When you're an actor best known for playing one of the biggest buffoon bullies in screen history -- a dimwitted tyrant with a penchant for messing up popular sayings and landing headfirst in manure -- you basically have two choices: one, succumb to the typecasting and spend the rest of your career in B-movie Palookaville, or, two, make like a tree . . . and get out of there.
For comedian Tom Wilson, who played Marty McFly's eternal nemesis in the Back to the Future trilogy, the choice was the latter (that means the second one, butthead!). "I'm definitely not the bitter old guy who's always ranting, 'You know, I've done a lot more than play Biff Tannen in Back to the Future!'" says Wilson. "But Biff, to me, is an infinitesimally small part of who I am."
As if to prove it, Wilson -- an ASU political-science grad who lived in Phoenix during the mid-'70s -- has become a bit of a Renaissance man since the Back to the Future trilogy. Besides continuing to act -- most notably as the tormented Coach Fredericks in the short-lived NBC series Freaks & Geeks, which, like BTTF, has since amassed its own cult following -- Wilson has gone on to voice cartoon characters on SpongeBob SquarePants, record an album of original Christian music, and even become a respected painter of pop art (displayed at www.tomwilsonusa.com).
Tempe Improv, 930 East University Drive
Scheduled to perform Thursday, December 8, through Sunday, December 11. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Thursday and Sunday, 8 and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $15. Call 480-921-9877 or visit web link.
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That's not to say Wilson shuns his Biff past. His act often opens with him singing a song meant to answer every BTTF freak's FAQ ("Was that real manure? No!"). "I have fun with it," Wilson says. "Biff is a big part of how people look at me. But it's a tiny part of how I look at myself."