Stephen Tobolowsky

Stephen Tobolowsky Headshot

Actor

Birth Date: May 30, 1951

Age: 72 years old

Birth Place: Dallas, Texas

An astonishingly prolific actor in film and on television, Stephen Tobolowsky played outlandish types and bookish roles with equal vigor, which helped to make him one of the most recognizable faces in entertainment for nearly four decades. Born Stephen Harold Tobolowsky on May 30, 1951 in Dallas, Texas, he began acting at a very young age in local drama programs, but his primary interests were baseball and later, geology, the latter of which he honed through summer work at the Museum of Natural History in his hometown. Geology would eventually become his initial major at Southern Methodist University (SMU), but Tobolowsky found the lure of drama too strong, and after a brief break in his studies - due to his being thrown out of the acting program at SMU in his junior year - he earned his masters' degree in acting from the University of Illinois. He soon divided his time between acting, writing and directing assignments on West and East Coast stages, while also making his feature film debut in "Keep My Grave Open" (1977), a low-budget horror movie from Texas-based filmmaker S.F. Brownrigg. Tobolowsky's television debut came nearly a decade later with a minor role in the TV-movie "Cocaine and Blue Eyes" (NBC, 1983); from there, he worked at an almost ceaseless pace, amassing character roles in features like Jonathan Demme's "Swing Shift" (1984) and Mel Brooks' "Spaceballs" (1987), as well as countless episodes of television series like "Alice" (CBS, 1976-1985) and "Knots Landing" (CBS, 1979-1993). He would credit Alan Parker, who cast him as a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan in "Mississippi Burning" (1988), as his big break, which was soon followed by more substantive character turns in "Great Balls of Fire!" (1989) as Sun Records executive Jud Phillips, and in such critical and box office hits as Norman Jewison's "In Country" (1989), John Badham's "Bird on a Wire" (1990), Stephen Frears' "The Grifters" (1990) and Ridley Scott's "Thelma and Louise" (1991). During this period, Tobolowsky also found time to co-write, with playwright and then-girlfriend Beth Henley, the original script for David Byrne's "True Stories," though Byrne would later rewrite nearly all of their material; he also wrote and directed the feature film, "Two Idiots in Hollywood" (1988), which he based on his own play. He would continue to cement his position as one of the industry's busiest and most recognized character players in films like "Groundhog Day" (1993), which cast him as the blissfully unaware Ned Ryerson, as well as "Basic Instinct" (1991), "Single White Female" (1992) and Phil Alden Robinson's "Sneakers" (1993) As the decade wore on, television became Tobolowsky's most prominent showcase, most notably as the faux healer Tor Eckman, on a 1991 episode of "Seinfeld" (NBC, 1989-1998), as well as appearances on "Chicago Hope" (CBS, 1994-2000) and "Mad About You" (NBC, 1992-99) and series regular assignments on such short-lived series as "Mr. Rhodes" (NBC, 1996-97). His feature work also continued unabated, and by the new millennium, Tobolowsky was the go-to player for harried paper-pushers, supercilious authority figures and eccentrics of all stripes, as evidenced by turns as the doomed amnesiac Sammy Jankis in Christopher Nolan's "Memento" (2000); as the spurned English teacher Elton Bates in "Freaky Friday" (2003) and as obnoxious television host Happy Chapman in "Garfield" (2004). Television also offered plum roles like assistant state attorney Don Haffman on "CSI: Miami" (CBS, 2002-2012), haughty Commissioner Hugo Jarry on "Deadwood" (HBO, 2004-06), the malevolent supervillain Bob Bishop on "Heroes" (NBC, 2006-2010) and predatory glee club director Sandy Ryerson on "Glee" (Fox, 2009-2015). Between 2011 and 2014, he was also a recurring cast member on no less than four network shows, playing movie producer Stu Beggs on Showtime's "Californication" (2007-2014), FBI agent Jerry Barkley on "Justified" (FX, 2010-15), Dr. Marc Shulman on "The Mindy Project" (Fox/Hulu, 2012-17) and the exasperated Principal Ball on "The Goldbergs" (ABC, 2013- ). When these series or characters ran their course, Tobolowsky simply segued into the next projects, which included recurring roles on "Silicon Valley" (HBO, 2014- ) and the revived "One Day at a Time" (Netflix, 2017- ) as Justina Machado's boss and boyfriend to her mother, played by Rita Moreno. Somehow, he also found time to host two podcasts - "The Tobolowsky Files," which was picked up for broadcast by Public Radio International in 2012, and "Big Problems - An Advice Podcast," in 2015 - and pen the short story collection The Dangerous Animals Club (2012) and  My Adventures with God (2017).

Credits

Haul Out the Holly: Lit Up

Actor
Ned
Movie
2023

Love Virtually

Actor
Dr. Divine
Movie
2023

Lopez vs LopezStream

Guest Star
Sam
Series
2022

Haul Out the HollyStream

Actor
Ned
Movie
2022

Le fantastique Bill Murray

Self
Show
2019

Dreamworks The Spooky Tale of Captain Underpants Hack-a-Ween

Voice
Creepy Rattlechains
Show
2019

Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear's All in the Family and The Jeffersons

Actor
Mr. Bentley
Show
2019

SchooledStream

Guest Star
Earl Ball
Series
2019
73%

Loners

Actor
Mr. Tessman
Movie
2019

Fractured

Actor
Dr. Berthram
Movie
2019

Der fantastische Mr. Murray

Self
Movie
2019

The Cool KidsStream

Guest Star
Leonard
Series
2018
75%

Monsters at Large

Actor
Mr. Phillips
Movie
2018

Strange Nature

Actor
Mayor Paulson
Movie
2018

White FamousStream

Guest Star
Stu Beggs
Series
2017
53%

One Day at a TimeStream

Actor
Dr. Berkowitz
Series
2017
99%

Scooby-Doo! Shaggy's Showdown

Voice
Andy Gunderson
Movie
2017

Before the Morning After

Actor
Show
2016

The Confirmation

Actor
Father Lyons
Movie
2016

Mamaboy

Actor
Reverend Weld
Movie
2016

Welcome to the Men's Group

Actor
Carl
Movie
2016

We Bare Bears: Grizzy

Guest Voice
Stephen
Show
2015

Dr. KenStream

Guest Star
Series
2015
7%

We Bare BearsStream

Guest Voice
Stephen
Series
2015

The Primary Instinct

Executive Producer
Show
2015

The Primary Instinct

Self
Show
2015

The Primary Instinct

Writer
Show
2015

Big Time in Hollywood, FLStream

Actor
Alan
Series
2015
75%

The Hotwives of OrlandoStream

Actor
Phil
Series
2014

The Hotwives of Orlando

Actor
Phil
Show
2014

Silicon ValleyStream

Guest Star
Jack Barker
Series
2014
94%

Friends with Better LivesStream

Guest Star
Series
2014
13%

Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Voice
Principal Purdy
Movie
2014

Atlas Shrugged: Who Is John Galt?

Actor
Hugh Akston
Movie
2014

Christian Mingle: The Movie

Actor
Douglas McCarver
Movie
2014

Guys and Girls Can't Be Friends

Actor
Andy
Movie
2014

The Barber

Actor
Chief Hardaway
Movie
2014

At Midnight With Chris Hardwick

Guest
Show
2013

The GoldbergsStream

Guest Star
Principal Ball
Series
2013

Toy Story of Terror!

Voice
Ron the Manager
Movie
2013

The Mindy ProjectStream

Actor
Dr. Marc Shulman
Series
2012
86%

The Mindy ProjectStream

Guest Star
Series
2012
86%

Work It

Guest Star
Series
2012

Pearblossom Hwy

Actor
Rick Lawler
Movie
2012

Dr. Seuss' The LoraxStream

Voice
Uncle Ubb
Movie
2012
54%

The Last Ride

Actor
Ray
Movie
2012

You May Not Kiss the Bride

Actor
Plumber
Movie
2011

The Talk

Guest
Talk
2010

The DefendersStream

Guest Star
Judge Gelineau
Series
2010
74%

JustifiedStream

Guest Star
Series
2010
97%

Buried

Voice
Alan Davenport
Movie
2010

Peep World

Actor
Ephraim
Movie
2010

Hard Breakers

Actor
Movie
2010

CommunityStream

Guest Star
Professor Peter Sheffield
Series
2009
88%

GleeStream

Guest Star
Sandy Ryerson
Series
2009
70%

The Time Traveler's Wife

Actor
Dr. Kendrick
Movie
2009

True Jackson, VPStream

Guest Star
Lars Balthazar
Series
2008

Beethoven's Big Break

Actor
Sal
Movie
2008

CalifornicationStream

Actor
Series
2007
57%

CalifornicationStream

Guest Star
Series
2007
57%

John From CincinnatiStream

Guest Star
Mark Lewinsky
Series
2007
58%

Wild HogsStream

Actor
Charley
Movie
2007
14%

Blind Dating

Actor
Dr. Perkins
Movie
2007

The Valley of Light

Actor
Taylor Bowers
Movie
2007

The Sasquatch Gang

Actor
Dalrymple
Movie
2007

Loveless in Los Angeles

Actor
Jon
Movie
2007

Big Day

Guest Star
Show
2006

HeroesStream

Guest Star
Series
2006
52%

Studio 60 on the Sunset StripStream

Guest Star
Joe
Series
2006
74%

The New Adventures of Old ChristineStream

Guest Star
Series
2006

Pope Dreams

Actor
Carl Venable
Movie
2006

Boxboarders!

Actor
Movie
2006

Love Hollywood Style

Actor
Marty Greenbaum / Devil
Movie
2006

Night StalkerStream

Guest Star
Titus Berry
Series
2005

Ghost WhispererStream

Guest Star
Series
2005

The CloserStream

Guest Star
James Bloom
Series
2005
83%

Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party

Actor
Movie
2005

Living 'til the End

Actor
Dr. Shaw
Movie
2005

RobotsStream

Voice
Bigmouth/Executive/Forge
Movie
2005
64%

Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous

Actor
Tom Abernathy
Movie
2005

McBride: The Doctor Is Out ... Really Out

Actor
Harry Evers
Movie
2005

Desperate HousewivesStream

Guest Star
Bud Penrod
Series
2004
72%

Boston LegalStream

Guest Star
Dr. Alvin Azinabinacroft
Series
2004
86%

EntourageStream

Guest Star
Mayor of Beverly Hills
Series
2004
65%

DeadwoodStream

Guest Star
Hugo Jarry
Series
2004
92%

Debating Robert Lee

Actor
Debate Judge
Movie
2004

GarfieldStream

Actor
Happy Chapman/Walter J. Chapman
Movie
2004
14%

Little Black BookStream

Actor
Carl
Movie
2004
22%

It's All Relative

Guest Star
Show
2003

Las VegasStream

Guest Star
Series
2003

Oliver Beene

Guest Star
Show
2003

National SecurityStream

Actor
Billy Narthax
Movie
2003
11%

Freaky FridayStream

Actor
Mr. Bates
Movie
2003
88%

Frankie and Johnny Are Married

Actor
Murray
Movie
2003

CSI: MiamiStream

Guest Star
Series
2002

The Dead ZoneStream

Guest Star
Dr. Jim Pratt
Series
2002

The Country BearsStream

Actor
Norbert Barrington
Movie
2002
31%

AdaptationStream

Actor
Ranger Steve Neely (scenes deleted)
Movie
2002

Love Liza

Actor
Tom Bailey
Movie
2002

Off Centre

Guest Star
Show
2001

RebaStream

Guest Star
Judge
Series
2001

Law & Order: Criminal IntentStream

Guest Star
Series
2001

According to JimStream

Guest Star
Series
2001

Dead Last

Guest Star
Show
2001

The Lone Gunmen

Guest Star
Series
2001
38%

Black River

Actor
Mayor Tom Thompson
Movie
2001

CSI: Crime Scene InvestigationStream

Guest Star
Series
2000

Buzz Lightyear of Star Command

Guest Voice
Series
2000

That's Life

Guest Star
Show
2000

Malcolm in the MiddleStream

Guest Star
Series
2000

Alien Fury: Countdown to Invasion

Actor
B.J. McQueen
Movie
2000

Bossa Nova

Actor
Trevor
Movie
2000

The Operator

Actor
Doc
Movie
2000

The Prime Gig

Actor
Mick
Movie
2000

Sleep Easy, Hutch Rimes

Actor
Dewey Wise
Movie
2000

MementoStream

Actor
Sammy
Movie
2000
94%

Stanley's Gig

Actor
Abe Cohen
Movie
2000

RoswellStream

Guest Star
Series
1999

Snoops

Guest Star
Show
1999

Odd Man Out

Guest Star
Show
1999

Law & Order: Special Victims UnitStream

Guest Star
Miles Kayman
Series
1999
78%

La Batalla de San Patricio

Actor
Movie
1999

Don't Look Under the Bed

Actor
Michael McCausland
Movie
1999

One Man's Hero

Actor
Capt. Gaine
Movie
1999

The InsiderStream

Actor
Eric Kluster
Movie
1999
96%

The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer

Guest Star
Series
1998
20%

Vengeance Unlimited

Guest Star
Series
1998
19%

Will & GraceStream

Guest Star
Ned Weathers
Series
1998

That '70s ShowStream

Guest Star
Series
1998

Trevor

Actor
Father Jon
Show
1998

Two Guys and a Girl

Guest Star
Series
1998

The Closer

Guest Star
Phil
Show
1998

Black DogStream

Actor
Agent McClaren
Movie
1998
14%

The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars

Voice
Calculator
Movie
1998

Around the Fire

Actor
Doc
Movie
1998

The PracticeStream

Guest Star
Series
1997

King of the HillStream

Guest Star
Dr. Benson/Burt Halverstrom
Series
1997

Boys Life 2

Actor
Father Joe (segment "Trevor")
Movie
1997

An Alan Smithee Film: Burn, Hollywood, Burn

Actor
Bill Bardo
Movie
1997

Mr. Magoo

Actor
Agent Chuck Stupack, FBI
Movie
1997

Mr. Rhodes

Actor
Show
1996

Suddenly SusanStream

Guest Star
Series
1996

Promised Land

Guest Star
Series
1996

Le Monde merveilleux de Disney

Actor
Show
1996

The Traveler

Actor
Taylor
Movie
1996

Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco

Voice
Bando
Movie
1996

Power 98

Actor
Rick Harris
Movie
1996

Night Visitors

Actor
Taylor
Movie
1996

The Glimmer ManStream

Actor
Christopher Maynard
Movie
1996
11%

The Curse of Inferno

Actor
Lonnie Martin
Movie
1996

The Home Court

Guest Star
Show
1995

Dweebs

Actor
Show
1995

The Drew Carey ShowStream

Guest Star
Series
1995

A Whole New Ballgame

Actor
Dr. Warner Brakefield
Show
1995

Murder in the First

Actor
Mr. Henkin
Movie
1995

Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde

Actor
Oliver Mintz
Movie
1995

Chicago Hope

Guest Star
Series
1994

Blue Skies

Actor
Oak
Show
1994

My Father, the Hero

Actor
Mike
Movie
1994

Radioland Murders

Actor
Max Applewhite
Movie
1994

Against the Grain

Actor
Niles Hardeman
Show
1993

Trevor

Actor
Father Jon
Movie
1993

Groundhog DayStream

Actor
Ned Ryerson
Movie
1993
94%

The Pickle

Actor
Mike Krakower
Movie
1993

Josh and S.A.M.

Actor
Thomas "Thom" Whitney
Movie
1993

Calendar Girl

Actor
Antonio Gallo
Movie
1993

Mad About YouStream

Guest Star
Series
1992

Where the Day Takes You

Actor
Charles
Movie
1992

Memoirs of an Invisible Man

Actor
Warren Singleton
Movie
1992

Basic InstinctStream

Actor
Dr. Lamott
Movie
1992
56%

Single White FemaleStream

Actor
Mitchell 'Mitch' Myerson
Movie
1992
53%

SneakersStream

Actor
Dr. Werner Brandes
Movie
1992
80%

Hero

Actor
Wallace
Movie
1992

Baby Talk

Guest Star
Series
1991
0%

Marcado Para Morir

Actor
Movie
1991

Tagget

Actor
Al Hentz
Movie
1991

The Marla Hanson Story

Actor
Defense Attorney
Movie
1991

Thelma & LouiseStream

Actor
Max
Movie
1991
86%

Deadly Medicine

Actor
Ron Sutton
Movie
1991

Wedlock

Actor
Warden Holliday
Movie
1991

Funny About Love

Actor
Hugo
Movie
1990

Bird on a Wire

Actor
Joe Weyburn
Movie
1990

Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael

Actor
Mayor Bill Klepler
Movie
1990

SeinfeldStream

Guest Star
Tor
Series
1989
89%

Breaking In

Actor
District Attorney
Movie
1989

Great Balls of Fire

Actor
Jud Phillips
Movie
1989
63%

Mississippi BurningStream

Actor
Clayton Townley
Movie
1988
81%

Two Idiots in Hollywood

Actor
Prosecuting Attorney
Movie
1988

Two Idiots in Hollywood

Director
Movie
1988

Two Idiots in Hollywood

Writer
Movie
1988

Designing WomenStream

Guest Star
Series
1986

True Stories

Screenwriter
Movie
1986

Nobody's Fool

Actor
Kirk
Movie
1986

227Stream

Guest Star
Series
1985

The Philadelphia Experiment

Actor
Barney
Movie
1984

Keep My Grave Open

Actor
Robert
Movie
1977

AliceStream

Guest Star
Series
1976

News aboutStephen Tobolowsky