overly dramatic, to play against the ridiculousness of the situations."
-Paul has been inspired comically by: Ernie Kovacs, Peter Sellers, Buster Keaton, Monty Python, old Saturday Night Live.
-Film that changed his life: Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" (1964). "I never thought you could put satire and slapstick together, but that film puts those two elements together beautifully."
-Paul's favorite Filmmakers: Buster Keaton, Phillip Jenuet, Terry Gilliam, Fellini.
-Paul's favorite photographers: Diane Arbus and Mary Ellen Mark.
-Paul lists his favorite movies as: "The
General," "Nights of Cabiria," "The Graduate," "Midnight Cowboy,"
"Brazil," "Delicatessen," & "Dead Man."
-Those lips! Those pillowy lips!