One of the few members of the New York-based MTV comedy troupe "The State" to hail from the Midwest, Chicagoan comedian Thomas Lennon is also an accomplished screenwriter.
Born in Oak Park, IL, on August 9, 1970, Lennon attended New York University as an undergraduate in the late '80s, at a point when Todd Holoubek -- a member of the campus sketch comedy team "Sterile Yak" -- abandoned that earlier group in favor of forming an alternative improvisational ensemble, christened "The New Group." Comprised largely of freshmen, the team blended film, video, and live performance in its live audience shows. Lennon joined the ensemble, as did fellow coeds Kevin Allison, Michael Ian Black, Ben Garant, Michael Patrick Jann, Kerri Kenney, Joe Lo Truglio, Ken Marino, Michael Showalter, and David Wain. Following a series of original shows (which began with "I'm Rubber, You're Glue"), The New Group landed its first gig as the opening act for Dennis Miller during one of the comedian's appearances at NYU, circa 1990. He paid them 1,000 dollars total.
In the early '90s, Lennon made several short films, including The Waiters, which ran on the Bravo network; meanwhile, after MTV formally rejected the ensemble's pitch for a weekly series, Wain worked with the others to shoot demos for the MTV series You Wrote It, You Watch It, which catalyzed the network's interest. At that point, The New Group changed its name to "The State: Full Frontal Comedy." They landed an official series on MTV in 1993, boosted by an appearance on The Jon Stewart Show, in which they completely demolished the comedian's set. Over the course of the first two years, ratings skyrocketed, carrying the series through several seasons. It wrapped in 1997.
During the series' run, Lennon wrote much of the material, including the popular "Monkey Torture" sketch. After the show ended, he joined cast members Kerri Kenney and Michael Ian Black to create the Comedy Central variety show spoof Viva Variety, based on an old sketch from The State. Lennon transitioned to features by voicing the documentarian character in the hit comedy Drop Dead Gorgeous, the feature-film debut of State director Michael Patrick Jann. Lennon also appeared in the feature films Memento, Out Cold, and Boat Trip, as well as TV commercials for various candy items and video-game platforms.
Returning to the television series format, Lennon sustained a recurring role in the short-lived ABC medical drama MDs. He then reunited with Kenney and other State members to create the reality cop show spoof Reno 911!, starring himself as pretty-boy Lieutenant Jim Dangle. Directed by Jann, the show became a hit on Comedy Central in 2003.
Lennon maintained a busy schedule in 2004, with supporting roles in the A-list romantic comedies A Guy Thing, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and Le Divorce. That same year, he also did screenwriting work (alongside many others) on Todd Phillips's Starsky & Hutch (2004), and the terribly received action comedy Taxi, starring Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon. While Reno 911! continued through 2005, Lennon contributed to the scripts of such mainstream releases as Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005), The Pacifier (2005), Night at the Museum (2006), and Let's Go to Prison!
2007 saw the young comedian and scenarist involved in his most ambitious project to date. He posed a triple threat as cast member, executive producer, and screenwriter of that year's Balls of Fury, directed by fellow "Stater" Ben Garant, one of the major forces behind Reno 911! He was cast in Hancock and the comedy I Love You, Man. In 2009 he co-wrote Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. He had a small but crucial role in 2011's Cedar Rapids, and appeared in the comedies Bad Teacher and What's Your Number?