Stop asking me the question

You have to hand it to Tom Wilson. Mr. Wilson, in case the name isn’t familiar, played Biff in Back to the Future. While his IMDB page will tell you that he’s worked consistently since 1984, he’s remembered consistently for that one role.

An entire life of being asked to call people a butthead

Mr. Wilson has literally spent his professional life being asked to call people a butthead. As he coasts into his 60s (don’t that make ya just feel old?) he seems to have embraced his position in pop culture and like many celebrities in the same boat, actually seems to cherish his relationship with fans with genuine gratitude. And, he seems to have no problem giving the people what they want… with a twist.

What does a best boy do (helps the key grip)

This video first started making the rounds in 2010. It’s part of a bigger performance special by Mr. Wilson, and in it he seems to understand that people want him to be just accessible enough and just irascible enough. His song, “Stop asking me the question,” addresses what must be the most common interactions that he has with random fans. It’s also hilarious because he’s a good actor and he brings in just enough Biff Tannen to satisfy your needs.

My fondness for working actors

Call them “C-List” or whatever, I have to say that I really like seeing people like Mr. Wilson who are properly called “working actors.” The folks who you remember from some show or other, who put together a life doing what they love. They have enough money to live a life of some comfort, but not enough to live an outsized and absurd life.

If you happen to find either That Guy Who Was In That Thingor That Gal Who Was In That Thing, both streaming for free on Vudu as I write this, they’re both great discussions with working actors who have created some really memorable bits of pop culture. You’ll recognize the faces instantly and it’s interesting to see how they see themselves.

Probably the king of the working actors was the late, great, J.T. Walsh. Can you nail down which movies you’ve seen him in?

He had an absurdly productive career in the 1990s until his untimely death, and yet most folks can’t quite place him.

Sounds like my idea of fame

Would you rather be a megastar like Tom Cruise, or a working actor like Tom Wilson? It might be a little annoying to be stopped now and again but I think I’d rather have than than the hordes of paparazzi. Sure, both lifestyles have their benefits, but I think I know which one I’d want.

Tom Wilson himself seems to answer the question in another one of his songs, this one from ten years ago:

Personally I think the job of a working actor (or character actor, not the same thing but close enough for this article) has its ups and downs like any job, but it does seem like a lot of fun.


About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.