David Paymer

Active - 1979 - 2020  |   Born - Aug 30, 1954 in Oceanside, New York, United States  |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Comedy Drama, Crime

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Biography by Hal Erickson

A former theatre and psychology major at the University of Michigan, actor David Paymer's first Broadway success was in the long-running musical Grease. He tentatively launched his film career in the tiny but telling role of a cabbie in 1979's The In-Laws, then returned to working "live" as a performer and writer for The Comedy Store. A character actor even in his early twenties, Paymer displayed his versatility in a wealth of TV supporting roles on such weeklies as Cagney and Lacey, Diff'rent Strokes, The Commish and Downtown. Billy Crystal was so impressed with Paymer's work as ice-cream entrepreneur Ira Shalowitz in City Slickers (1991) that Crystal assigned him the plum role of Stan Yankelman, long-suffering brother and business manager of Berle-like comedian Buddy Young Jr., in Mister Saturday Night (1992). Convincingly playing an age range from 20 to 75, Paymer was honored with an Oscar nomination. Dividing his time between working in films and teaching classes at the Film Actor's Workshop, David Paymer has recently been seen as the angelic Hal in Heart and Souls (1993) and real-life TV producer Dan Enright in Robert Redford's Quiz Show (1994). In the decades to come, Paymer would remain an ever-present force on screen, appearing in films like In Good Company, Drag Me to Hell, Bad Teacher, and Redbelt, as well as TV shows like Line of Fire and The Good Wife.

Movie Highlights

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  • Made his acting debut playing Sonny in a touring production of Grease.  
  • Performed as half of a stand-up comedy duo with his brother, Steve, before deciding to pursue acting full-time. 
  • Has played a White House press secretary (Nixon), a Secretary of State (Amistad) and a Kennedy speechwriter (the made-for-TV drama RFK).
  • Directed episodes of such popular shows as Grey's Anatomy and Gilmore Girls.