Why We Can't Get Enough of Biff From Back to the Future
Thomas F. Wilson played Biff, Griff, and Buford Tannen in the iconic Back to the Future trilogy. Despite Biff Tannen's notoriety, Wilson is far more than a one-trick pony.
In addition to being an actor, Thomas F. Wilson is also a comedian and singer. Although he's most recognized for being the man everyone loves to hate from Back to the Future, you've probably seen and heard him elsewhere. These are the highlights of his entertaining life.
Childhood Experiences Prepared Him for Playing Biff
Biff Tannen may be a loud and proud bully, but Wilson revealed that his inspiration for performing the character came from vulnerable personal experiences. In real life, Wilson was often the smallest kid in the classroom, and he was a frequent victim of bullying. He thought back to the way he was treated to portray Biff.
High School Prepared Him for a Life in the Entertainment Industry
In high school, Wilson was heavily involved in extracurricular activities. He developed his oratory skills as an avid member of the debate team and began to take an interest in music during his teen years.
Standing Up to College Life
Wilson's love of the arts led him to apply for college at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. While attending school, he got a taste of the New York City fast life. He studied the arts in college by day, and he made his own art at night.
Los Angeles Leads to Opportunities
As most Hollywood hopefuls do, Wilson moved to Los Angeles after college. Instead of performing in comedy clubs, he began to perform in front of casting directors. Ironically, his first roommates in L.A. — Yakov Smirnoff and Andrew Dice Clay — became famous stand-up comedians.
Striking Comedy Gold
What do Richard Pryor, Robin Williams and Thomas F. Wilson have in common? All three famous comedians spent some of the earlier years of their respective careers performing at The Comedy Store, one of LA's most iconic comedy clubs.
Wilson Makes His Rounds on the Late Night Circuit
Wilson and his funny roommates were quite the buzz in the Los Angeles comedy scene, and he got his first taste of being in front of a national audience when he was invited to perform a set on The Tonight Show back when Johnny Carson was hosting.
He Was in an Episode of Knight Rider
Wilson’s first acting credit was on the show Knight Rider. He played Chip, one of two valet attendants who chase after Michael in one scene. The role lasted only a single episode.
He Thought He Would Be Fired
When Wilson joined the cast of Back to the Future, he was overjoyed but also terrified. It was his biggest role to date, yet it wasn’t clear at the time if it would be his for long. He later confessed to being worried that he’d be fired the entire time.
When Wilson Realized He Was Famous
Wilson knew that he was in an exciting movie, but he had no idea that the Back to the Future trilogy would be so well-received by audiences around the world. After the first movie was released in theaters, he and co-star Crispin Glover went out to eat.
He Had a Recurring Role on Ed
In the early 2000s, Wilson had a five-episode arc on the comedy series, Ed, a show about a recently separated lawyer who moves back to his hometown and turns a bowling alley into a law firm. Wilson played a minor role as a character named Sean Nowell, a local firefighter who plays one of Molly's two love interests.
He’s Also a Prolific Voice Actor
Wilson has also had a successful career as a voice actor. He’s had roles in Cartoon Network shows such as Adventure Time and Johnny Bravo as well as in cartoons aimed at an older audience such as Stripperella and Family Guy. Other cartoon credits include DreamWorks Dragons, Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia and more
You've Probably Heard Him on SpongeBob SquarePants ...
Some of Wilson’s most noteworthy voice acting has been for SpongeBob SquarePants. He tends to play deep-voiced Bikini Bottom residents who more often than not sound like the Tannens from the Back to the Future trilogy.
… Various Superhero Cartoons ...
Wilson has also voiced characters in several superhero shows and video games. He joined the Batman franchise as Tony Zucco in Batman: The Animated Series and Catman in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold television show and video game.
… And as a Banana Named Banana
Wilson has worked on various children’s shows, but one of the most bizarre was Pig Goat Banana Cricket, which unsurprisingly chronicled the adventures of Pig, Goat, Banana and Cricket in the whimsical town of Boopelite.
Freaks and Geeks
After the Back to the Future trilogy, Wilson might be best known as Coach Fredericks on Freaks and Geeks. While the show was canceled after one season, it had always received strong critical reviews and gained a cult following years after its premiere. The drama followed a group of nerdy teenage boys, the geeks, and their misfit older siblings, the freaks.
A Boston Man
Thomas F. Wilson has made some of his more serious appearances on two shows that take place in Boston. He played the one-time role of Jefferey Bass in a Boston Legal episode that tackles racism, police brutality, and xenophobia.
He Was the Star of a Broadway Production
Although most of his career has taken place on camera, Wilson has also appeared on the stage. He was the main character, Ben Rumson, in the off-Broadway adaptation of the book Paint Your Wagon.
Working With Arthur Egeli
In between being a pop culture icon, Wilson has found time to launch a rather successful career in art. In his early days as an artist, he worked as a studio assistant for Arthur Egeli, a contemporary American impressionist artist.
Where Can You See Wilson's Work?
Today, Wilson is a well-known artist himself. Many of his recent paintings falling under the pop art genre, which seeks to challenge conventional art by drawing on images from pop and mass culture and making it more accessible to ordinary people.
What Is Pop Fugue?
Pop Fugue is the name of one of Wilson's most popular collections. The paintings in it are an attempt to make sense of his relationship to fame and how it has had both a positive and destructive influence on his life.
Wilson the Writer
Audiences remember Wilson for his roles in front of the camera, but he has also done some behind the scenes work throughout his career. He has held writing positions at studios including Fox, Universal and Disney.
Publishing His First Book
The largest literary work that Wilson is responsible for is his memoir, The Masked Man. The book details his experience as a friend of Clayton Moore, the actor who starred in The Lone Ranger television series.
He Has His Own Website
The best way to keep up with Wilson is to visit his website or subscribe to his YouTube channel. His website provides a detailed description of all his endeavors. from art to acting.
"Butthead" Was an Improvisation
Throughout the trilogy, Biff Tannen and his family members often called the McFlys "buttheads." If they weren't using their iconic insult, they were ominously telling them to "make like a tree and leave."
Biff Tannen FAQs
Thomas F. Wilson became so synonymous with Biff Tannen that he started handing out the answers to frequently asked Biff-related questions on a business card. He started the card as sort of a joke, but it has served a valuable purpose.
He Has a Viral Question Song
If his FAQ business cards aren’t enough for curious fans, Wilson also has The Question Song to fall back on if all else fails. It includes, as one would expect, answers to common questions Back to the Future fans ask.
He Has a Song for Hecklers
In his post-Biff life, Wilson has gone back to doing a lot of stand-up comedy, and like most comedians, he gets hecklers from time to time. Unlike other comedians, he handles them by singing them a song.
Bigger Than You Comedy Special
In 2009, Thomas F. Wilson released a comedy special called Bigger Than You. After years of focusing on other aspects of his craft as an entertainer, he returned to his roots in comedy. The majority of reviews for the hour-long stand-up special are mostly positive.
He Released an Album
Wilson was raised a Catholic, and his faith is still very important to him. According to a post on his website, he and his wife both play music in their local church. They also have religious speaking engagements at various church retreats.
His Son Plays Professional Baseball
In addition to his many professional and artistic accomplishments, Wilson is also the proud father of four children. One of them, Tommy, is famous in his own right.