With his trademark heavyset figure and attitude of manic glee, the genial Dom DeLuise rose to prominence as one of America's most beloved comedic character actors. Born Dominick DeLuise in Brooklyn in 1933, the future star attended the High School for the Performing Arts in Manhattan, then graduated from Tufts University in Boston. DeLuise wasted no time in making a beeline for television, and though early efforts were low-profiled, including a turn as Tinker the Toymaker on the daytime children's show Tinker's Workshop and the portrayal of a bumbling detective named Kenny Ketchum on The Shari Lewis Show, DeLuise's popularity spread, carrying him swiftly into other formats and venues.
DeLuise initially graduated to primetime variety courtesy of The Garry Moore show, where he enjoyed recurring sketches as an inept magician named Dominick the Great. He then appeared on innumerable subsequent variety programs (often as a regular contributor) including The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, The Dean Martin Show, and The Flip Wilson Show. The comic made the leap into filmdom as early as the earnest Cold War thriller Fail-Safe (1964) (as an edgy flier), but drama didn't serve him well. He found a much stronger suit in comedy, initially courtesy of Mel Brooks, who cast him in films beginning with The Twelve Chairs (1970), as a shifty priest, Father Fyodor. Their collaborations extended to the 1976 Silent Movie (as studio man Dom Bell), the 1981 History of the World, Part I (as Emperor Nero), the 1986 Spaceballs (as the voice of Pizza the Hut), and the 1993 Robin Hood: Men in Tights (as the godfather-like Don Giovanni).