David Alan Grier

Also Credited As:

D.A.G.
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Biography

David Alan Grier created some of the most iconic sketch comedy characters of the early 1990s - from the flamboyant film critic Antoine Merriweather to obnoxious shop teacher Al MacAfee - and helped push the envelope of TV programming with the comedy variety show "In Living Color" (FOX, 1990-94). To many, Grier was a workingman's comic, giving his zany characters and impeccable celebrity impressions a realistic twist. He was also a radio …
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Job Title

Actor, Producer, Writer, Music

Born

June 30, 1955

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About

David Alan Grier created some of the most iconic sketch comedy characters of the early 1990s - from the flamboyant film critic Antoine Merriweather to obnoxious shop teacher Al MacAfee - and helped push the envelope of TV programming with the comedy variety show "In Living Color" (FOX, 1990-94). To many, Grier was a workingman's comic, giving his zany characters and impeccable celebrity impressions a realistic twist. He was also a radio personality, a stage and film actor, and political commentator on the satirical news program "Chocolate News" (Comedy Central, 2008- ). By 2009, Grier went from stand-up comedy to ballroom dance, joining the eighth season of "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC, 2004- ), where he retained his comic genius on the dance floor without losing a step.

Born on June 30, 1955 in Detroit, MI, Grier - who sometimes went simply by his initials, "DAG" - was the son of William Henry Grier and Aretas Ruth (nee Dudley). He attended Detroit's Cass Tech High School, received his bachelor's degree in Radio/TV/Film from the University of Michigan, and his MFA from the Yale School of Drama. Before he was ever seen, the aspiring actor was first heard, voicing a nameless X-Wing fighter pilot for a National Public Radio adaptation of "Star Wars" in 1980. Immediately after graduating from Yale, Grier made his Broadway debut in 1981, starring in the musical "The First," which also earned him a Tony Award nomination for Best Feature Actor.

The theater soon became Grier's second home early in his career. He won the Theater World Award for "The First" and followed it with stirring performances as James "Thunder" Early in the stage hit "Dreamgirls," the off-Broadway drama "A Soldier's Story," and in various Shakespeare productions. His acting caught the attention of filmmakers, including Robert Altman, who directed Grier in 1983's "Streamers," a film debut that earned him a Golden Lion for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival. A year later, Grier reprised his role in the big screen adaptation of "A Soldier's Story" (1984).

Grier started making a shift from drama to comedy in the 1985 film "Beer," which parodied the advertising industry. He then starred in a couple of independent releases, "From The Hip" and the cult favorite "Amazon Women on the Moon," both released in 1987. A year later, Grier was cast as a newsman in "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" (1988), a parody of '70s blaxploitation movies from writer/director/star Keenen Ivory Wayans. The film was in no way a blockbuster hit, yet it spawned one of the most cutting edge and influential variety programs in TV history.

Two years after "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka," Wayans created the comedy sketch show "In Living Color," which was described at the time as "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) with an urban twist. Wayans gathered a group of up-and-coming comics including his siblings Damon, Kim, Marlon, and Shawn, Grier, and then-unknowns Jim Carrey and Jamie Foxx. "In Living Color" was a ratings and critical success, lauded for its racy comedy and inclusion of topics such as racism, sexuality, and violence that were - until then - too controversial for a primetime network program. Grier's characters were unforgettable, whether he was giving a film "two snaps and around the world" as gay film critic Antoine (a bit he created with Damon Wayans) or spoofing the likes of Rodney King, Ike Turner, and Maya Angelou.

"In Living Color" tested the boundaries of television and FOX even struggled to censor some of the show's material after a live Super Bowl halftime special (FOX, 1992) that included Grier and Wayans' "Men on Film" sketch that suggested that actor Richard Gere and athlete Carl Lewis were homosexual lovers. But such controversy and the memorable cast of characters only peaked viewers' interests and they kept the show going for five seasons (and in syndication), earning an Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety Series along the way.

Grier parlayed his success with "In Living Color" to a full time film career. The actor reunited with Altman in the Hollywood satire "The Player," where he played himself. He appeared in Eddie Murphy's "Boomerang" (1992), co-starred with Pauly Shore in the military comedy "In The Army Now" (1994), and with Damon Wayans in "Blankman" (1994), a spoof of superhero films. Even though he was not always the main star, Grier played the perfect comedy sidekick - someone who starts in the background, yet ultimately steals the show. He had even more box office success with the movies "Jumanji" (1995) with Robin Williams, "McHale's Navy" (1997) with Tom Arnold, and "Return To Me" (2000) with David Duchovny. He made a dramatic comeback playing an abusive father in "Tales From the Hood," a horror anthology from director Rusty Cundieff.

A year after "In Living Color" went off the air Grier was invited to host "Saturday Night Live," where he voiced his most beloved character, Antoine Merriweather, once more for a sketch. It seemed television always had a place for the actor, and he made several attempts to establish a successful career on the small screen. He had a recurring role as Rev. Leon Lonnie Love in the hit series "Martin" (FOX, 1992-97) before reuniting with Damon Wayans in the latter's self-titled sitcom. Unfortunately, "Damon" (FOX, 1998) only lasted one season - the same fate that fell upon Grier's own show "DAG" (NBC, 2000-01), where he played Secret Service agent Jerome Daggett opposite Delta Burke. He was more successful, however, with his other TV appearances - from hosting "Premium Blend" (Comedy Central, 1997- ) to his 2003 standup special "The Book Of David - The Cult Figures Manifesto" (Comedy Central).

Acting as a comic foil once again proved successful for Grier, who was cast as a regular character in "Life With Bonnie" (ABC, 2002-04), a sitcom about a frantic TV host played by Bonnie Hunt. Grier's chameleon voice also boosted ratings for Comedy Central's "Crank Yankers" (2002- ), where he popularized the characters Landanlius "The Truth" Truefeld, Danny, and Stompy. Given his background in radio, Grier was regularly asked to guest-host the late night radio show "Loveline" with Dr. Drew Pinsky. His most infamous episode on the show happened in 2002 when Grier revealed his girlfriend of four years cheated on him with fellow actors. Instead of blurting it out, the actor instead "coughed up" a few names that sounded to many listeners as "Tom Sizemore" and "Colin Farrell." Though all of his TV sitcom projects failed to take off, Grier kept a steady stream of acting projects throughout his career. He returned to theater with "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" on Broadway, and starred in the revival production of "The Wiz" at the La Jolla Playhouse.

Comedy Central gave Grier his own show in 2008 titled "Chocolate News," which took its cue from the successful comedy/news programs "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" (Comedy Central, 1996- ) and "The Colbert Report" (Comedy Central, 2005- ). "Chocolate News" did not hide the fact it was a black-oriented comedy/news program and that it skewered politics and pop culture from an African-American standpoint - the same year Barack Obama was elected the country's President. It was also the actor's dream job. "We discovered that if we're being true to this on-show environment, we've got to come out pro-black," Grier said. "When we take that position after setting up the most obscene and obtuse circumstances, it feeds the comedy." Grier dressed up in costume once again to create another memorable character, a domineering maternal figure for a bit on the "Fat Black Momma Syndrome."

In 2009, Grier followed in the footsteps of comic actors-turned-ballroom dancers Adam Carolla and Jeffrey Ross when he competed in the eighth season of "Dancing with the Stars." He was partnered with professional dancer Kym Johnson, who was the previous season's runner-up. The actor also appeared in the films "Something Like a Business" and "Dance Flick" that same year. He voiced the character Troll in "Hoodwinked 2: Hood vs. Evil" (2010).