Paul Lieberstein

Paul Lieberstein Headshot

Actor • Writer • Director • Producer

Birth Name: Paul Bevan Lieberstein

Birth Date: February 22, 1967

Age: 57 years old

Birth Place: Westport, Connecticut

Actor Paul Lieberstein may have first caught the eye of television viewers in his role of Toby on "The Office" (NBC, 2005-13), the quiet and divorced human resources guy often reluctantly drawn into a battle of wills with boss Michael Scott (Steve Carell). But while it was his first onscreen role, Lieberstein was no stranger to television comedy, having worked his way through the ranks writing for "The Drew Carey Show" (ABC, 1995-2004) and helping to launch the animated hit "King of the Hill" (Fox, 1996- 2009 as an Emmy Award-winning writer and executive producer.

Born on Feb. 22, 1967, Lieberstein grew up in Westport, CT, where he went to Staples High School. In his youth, Lieberstein loved comedy and would spend hours with his brother and sister listening to Steve Martin's comedy albums. He dabbled in creative writing in school, then became so interested in television that he and his friends created their own show called "Hotel New Jersey" in an unused TV studio at school. After graduation, Lieberstein attended Hamilton College and shifted his focus away from comedy - which he considered not to be a career path; more a hobby - and instead took up business and finance. After college, he worked as an auditor for a spell, but quickly became disinterested and again turned his energies toward comedy and writing. Lieberstein stuck around the East Coast for a year, practicing writing scripts, before he made the big move westward.

In Los Angeles, Lieberstein found a writing partner, and the two of them cranked out original screenplays and spec episodes of existing television shows. It was a sample script for "The Simpsons" (Fox, 1989- ) that first gained them noticed, and helped them land the writing duo a job for one season of the kids show, "Clarissa Explains It All" (Nickelodeon, 1991-94), starring a pre-"Sabrina" Melissa Joan Hart. After splitting from his writing partner, Lieberstein went on to write for "Weird Science" (syndicated, 1994-97) and "The Naked Truth" (ABC/NBC, 1995-98), starring Tea Leoni.

Lieberstein was then hired as a writer and executive producer on "King of the Hill," the animated creation of Mike Judge about suburban Texan Hank Hill (voiced by Judge), struggling to exist in an increasingly politically correct world. The success of the show led to a fruitful working relationship between Lieberstein and producer Greg Daniels. The two had already known each other personally, as Daniels was married to Lieberstein's sister, Susanne Daniels - herself a television figurehead as the president of the WB, then later the Lifetime Network. Following his invaluable experience on "King" Lieberstein went on to serve as a writer and executive producer on "The Drew Carey Show," "The Bernie Mac Show" (Fox, 2001-06), and the short-lived cult favorite "Greg the Bunny" (Fox, 2002), starring Seth Green.

In 2005, Lieberstein was hired on to the American remake of the British series, "The Office." The show - which revolved around the everyday absurdity of the typical corporate environment - was based on the highly acclaimed British series created by Ricky Gervais. During the initial casting for the show, Lieberstein read lines opposite auditioning actors, but due to his immense talents and innate humor, suddenly found himself cast as the laconic, hapless and often dour human resources director, Toby Flenderson.

Filmed in a somewhat mockumentary style, the show got off to a rocky start - as expectations were never high on either side of the pond when a biting British series was Americanized. But during its second season, "The Office" found its way, as the four lead characters became more well-rounded and sympathetic, while the even quirkier background characters (such as Lieberstein) were more fleshed out and offered more screen-time. A running gag on the show involved boorish but well-meaning boss Michael in an ongoing antagonistic relationship with Toby, whom he feels disrespects him and his ways. In actuality, because Michael's hijinks are so far out of line with public HR policy, Toby does not so much disrespect Michael - he simply tried to rein him in. The sequences required Lieberstein to not only act opposite one of the biggest comic stars of the day in Carell, but to routinely and subtly upstage him. Not an easy task, but Lieberstein did on a consistent basis, and in the process, became a fan favorite.

Off camera, Lieberstein proved even more invaluable, writing some of the series' more popular episode, including "Dwight's Speech," where the imperious Dwight (Rainn Wilson) delivers an awkwardly Nazi-like motivational speech at a sales convention, and "The Client," where Michael and corporate head honcho Jan (Melora Hardin) entertain a potential client at a restaurant, while the staff entertain themselves by reading aloud a newly discovered screenplay secretly written by Michael. Lieberstein insisted throughout interviews that his main function on the show was as a writer and minimized his role down to just a line or two in the episodes he wrote - a smart and noble move for any writer who also happened to act. In a season that saw Toby leave Scranton to get away from it all in Costa Rica, his generous creative output behind the camera resulted in a nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series for season four's episode, "Money (part 1 & 2), but he lost to veteran film director Barry Sonnenfeld for his helming of "Pushing Daisies" (ABC, 2007- ) pilot, "Pie-Lette."

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