Dooley was a keen cartoonist as a youth and drew a strip for a local paper in Parkersburg, West Virginia. He joined the Navy before discovering acting while at college. Moving to New York, he soon found success as a regular on the stage. Also having an interest in comedy, Dooley was a standup comedian for five years, as well as having brief stints as a magician and as a clown. Not afraid of trying different areas of entertainment, he has also worked as a writer. After appearing in many movies, including most notably Popeye (1980), Dooley is has appeared as recurrent characters on various shows, including "My So-Called Life" (1994), "Dream On" (1990), "Grace Under Fire" (1993), and "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" (1993).