Paul Dinello

Paul E. Dinello (born November 28, 1962) is an American comedian.[1] He portrayed Geoffrey Jellineck on Comedy Central's Strangers with Candy, and later became a writer and supervising producer for The Colbert Report and then The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.[2]

Paul Dinello
Dinello in 2007
Paul E. Dinello

(1962-11-28) November 28, 1962
Alma materDePaul University
  • Filmmaker
  • comedian
Years active1988–present
Danielle St. Laurent (m. 2011)

Early life

Dinello was born in Oak Park, Illinois, to Frank Anthony Dinello, the head of DePaul University's Mental Health Clinic and Ann Lee Dinello (née Zeiler). He's the fourth of five siblings: Donna, Lori, Linda and David.[3] His uncle Dan Dinello, who piqued his interest in directing, is an independent filmmaker and professor emeritus at Columbia College Chicago.[4][5]

Dinello graduated from Oak Park River Forest High School[6] and later attended DePaul University where he graduated from its College of Communications in 1985.[1] He is also an alumnus of Chicago-based The Second City, Improv Institute, and Annoyance Theatre.[7][8]


In the late 1980s, he was hired to perform with Second City's touring company. It was there where he met Amy Sedaris and Stephen Colbert with whom he often collaborated later in his career. By their retelling, the three comedians did not get along at first – Dinello thought Colbert was uptight, pretentious and cold, while Colbert thought of Dinello as "an illiterate thug"[9] – but the trio became close friends while touring together, discovering that they shared a similar comic sensibility.[10]

When he and Sedaris were offered the opportunity to create a television series for HBO Downtown Productions, Colbert left The Second City and relocated to New York to work with them on the sketch comedy show Exit 57.[10] The series debuted on Comedy Central in 1995 and aired through 1996. Although it lasted for only 12 episodes, the show received favorable reviews[11][12] and was nominated for five CableACE Awards in 1995, in categories including best writing, performance, and comedy series.[13]

A few years later, Dinello worked again with Sedaris and Colbert to develop a new comedy series for Comedy Central, Strangers with Candy. Comedy Central picked up the series in 1998.[10]

Strangers with Candy was conceived of as a parody of after school specials, following the life of Jerri Blank, a 46-year-old dropout who returns to finish high school after 32 years of life on the street. Most noted by critics for its use of offensive humor, it concluded each episode by delivering to the audience a skewed, politically incorrect moral lesson.[14] Dinello served as a main writer alongside Sedaris and Colbert, and portrayed Jerri's naïve and self-centered art teacher, Geoffrey Jellineck, seen throughout the series not actually teaching anything to his classes. Dinello took inspiration for his character from a teacher he used to have in high school.

Thirty episodes of Strangers with Candy were made, which aired on Comedy Central in 1999 and 2000. Though its ratings were not remarkable during its initial run, it has been characterized as a cult show with a small but dedicated audience.[15] Dinello reprised his role for a film adaptation, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2005 and had a limited release in 2006. The film received mixed reviews. Dinello directed and produced the film and also co-wrote the screenplay with Sedaris and Colbert.[16][17]

Since 2005 until the show's end in 2014, Dinello worked as a writer and supervising producer for The Colbert Report. He also made some appearances as Tad, the building manager. The character is often berated by Colbert, who forces him to do dangerous things.[18]

In 2015, alongside with the rest of The Colbert Report crew, he moved to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert working as a writer and supervising producer.[19] He sometimes appears on camera helping Colbert with some of the show's segments or on the cold open sketches.

In 2017, he co-created the craft-oriented comedy At Home with Amy Sedaris alongside Sedaris.[20]

Directing and writing career

In 2003, Dinello co-authored the novel Wigfield with Sedaris and Colbert, which they promoted by creating a traveling play.[21]

Dinello directed the Nickelodeon original movie Gym Teacher: The Movie, starring Christopher Meloni and Sedaris.

With Sedaris, Dinello co-authored Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People, published in 2010.[22] He can be seen with Sedaris in the "Mummified Hand" episode of the Science Channel show Oddities.[23]


Dinello has said his creative influences include, comedians: Ernie Kovacs, Buster Keaton, Peter Sellers and Monty Python,[24] filmmakers: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Terry Gilliam, Federico Fellini and photographers: Diane Arbus and Mary Ellen Mark.[4]

Personal life

Dinello dated his Strangers with Candy co-star Amy Sedaris for eight years after they met at Second City.[25]

Dinello met his wife, photographer Danielle St. Laurent, while working on the artwork for the book Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People.[26] They got married in 2011. The ceremony was officiated by his long-time friend Stephen Colbert, for whom he had served as best man.[27] The couple has two sons. Sedaris is their godmother.[28][29]


Year Film Role Notes
1995–96 Exit 57 Various Characters 12 episodes
1999–2000 Strangers with Candy Geoffrey Jellineck 29 episodes
2005-2014 The Colbert Report Tad the Building Manager Writer and supervising producer
2005 Strangers with Candy (film) Geoffrey Jellineck Director and writer
2008 Be Kind Rewind Mr. Rooney
2008 Gym Teacher: The Movie Mr. Tipple Director
2010 Rally to Restore Sanity Writer and consulting producer
2015 Difficult People Paul 1 episode
2015- The Late Show with Stephen Colbert Himself/Various Characters Writer and supervising producer
2017- At Home with Amy Sedaris Co-creator and writer

Published works

  • Colbert, Dinello, Sedaris. Wigfield: The Can-Do Town That Just May Not (Hyperion, May 19, 2004) ISBN 0-7868-8696-X
  • I Am America (And So Can You!) (Grand Central Publishing; October 9, 2007) ISBN 0-446-58050-3
  • Sedaris & Dinello. Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People (Grand Central Publishing, November 2, 2010) ISBN 0-446-55704-8


  1. "Notable Alumni". DePaul University. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
  2. "Here's the Writing Staff of 'The Late Show with Stephen Colbert'". Splitsider. September 10, 2015. Retrieved July 6, 2017.
  3. "Shocklife". Retrieved September 3, 2018.
  4. "indieWIRE INTERVIEW: Paul Dinello, Director of "Strangers with Candy"". June 29, 2006. Retrieved October 22, 2017.
  5. "Class dismissed: Columbia College film prof Dan Dinello retires". March 22, 2012. Retrieved October 22, 2017.
  7. "Paul Dinello Biography".
  8. "Paul Dinello". The Second City.
  9. Jevens, Darel (April 27, 2003). "Wigging Out". Chicago Sun-Times.
  10. P., Ken (August 11, 2003). "An Interview with Stephen Colbert". IGN. Retrieved July 22, 2006.
  11. Roush, Matt (August 18, 1995). "Critic's Corner". USA Today.
  12. Lipsky, David (January 21, 1995). "The new skitcoms: Sketches of pain". Rolling Stone.
  13. "Biography of Stephen Colbert at The Daily Show official website". Comedy Central. Archived from the original on October 26, 2005. Retrieved July 22, 2006.
  14. Fox, Ken. "Review – Strangers With Candy". TV Guide. Retrieved July 11, 2007.
  15. Bierly, Mandi (November 26, 2004). "50 Best TV Shows on DVD". Entertainment Weekly.
  16. Strangers With Candy Movie Reviews, Pictures, Rotten Tomatoes
  17. "Strangers With Candy (2006): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved July 11, 2007.
  18. "Paul Dinello". IMDb. 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-28.
  19. "Here's the Writing Staff of 'The Late Show with Stephen Colbert'". September 10, 2015. Retrieved July 6, 2017.
  20. "See what's cooking "At Home with Amy Sedaris"". July 27, 2017. Retrieved October 22, 2017.
  21. "Colbert's Book Report". E! Online. Retrieved 2017-10-12.
  22. Biersdorfer, J.D. (3 December 2010). "Holiday Books: Crafts". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 May 2014.
  23. "'ODDITIES' STAR RYAN MATTHEW COHN WANTS YOUR SKULLS". September 26, 2014. Retrieved October 22, 2017.
  24. "Transcript from the 6/12/00 online chat with Amy, Stephen, and Paul". June 12, 2000. Archived from the original on August 10, 2011. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  25. "Amy Sedaris: A mistress of many disguises". The Globe and Mail. 22 December 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  26. "Danielle And Paul". Michael Lavine. 2014. Retrieved July 6, 2017.
  27. Twitter Has Ruined Everything With Its Lousy Hearts on YouTube
  28. Amy Sedaris August 26, 2013 Late Show with David Letterman on YouTube
  29. Amy Sedaris- Letterman - 2015.04.15 on YouTube
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