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A kind of renaissance man, director Wil Shriner worked steadily for over 20 years, moving between jobs as stand-up comic, actor, host, and writer/director. Despite wearing many jackets, he never rose to major stardom or recognition, instead building a solidly professional but unremarkable film and TV career.
Wil Shriner, along with twin brother Kin, was born on Dec. 6, 1953 in New York City, NY. His father was the TV game show host Herb Shriner, and Shriner's twin would gain a minor level of fame as Luke Spencer's nemesis, Scotty Baldwin, on the iconic soap opera "General Hospital" (ABC, 1963 - ). During his youth, Shriner and his family moved around quite a bit, shifting between New York, Florida, California, and Texas. For much of this time, he attended Catholic school, where he said he found his comedic start as a class clown.
Shriner first began college at the University of Florida, studying journalism, before moving to Los Angeles to attend UCLA Film School. Following graduation, he got his professional start assisting on director Max Baer's film, "Ode to Billy Joe" (1976). After a long spell working for Dick Clark Productions, and Shriner began to focus his energies on a career in the brutal world of stand-up comedy.
While no Steve Martin or Robin Williams, Shriner's comic wit brought him to the attention of none other than former stand-up David Letterman, who encouraged him to keep at it. With Letterman in his corner, he would go on to make over 50 appearances on various late night talk shows.
By the mid-80's, Shriner began shifting his career focus, as many were wont to do in Hollywood. He began making numerous appearances on television and in a few films, continuing in this vein for the next decade. The film in which he made his debut would also prove to be his biggest hit. In Francis Ford Coppola's "Peggy Sue Got Married" (1986), Shriner starred opposite Joan Allen, who would later be nominated for three Academy Awards. Other acting highlights over the next few years included appearances on Steven Spielberg's sci-fi anthology series "Amazing Stories" (NBC, 1985-87) in 1986 and on a 1994 episode of HBO's comedy hit, "Dream On" (1990-96). He also appeared in a number of largely forgettable TV and direct-to-video movies, again working in steady but unexceptional projects.
During this period, Shriner followed in his father's footsteps by adding TV host to his impressive resume. For one year, he hosted his own daytime syndicated talk show, "The Wil Shriner Show" (1987), before heading up a number of game shows and live events, including the American version of "That's my Dog!" (1991-94) and "Live by Request: Barry Manilow" (1996). Shriner's impressive hosting skills were welcomed by HGTV, which brought him on for a number of shows in the early days of the budding cable network. He had so established himself as a respected TV host by the mid 1990s, that he even played one in a 1996 episode of the early Debra Messing/Thomas Haden Church sitcom, "Ned and Stacey" (Fox 1995-97).
Possibly due to his somewhat undistinguished acting career, Shriner shifted careers yet again. In 1998 he begin working behind the camera as a TV sitcom director, beginning with a few episodes of "Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place" (ABC, 1998-2001), which was renamed "Two Guys and a Girl" in its third season. Over the next eight years, Shriner built an impressive list of directing credits. His most significant work came on the Bob Saget sitcom, "Raising Dad" (WB, 2001-02), "Becker" (CBS, 1998-2004) and "Frasier" (NBC, 1993-2004). Various Shriner-helmed episodes of "Frasier" won the Humanitas Prize in 2000 and the 2002 Emmy for Best Editing.
The multi-talented Shriner parlayed his directing and stand-up background into yet another source of employment -producing various work for corporate clients. His most substantial credit in this arena came when he wrote and produced the launch of Windows 2000 for Microsoft. His acquaintance with Bill Gates led to a gig writing and directing a comedy short for Gates to use at all his personal appearances. An impressed Gates returned the favor by appearing as himself on the 200th episode of "Frasier."
The next logical step in Shriner's master plan - directing a feature film - was less than auspicious, but still admirable. Under the banner of family-friendly Walden Media, he made his feature film debut with "Hoot" (2006), based on the children's book by Carl Hiaasen. Aside from writing and directing, he also picked up a co-producer credit on the feel-good comedy about children trying to save a family of owls, which, sadly, underperformed at the box office. Critics largely faulted the film for being too sitcom-like - an understandable explanation, considering Shriner's background experience.
Following the release of "Hoot," Shriner planned to move back to Florida, where it was filmed, in the hopes of collaborating again with Hiaasen on an adaptation of the author's similar kids' book Flush.