David Alan Grier

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David Alan Grier
Grier in 2021
Born (1956-06-30) June 30, 1956 (age 67)
EducationUniversity of Michigan (BA)
Yale University (MFA)
  • Comedian
  • actor
Years active1977–present

David Alan Grier (born June 30, 1956) is an American comedian and actor. Known for his roles on stage and screen, Grier gained popularity playing multiple roles in the American sketch comedy television series In Living Color (1990–1994) and Reverend Leon Lonnie Love on the Fox comedy series Martin (1993–1997). In 2004, Grier was ranked no. 94 on Comedy Central's 100 Greatest Stand-Ups.[1]

Grier made his feature film debut in the Robert Altman directed drama Streamers (1983) for which he won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival. Grier then took roles in films such as A Soldier's Story (1984), Boomerang (1992), Jumanji (1995), Baadasssss! (2003), Bewitched (2005), They Cloned Tyrone (2023), The Color Purple (2023), and The American Society of Magical Negroes (2024).

On stage, Grier won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his role in the Broadway revival of A Soldier's Play (2021). He was Tony-nominated for his roles as Jackie Robinson in The First (1983), Henry Brown in Race (2009) and Sporting Life in Porgy and Bess (2012). Other Broadway roles include in Dreamgirls (1981), and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1996).

He has worked extensively in television playing roles such as Bernard on Damon (1998), Jerome Dagget on DAG (2000–2001), David Bellows on Life with Bonnie (2002–2004), Joe Carmichael on The Carmichael Show (2015–2017), the Lion in The Wiz Live! (2015), and Hal on A Series of Unfortunate Events (2018). He also created and executive-produced the American satirical show Chocolate News (2008) for Comedy Central.

Early life and education[edit]

Grier was born in Detroit, Michigan, one of three children,[2] to Aretas Ruth (née Blaney), a school teacher, and William Henry Grier, a psychiatrist and writer, who co-wrote the book Black Rage.[citation needed]

He graduated from Detroit's Cass Technical High School, received a B.A. in radio, television and film[3] from the University of Michigan in 1978, and an M.F.A. from the Yale School of Drama, in 1981. Visiting lecturer Rachel Roberts took notice of his performance one evening in a piece entitled The Place of the Spirit Dance.[4]


1981–1989: Broadway debut and early roles[edit]

After graduating from Yale, Grier landed the role of Jackie Robinson in the short-lived Broadway musical The First, directed by Martin Charnin and written by Joel Siegel. Grier was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical and won the Theatre World Award for The First. He got his start on the National Public Radio radio drama adaptation of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in 1981. He was the voice of a nameless X-wing fighter pilot during the Battle of Yavin.[citation needed]

Grier later starred as James "Thunder" Early in the hit Broadway musical Dreamgirls.[citation needed] Grier made his film debut in 1983 in Streamers, directed by Robert Altman. He won the Golden Lion for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival for the film.[citation needed] He appeared in the Negro Ensemble Company production A Soldier's Play and reprised his role in the film version A Soldier's Story.[citation needed] Grier appeared as a geology professor at Hillman College in the show A Different World.[citation needed]

1990–1999: Career breakthrough[edit]

Although primarily known for his dramatic work, Grier began to shift towards comedy, making appearances in the cult films Amazon Women on the Moon and I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, whose director Keenen Ivory Wayans cast Grier in his new variety show In Living Color. It became a ratings hit and won an Emmy for Outstanding Variety Series.[citation needed] Grier became a popular cast member through his characters, which ranged from hyperactive children to crotchety old men.[citation needed] Some of his more well-known characters were flamboyant and effeminate Antoine Merriweather in the "Men on..." sketch series, blues musician Calhoun Tubbs (based on Shakey Jake, a busker who often performed near the Michigan campus) megaphone-blaring shop teacher Al MacAfee, the elderly Mr. Brooks, and Tiny, a prison inmate obsessed with female "breastesses".[citation needed] He also provided impersonations of Joe Jackson and Ike Turner.[citation needed]

After his success on In Living Color, Grier began appearing in film comedies such as Boomerang, as Eddie Murphy's shy friend Gerard in 1992; Blankman, with Damon Wayans, in 1994; In the Army Now, as Fred Ostroff with Pauly Shore and Andy Dick, also in 1994; and as Carl Bentley, a factory employee turned police officer whose car is crushed and eaten by a giant pod in Jumanji in 1995. He played Rev. Leon Lonnie Love on the TV series Martin. Grier appeared with Tom Arnold in the 1997 comedy McHale's Navy as Ensign Charles Parker. Grier returned to Broadway to perform in the musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in 1997.[5]

In 1998 Grier hosted the game show Random Acts of Comedy on Fox Family, what is now Freeform.[citation needed] The show lasted one season. That same year he co-starred with Jon Stewart in Elmopalooza, as the director of Stewart's production crew, who he often chastises at Elmo and Telly after realizing what happened to the rest of the cast.[citation needed] In 1999, he made a guest appearance as himself in the "Aw, Here it Goes to Hollywood" episode of Nickelodeon's sitcom Kenan & Kel. After the cancellation of In Living Color, Grier starred in the short-lived sitcoms The Preston Episodes, Damon (with In Living Color co-star Damon Wayans).[citation needed]

2000–2019: Continued work[edit]

Grier is a comedian and hosted the Comedy Central series Premium Blend in 2001.[citation needed] He made an appearance on the Dave, Shelley, and Chainsaw (DSC) Show (San Diego Jack 100.7 FM) on October 5, 2012, before doing performances at The Madhouse Comedy Club. In the interview, he debunked internet reports that he was involved in a musical based on the life of Louis Farrakhan.[6] He took a leading role in DAG and had a cameo in the Robert De Niro and Edward Burns film 15 Minutes (2001) as a Central Park mugger.[citation needed] In a departure from the comedic roles he played on In Living Color, he portrayed an abusive father in Rusty Cundieff's anthology film Tales from the Hood.[citation needed] In 2002, Grier joined the cast of the improv-based ABC sitcom and Bonnie Hunt vehicle Life with Bonnie which ran for two seasons.[citation needed] During this time, he continued to appear in comedy films but also returned to drama in the films Baadasssss! (2003) and The Woodsman (2004). He starred in his own Comedy Central stand-up special The Book of David: The Cult Figure's Manifesto. He is also a frequent guest on the Comedy Central show Crank Yankers.[citation needed]

Grier was the host of the NBC show Thank God You're Here.[citation needed] He starred in Gym Teacher: The Movie (2008) playing the villain, Shelly Bragg. He appeared as Uncle Henry in the ABC 2005 television film The Muppets' Wizard of Oz. Grier guest starred in Season 6 of Fox's Bones.[citation needed] He played Professor Bunsen Jude, the Science Dude, the host of a children's television program. This character was inspired by Bill Nye "the Science Guy".[7] In May 2013, Grier appeared in Tyler Perry Presents Peeples, playing the role of Virgil Peeples, alongside Kerry Washington and Craig Robinson. Also in 2013, Grier appeared in The Watsons Go To Birmingham, a Hallmark Channel adaptation of Christopher Paul Curtis' 1995 Newbery Honor-winning novel, The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963. He appeared on the CBS TV-adaptation of Bad Teacher, playing the role of principal Carl Gaines.[8]

In 2008, Grier starred in the Comedy Central series Chocolate News which had satirical sketches about current events and news stories. It lasted for one season of ten episodes.[citation needed] Grier appeared as Jimmy Dale in the series Queen Sugar appearing in Season 3 and played the role of Mr. Packard in the Paramount Pictures film Clifford the Big Red Dog.[9]He returned to Broadway for the premiere of Race, written and directed by David Mamet, opposite James Spader, Kerry Washington, and Richard Thomas, which opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on December 6, 2009. Grier received his second Tony nomination for the role.[10] He also appeared in the revival production of The Wiz at the La Jolla Playhouse directed by Des McAnuff.[11]

His first book Barack Like Me: The Chocolate-Covered Truth was published by Simon & Schuster in 2009.[12][13] The book recounts Grier's own life story, and was written with Alan Eisenstock. Grier appeared on Broadway as Sportin' Life in the Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, which opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on January 12, 2012, alongside Norm Lewis and Audra McDonald. He was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical for this role.[14] In addition to his Tony Award nomination, Grier received a 2013 Grammy nomination for Best Musical Theater Album for his performance on the cast recording of the play.[15] He played the Cowardly Lion in NBC's live performance of The Wiz, which aired on December 3, 2015.[16]

He appeared in an episode of Clean House along with his brother and his brother's family. Grier invited the show to help his brother due to his severe problems with clutter, and the family received a home makeover. He hosted the game show Snap Decision, which debuted August 7, 2017, on the Game Show Network and many Sinclair TV stations.[17]


He was a contestant on the eighth season of Dancing with the Stars,[18] partnered with Kym Johnson. By the fourth week of the competition, Grier announced that he had lost 26 pounds.[19] He was eliminated in the fifth week. In January 2020, Grier returned to the stage for the Broadway production of A Soldier's Play, this time playing Tech Sergeant Vernon C. Waters, the role originated by Adolph Caesar in the off-Broadway production.[20] For this role, he won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play.[21]

In April 2022, it was announced that Grier would join the cast of the 2023 musical remake, The Color Purple. He plays Pastor Avery, the father of Shug Avery, a role also in the 1985 film of the same name.[22] In 2022, he starred in The Patient on Hulu with Steve Carell.[23] He was the announcer for the 96th Academy Awards, held on March 10, 2024.[24] That same year he starred in the satirical film The American Society of Magical Negroes which received negative reviews.[25] Of the film Grier said, "Some members of the white community will see it and say, ‘We’re tired of hearing about race.’ Well we’re tired of talking about it. We’re tired! We’re tied, too. We all want to get past this, but you can only get past it by going through it."[26]

Personal life[edit]

Grier was married to Maritza Rivera and divorced in 1997. In July 2007, he married Christine Y. Kim, an associate curator of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She gave birth to their daughter, Luisa Danbi Grier-Kim on January 10, 2008, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in Los Angeles.[27] On July 9, 2009, Kim filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences.[28]

When Grier was young, his family marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in a March on Poverty in Detroit, where King gave an early version of the "I Have A Dream" speech.[29]

He is a fan of motorcycles,[30][31][32][33][34] and owns the rare Yamaha YZF-R1 Limited Edition.[35] On the August 10, 2009, episode of Loveline, Grier agreed to auction it to aid Bryan Bishop's Tumor Fund, but walked off set while Adam Carolla and the audio engineer bickered on air.[citation needed] He is an avid cook and began food blogging during the run of the play Race, where James Spader helped to critique the food Grier made.[29]



Denotes works that have not yet been released
Year Title Role Notes
1983 Streamers Roger
1984 A Soldier's Story Corporal Cobb
1985 Beer Elliott Morrison
1987 From the Hip Steve Hadley
Amazon Women on the Moon Don 'No Soul' Simmons
1988 Off Limits Rogers
Me and Him Peter Conklin
I'm Gonna Git You Sucka Newsman
1990 Loose Cannons Drummond
Almost an Angel Det. Bill
1992 The Player Himself
Boomerang Gerard
1994 In the Army Now Fred Ostroff
Blankman Kevin Walker
1995 Tales from the Hood Carl
Jumanji Carl Bentley
Goldilocks and the Three Bears Spike
1997 McHale's Navy Ensign Charles Parker
Top of the World Detective Augustus
1998 Elmopalooza Himself (show's director)
1999 Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby Mr. Butz
Stuart Little Red Voice
2000 3 Strikes Detective Jenkins
Return to Me Charlie Johnson
The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle Measures
2001 15 Minutes Mugger in Central Park
2003 Baadasssss! Clyde Houston
Blue Collar Comedy Tour: The Movie Himself, Announcer
Tiptoes Jerry Robin Jr.
2004 The Woodsman Bob
2005 Bewitched Jim Fields
2006 Little Man Jimmy
2008 Kissing Cousins The Griller
The Hustle Rev. Isaac Montgomery Paid
The Poker House Stymie
An American Carol Rastus Malone
2009 Dance Flick Sugar Bear
Astro Boy Mr. Squirt, Math Cowboy, Boxer Robot Voice
2010 Something Like a Business 3D
2011 Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil Moss the Troll Voice
2013 Peeples Virgil Peeples
2015 Road Hard Michael
2017 The Big Sick Andy Dodd
2018 Arizona Coburn
Sprinter Coach
2019 Native Son Marty
2020 Coffee & Kareem Captain Hill
2021 Clifford the Big Red Dog Mr. Packard
2023 They Cloned Tyrone The Preacher
Candy Cane Lane Santa Claus
The Color Purple Reverend Avery
2024 The American Society of Magical Negroes Roger


Year Title Role Notes
1985 The Equalizer Desk Sergeant Episode: "The Lock Box"
1986 All Is Forgiven Oliver Royce Main cast
1987 CBS Summer Playhouse Deter Phibin Episode: "Kingpins"
A Different World Prof. Bryan Walcott Episode: "Romancing Mr. Stone"
1988 Tour of Duty Harold Episode: "Soldiers"
Duet Gordon Episode: "Oh My God, I Left the Baby on the Bus"
Tanner '88 Secret Serviceman Episode: "Child's Play" & "The Great Escape"
Baby Boom Episode: "Pilot"
The Dictator Episode: "Reading, Writing and Rebellion"
1989 ALF FBI Agent No. 1 Episode: "Wanted: Dead or Alive"
1990 Equal Justice Stone Episode: "A Sucker's Bet"
1990–1994 In Living Color Various Roles Main cast
1993–1997 Martin Reverend Leon Lonnie Love Recurring cast
1995 Saturday Night Live Himself, Antoine Meriweather 2 episodes
Dream On Marshall Episode: "Take Two Tablets, and Get Me to Mt. Sinai"
The Preston Episodes David Preston Main cast
Pinky and the Brain Marlon Voice, episode: "TV or Not TV"
1995–1997 Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child Bongo, Dudley Bear Voice, 2 episodes
1998 Damon Bernard Main cast
Cosby Gil Episode: "Chemistry"
Hercules Memnon Voice, 2 episodes
1999 A Saintly Switch Dan Anderson Television film
The '60s Fred Hampton Television film
Kenan & Kel Himself Episode: "Aw, Here It Goes To Hollywood : Part 2"
2000 Angels in the Infield Bob Bugler Television film
The X-Files Cinema Audience Episode: "Hollywood A.D."
Buzz Lightyear of Star Command Tubunch Voice, episode: "Stress Test"
2000–2001 DAG Jerome Dagget 17 episodes
2002 King of Texas Rip Television film
Sesame Street Aladdin Episode: "#33.45"
Boston Public Laurence Williams Episode: "Chapter Forty-Two"
The Proud Family Reuben Voice, episode: "Behind Family Lines"
2002–2004 Life with Bonnie David Bellows 44 episodes
2002–2020 Crank Yankers Various voices 20 episodes
2003 Samurai Jack Da Samurai Voice, episode: "Samurai Versus Samurai"
2003–2005 My Wife and Kids Jimmy Geller 3 episodes
2005 The Muppets' Wizard of Oz Uncle Henry Television film
2007 Thank God You're Here Host 7 episodes
2008 Chocolate News Host 10 episodes
2010 Bones Professor Bunsen Jude Episode: "The Body and the Bounty"
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Jeremy Swift Episode: "Branded"
2013 The Cleveland Show Ebert Williams Voice, episode: "The Hangover: Part Tubbs"
Happy Endings Terry Chuckles Episode: "In the Heat of the Noche"
Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja Rudd Rhymez Voice, episode: "Hip Hopocalypse Now"
2014 The Soul Man Jesse Episode: "Obama Drama"
Bad Teacher Carl Gaines 13 episodes
Black Dynamite Doctor Voice, episode: "How Honeybee Got Her Groove Back or Night of the Living Dickheads"
2014–2015 Comedy Bang! Bang! Network President Recurring role; 5 episodes
2015–2017 The Carmichael Show Joe Carmichael Main cast; 32 episodes
2015 The McCarthys Dr. Hugh Morris Episode: "Family Therapy"
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Ben Carson Episode: "Vin Diesel/Selena Gomez"
Cutthroat Kitchen Himself, Judge Episode: "Taco Dirty to Me"
2016 The Eric Andre Show Himself, David Alan Thicke Episode: "Dennis Rodman; Haley Joel Osment"
2017–2019 Snap Decision Host 60 episodes
2017 A Christmas Story Live! Santa Claus Live performance
2018 A Series of Unfortunate Events Hal 2 episodes
2018–2019 The Cool Kids Hank Main role
2019 Catastrophe Tim Cabot Episode #4.6
Queen Sugar Jimmy Dale 3 episodes
The Resident Lamar Broome Recurring role; 3 episodes
2019–2022 A Black Lady Sketch Show Preacher, Pastor 3 episodes
2020 At Home with Amy Sedaris Pippen Episode: "Inspiration"
2021 Dad Stop Embarrassing Me! Pops Dixon Main role
Joe Pickett Vern Dunnegan Main role
2022 That Damn Michael Che Pilot Episode: "Higher Power"
Central Park Voice, episode: "Lunar Palaver"
The Patient Charlie Addison Recurring role; 5 episodes
Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration Cogsworth Television special
2024 96th Academy Awards Announcer/Self Award ceremony
2024 St. Denis Medical Ron Main role (upcoming)


Year Title Role Notes
1983 Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Various voices Episode: "Freedom's Winter" & "Dark Lord's Fury"


Year Title Role Notes
1981 The First Jackie Robinson
1982 Dreamgirls James Thunder Early Replacement
1982 A Soldier's Play Private C.J. Memphis Replacement
1983 Richard III Murderer, Richmond
1994 The Merry Wives of Windsor Master Frank Ford
1996 One Touch of Venus Whitelaw Savory
1997 A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum Pseudolus, Prologus Replacement
2006 The Wiz The Lion
2009 Race Henry Brown
2012 Porgy and Bess Sporting Life
2015 The Wiz Live! Cowardly Lion, Robert the Farmhand Man No. 2
2018 Annie Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks Hollywood Bowl
2020 A Soldier's Play Sergeant Vernon C. Waters

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Awards Category Title Outcome
1982 Tony Awards Best Featured Actor in a Musical The First Nominated
1983 Venice Film Festival Volpi Cup for Best Actor Streamers Won
1999 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Damon Nominated
2003 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Life with Bonnie Nominated
2004 Satellite Awards Best Supporting Actor – Television Series Life with Bonnie Nominated
2010 Tony Awards Best Featured Actor in a Play Race Nominated
2012 Tony Awards Best Featured Actor in a Musical Porgy and Bess Nominated
2013 Grammy Awards Best Musical Theater Album Porgy and Bess Nominated
2016 Black Reel Awards Outstanding Supporting Actor, TV Movie or Limited Series The Wiz Live! Nominated
2016 Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Supporting Actor in a Movie/Miniseries The Wiz Live! Nominated
2016 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special The Wiz Live! Won
2020 Drama League Award Distinguished Performance Award A Soldier's Play Nominated
2020 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play A Soldier's Play Nominated
2020 Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Featured Actor A Soldier's Play Won
2021 Tony Awards Best Featured Actor in a Play A Soldier's Play Won


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  35. ^ Adam Carolla Podcast, May 29, 2009

External links[edit]