Born in Detroit in 1926, James Lipton got his start as a radio actor after high school. He made the transition to television but decided to pursue writing in the mid 1950s. He wrote several plays, TV movies, and books and worked as an acting teacher until the early 1990s when he was inspired to create a television show called Inside the Actor's Studio which has aired over 231 episodes since 1994 (and has also featured several actors from Arrested Development.)
In 2004, Mitch Hurwitz was able to lure Lipton back to acting and for the first time in 50 years, Lipton appeared as a character (rather than as himself) on TV. He has since made only minimal performances besides his work on Studio.
David Cross had mocked Lipton and Inside the Actor's Studio in his stand-up act and on Mr. Show before they met during the filming of Arrested Development. Cross said he was impressed by how good Lipton actually was as an actor, and they became friends (though Cross is still far from a fan of Inside the Actor's Studio.)