Dinello, Paul

views updated



Male. Education: Attended DePaul University.


Agent—c/o Author Mail, Hyperion Editorial Dept., 77 West 66th St., 11th Fl., New York, NY 10023.


Comedian, actor, writer. Worked for Allstate Insurance Co. and at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange; performed with Second City. Actor in the plays Stitches, Jackie's Kosher Khristmas, and Jackie's Valentine's Day Massacre, and in films, including When; Plump Fiction, Rhino Films; Straight Talk, Hollywood Pictures; The Howard Beach Story (television movie), National Broadcasting Company, Inc. (NBC); and The Untouchables (television), Paramount.


(With Amy Sedaris and Stephen Colbert) Wigfield: The Can-Do Town That Just May Not, photographs by Todd Oldham, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2003.

Creator (and actor), with Amy Sedaris and Stephen Colbert, of the series Exit 57 and Strangers with Candy, both for Comedy Central. Dinello, Sedaris, and Colbert also adapted Wigfield: The Can-Do Town That Just May Not as a performance piece, and they adapted Strangers with Candy as a 2003 film.


Paul Dinello and Amy Sedaris first tried out for Second City in 1988. They were both accepted and found themselves on tour with Stephen Colbert, who would complete the trio that went on to success with such Comedy Central series as Exit 57 and Strangers with Candy. Dinello and Colbert, known to many for his contribution as a correspondent on The Daily Show, did not hit it off immediately, but something clicked between them when they wrote a Christmas show for McDonald's employees. The three traveled with Second City for two years, creating their zany characters and off-the-wall skits.

By 1994, they were in New York City, where they created Exit 57. The successful series was followed by Strangers with Candy, in which Sedaris plays Jerri Blank, a forty-six-year-old woman who returns to high school where she corrupts the youngsters while wearing outdated clothing. Dinello plays art teacher Mr. Jellineck, and Colbert is Mr. Noblet, a history teacher with a passion for Hummel figurines. The show is a satire of the after-school specials of the 1970s, but in this case, it is about making the wrong choices, rather than the right ones. The creators planned to push the limits even further with the film adaptation.

Dinello and Sedaris had also once done a stage bit about a worm and decided to write a book featuring that character. They pitched it to Hyperion, but the idea of a children's book about a worm in the bottom of a tequila bottle was not approved. Instead the publisher accepted their concept of a book about a town called Wigfield.

Colbert, who was asked to collaborate, had visited the town of Jefferson, West Virginia, while doing a story about eccentrics for The Daily Show. It was the perfect inspiration for the book, a town that consisted of a stretch of strip clubs and used car parts stores that had been incorporated as a tax shelter. In the fictional town, murders are commonplace, toxic waste abounds, the police chief is an arsonist, one mayor is a mentally challenged fudgeaholic, while another is a stripper, and all of the members of the town council own porn shops. The town is located at the base of a dam that the government wants to destroy to save the salmon.

Designer and photographer Todd Oldham put the three in costumes to create multiple characters, images of which are included in the book. Colbert, as Russell Hokes, a highway line painter who is writing his first book, narrates and also plays two woman who appear mostly naked. Dinello is Lenare Degrout, the town taxidermist, and Sedaris plays various roles, including Mrs. Grimmet, poetry-writing teen Carla Port Hollinger, and Cinnamon the stripper.

Book reviewer Steve Wilson called Wigfield: The Can-Do Town That Just May Not "smart and often hysterical," adding that "not since the authors' sitcom Strangers with Candy has sleaze been so hilarious." A Publishers Weekly reviewer called it "one of those rare works of satire that combine creative form, uproariously funny text, and a painfully sharp underpinning of social criticism."

The authors adapted the book to a stage show that is part book review, part performance, and took it on the road. They donned the freaky costumes created by Oldham, and by using wigs, various voices, and makeup, portrayed the characters of the book. Jacki Lyden, of National Public Radio's Weekend Edition, said that "this play about a fictitious backwoods crossroad mines the same territory as Our Town, or Spoon River Anthology, or as—Dare we say it?—Lake Wobegon always does."



Book, May-June, 2003, Steve Wilson, review of Wigfield: The Can-Do Town That Just May Not, p. 76.

Boston Globe, June 13, 2003, Christopher Muther, review of Wigfield, p. C1.

Chicago Sun-Times, April 27, 2003, Darel Jevens, "Wigging Out" (interview), p. 1.

Los Angeles Times, July 27, 2003, Diane Haithman, review of Wigfield (stage show) and interview, p. E37.

Publishers Weekly, April 28, 2003, review of Wigfield, p. 46.


Weekend Edition,http://www.npr.org/ (May 31, 2003), Jacki Lyden, interview with Dinello, Sedaris, and Colbert.*