This curly-haired, gap-toothed comedian and comedy writer found success in feature character roles, typically as pushy wiseacres and sleazy yet feckless nerds. Long an admirer of the cynical wit and loquacious patter of Billy Wilder, Neil Simon and Woody Allen, Robert Wuhl (pronounced "wall") ambled his way through the University of Houston over the course of seven years alongside classmate Dennis Quaid before trying standup comedy in New York. He was part of the comedy group "Bob, Larry and the Frog" before branching out as a solo act at places like the Improv. Wuhl eventually won notice for his self-described "optimistic anarchistic" style, and wrote material for comic Rodney Dangerfield.
Wuhl moved to Los Angeles in 1979 and made his feature debut in the teen farce "Hollywood Knights" (1980). His improvised footage as a comic in "Flashdance" (1983) wound up on the editing room floor, and for years Wuhl could only find work as a writer, serving as story editor for the cop show spoof, "Police Squad!" (ABC, 1982). Standup work again garnered Wuhl attention, and in 1986 he wrote, directed and starred in "The Big Bang", a Cinemax special in which he lampooned TV's various "man on the run" series. A lengthy association with Billy Crystal, then in his award show host phase, began with "The 29th Annual Grammy Awards" (1987), the first of three consecutive Grammy telecasts--and later four consecutive Oscar telecasts--Wuhl would co-write with or for Crystal.
Appearances before the camera picked up for Wuhl at the same time. A breakthrough came as Robin Williams' noisy deejay colleague in "Good Morning Vietnam" (1987), and Wuhl consolidated his usefulness in brash, unattractive but amusing roles as the tobacco-chewing assistant coach in "Bull Durham" (1988). He brought some laughs to "Batman" (1989) as a curious reporter, spoofed Crystal as an Oscar host in "The Bodyguard" (1992), and played his first lead as a washed-up writer in the Hollywood-set "Mistress" (1992). He returned to the worlds of sports and journalism as Al Stump, a reporter and biographer faced with the nasty mystery of baseball's "Cobb" (1994). Wuhl passed time with appearances in a direct-to-video erotic thriller ("A Kiss Goodnight" 1994) and a forgettable horror comedy ("Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde" 1995) before making his debut as a would-be auteur.
Wuhl wrote, directed and starred in "Open Season" (shot in 1993; released theatrically in 1995), a little-seen comedy feature which attempted to join a satire of the TV industry with an old-fashioned screwball romance. A great movie buff, Wuhl attempted to emulate such heroes as Billy Wilder and Frank Capra in a story wherein--through a technological fluke--a public TV station appears to become a ratings champ. The barely released film failed to impress many reviewers. Redirecting his creative energies to the small screen, Wuhl resurfaced as executive producer, creator and star of "Arli$$" (HBO, 1996- ). He played sports agent Arliss Michaels in a series intended to satirize the professional sports world with the hilarity and insider's severity of the late-night talk show critique offered by "The Larry Sanders Show".