Dale was estranged from his father, Bug Gribble, since he witnessed Bug kissing his wife, Nancy, on the lips on their wedding day. In truth, Bug only kissed Nancy to hide his homosexuality as he was nearing a kiss with a Filipino caterer. When Dale entered the room, Bug reached for the nearest female, not realizing that it was Nancy until the damage was done. Dale did not learn the truth until 20 years after, when he witnessed his father working as a wrangler at a gay rodeo. It was here that father and son reconciled their differences. Dale's mother is deceased, this fact being learned in the episode "Bobby on Track".
Although highly suspicious of the government and of other people, Dale is unaware that his wife Nancy had an affair with John Redcorn for nearly fourteen years, and that Redcorn is Joseph's biological father. This is apparently due in part to his blinding love for Nancy, his incredible naivete, and the fact that he for some time believed John Redcorn to be gay. An example of Dale's ignorance of Redcorn and Nancy's relationship occurs in one episode where he catches Redcorn sneaking in through a window with Nancy nearby. When Redcorn, believing Dale had found out about his relationship with Nancy, sees this, he tells Dale he regrets him finding out in this way, but Dale remains oblivious. It's almost painful to watch-- at one time, Redcorn even comments that Dale's unblinking naivete regarding their affair "really takes the fun out of this." A recurring gag early on in the series was that whenever Dale would make a comment about being Joseph's father, John Redcorn would show up. The theme was that, whenever there was a real conspiracy going on, Dale would be totally oblivious and misread the situation. Occasionally Dale's predictions would be on spot, such as when Hank was in denial about his pickup truck being on its last legs; Dale warned Boomhauer and Bill that the three of them were going to be "the chumps who push Hank's truck" or "rides to AutoZone". When Hank asked Dale to give him a ride to AutoZone for a car part, Dale remarked to himself "So it begins".
In contrast to the usually shallow demeanor he has towards his friends, Dale is fiercely devoted to his wife and son, and frequently displays his love for them. He blames himself for all of the problems Nancy herself caused between them while she was cheating on him, has an explicit trust in her, and pampers her constantly; lavishing compliments, favors and gifts upon her, often in the embarrassing presence of John Redcorn. Dale is extremely proud of Joseph, towards whom he is highly generous and supportive, especially for his athletic prowess, which Dale never possessed. Unlike Hank Hill's relationship with Bobby, Dale is extremely attentive to Joseph's needs and feelings, and is never afraid to express his affection for him. Although Dale's attempts at good parenting occasionally go astray due to his eccentric ideas, he is portrayed as Joseph's primary parent, especially in the earlier seasons when Nancy was still having an affair, and is usually the first person Joseph turns to when in trouble. Joseph, unlike Bobby, has very little conflict with his father and rarely seems to feel the need to rebel against him, probably due to Dale's emotional availability and acceptance of his son's activities and tendencies - an area in which he outshines Hank. While he is comfortable and unworried about his son's development, Dale is very protective of Joseph; despite his cowardly nature, he once rushed into what he believed was the tractor beam of an alien ship to save him, even though at the time, he believed that Joseph's real father was an alien.
Dale runs his own business, Dale's Dead-Bug, (although Dale states that he doesn't make a living wage and Nancy gives him an allowance--Dale pays the cable bill) and drives a white Dodge Caravan called the "Bugabago" (a reference to the Winnebago brand of RVs) with a large queen ant model perched on the roof. The ant, which can be rotated to appear dead (legs up) or alive (legs down), was a group project of Dale and friends/neighbors Hank Hill, Bill Dauterive and Boomhauer to help them over the emotional turmoil they shared over the death of actor Hervé Villechaize. Dale also breeds small, odd animals, and once won 2nd Place in the 12th Anual Heimlich County Tortoise Breeding Competition.
Dale is an accomplished musician, with the electronic keyboard as his principal instrument (though on some occasions it was set to continuous replay). His résumé includes a stint with the Propaniacs, Big Mountain Fudgecake, and the Dale Gribble Bluegrass Experience.
Also, whenever Cotton visits, he gives much respect to him, even going as far as stealing a fake leg for Cotton's driver's license.
When the chemicals he used to kill roaches forced Dale to briefly give up his job, he took a position as a corporate hatchet-man and was spectacularly good at firing people, but his action to deal with a roach infestation (which he caused inadvertently) at this job led him to return to extermination. Dale's favorite TV shows are Sanford and Son and What's Happening!!. He enjoys drinking Alamo Beer with Hank, Bill, and Boomhauer. He also drinks a lot of Mountain Dew, explaining in one episode ("Dale Be Not Proud") that his kidneys like it. He also stockpiled barrels of Mountain Dew in preparation for Y2K in the episode "Hillennium".
Perhaps owing to the research he has conducted as a conspiracy theorist, Dale has a thorough knowledge of the workings of the American government, legal system and bureaucracy. He has used this knowledge to assist his friends, both to help Hank with problems related to renewing his driver's license, and to help John Redcorn with his land claim and lawsuit against the American government. Ironically, Dale's help for Hank in that instance came about after he realized the Warren Commission report was accurate and became obnoxiously patriotic, to the point of painting a huge American flag on Hank's house and trying to turn Hank in to the Department of Homeland Security after he tried to remove it. However, he has a habit of horribly misconstruing information, having misunderstood the word "placebo" (a fake drug, usually sugar water) for a top secret government research project and Hank for cleaning off the paint he put on Hank's roof as "defacing an American flag" in the aforementioned case.
Dale stands at 5'11". He shares a birthday with Van Cliburn (July 12). He is almost never seen without his signature Mack cap and glasses (with sunglass clip-ons), which he wears at all times, including indoors, to bed. Occasionally Dale will be hatless and his eyes will be seen, namely at times when it is blatantly rude to wear a ballcap indoors, such as church, or when he had to give up his exterminating business and get an office job, to which he had to abide by company policy and dress in a suit. He often gets caught up in his (usually far fetched and extreme) conspiracy theories, which can sometimes cause him to be very selfish or double-cross his friends (particularly Hank), although in the end he usually sees sense and comes to the aid of his friends. However, Dale on some occasions has intentionally caused trouble for others for his pleasure; in the episode Meet the Propaniacs, at Strickland Propane's Grillstravaganza, Dall overheard Hank telling Buck that they had ran out of CharKing grills, Dale rallied the other customers to angrily protest. His schemes also tend to run out of steam or collapse; he bought a low-power radio transmitter, and launched his own talk station "serving the entire tri-house area" Art Bell-style, but soon ran out of things to talk about on the air. (He later indicated that "Dale's Dead Bug", of which he is owner and sole employee, was offended by things he said on air. He sold the transmitter to "Mexican interests" – namely, his friend Octavio.)
His trademark line is "She-she-sshhaa", usually heard too fast to phonetically understand, and he says it whenever he is impressed with himself carrying out a plan or when springing a sudden move. He also exclaims "Wingo!" when excited and "That's a Gribble of an idea!" when someone thinks of a solution to his problems. He's also known for exclaiming "S'go, s'go!" (a contraction of "Let's go") when rushed or excited and "G'h!" when he is startled or learns something that feeds into his paranoid nature.
In the episode "Tankin' It to the Streets", Dale claims to have completed a Russian correspondence course he downloaded from Vladimir Putin's website and can speak the language, though his application of this in handling an Abrams M1A2 tank isn't exactly flawless (having flattened Kahn Souphanousinphone's new SUV, or, as Hank put it, "hit a curb"). In "Night and Deity", moreover, Dale is further shown to have some competency in Tagalog.
While Dale is boastful and often outgoing in his schemes, he invariably turns into a coward at the slightest sight of trouble, such as when he and Bobby attempt to steal the rival school's mascot (and subsequently retreats back to Tom Landry Middle School when they realize that their mascot costume isn't protected), Dale takes off the second Bobby tells him of the incoming students from the rival school, leaving Bobby behind (Dale ironically heads off to tell Hank so that the latter may go and save Bobby). However, he openly admits that he completely trusts his friends (particularly Hank), even more than himself, and in cases where he does realize the full impact of his actions, he can be surprisingly self-sacrificing. When he and his friends became volunteer firemen, he secretly switched his full oxygen tank with Hank's low-running one just before putting out a fire. On another occasion, in order to save Bobby from a swarm of fire ants, he intentionally transferred them to his own body and allowed them to all bite him at the same time, an action that nearly killed him.
Although Dale certainly enjoys the company of Hank, Boomhauer and Bill, it is shown that Dale also has no respect for Bill and consistently abuses him or teases him in some occasions, often by reminding him how Lenore left him or even in some cases, physically attacking him. But despite their relationship, Dale and Bill still show their friendship in some cases, such being when left alone together.
Dale smokes heavily, always Manitoba brand cigarettes. According to a high-ranking Manitoba employee, Dale should have died a long time ago. They calculated that he has smoked over 991,863 cigarettes, enough to earn every item in their catalog (and he has). Dale said that if he were a Canadian, he would smoke pot instead.
Dale reveals that he doesn't know what to do with his hands and is consequently a heavy smoker ("Of Mice and Little Green Men"). This is also proved when he runs back for his cigarettes, despite the fact that a bomb he created is armed. He once attempted to quit smoking and switched to chewing tobacco, but when his wife prohibited spitting in their house, he started packing the tobacco into a rolled newspaper and inhaling the fumes, which led him right back to smoking after Boomhauer lit the newspaper. Dale also once reacted to a cigarette being taken out of his mouth by screeching “My oral fixation!” (“Torch Song Hillogy”). Dale has been smoking since the 3rd grade (with the same brand). This could be traced back to the fact that in elementary school Dale had social acceptance issues. When heavy rain caused flooding, Dale, fearing a Noah's ark type of flood, tapes a cigarette to one of his turtles and tells him to find dry land and plant it.
Dale owns a large number of guns, mainly shotguns and handguns. He was at one point the president of the Arlen Gun Club (simply because he had the most guns, according to Hank). In one episode when Peggy opened a book store, Dale stated that he "literally has oodles of guns" and started selling them in the back of the store, complete with a makeshift firing range. He violated a social norm when he cut a hole in a book to hide a gun. Ironically, Dale (like the rest of the gun club) is a remarkably bad shot. It has been stated before that Dale once tried inserting a water-gun, which he has nicknamed Greg, into Hank's bedroom window, and unloading it onto Hank's crotch in attempt to make Hank believe he wet himself. However, he caught Dale in the act, promptly dragged him to the roof, and dropped him into a wagon of manure.
Dale is highly suspicious of all levels of government and ardently defends his Second Amendment rights, once remarking, "Guns don't kill people; the government does." Dale also refuses to pay taxes, does not vote ("The Perils of Polling"), and occasionally prints his own currency (Hank Hill typically appearing on the "Hundred-Gribble bill"). He runs away and sweats a lot when the IRS comes knocking on his door. In the episode "Movin' On Up", he refused to give Hank his social security number so the quartet of friends could rent a house on the block to use as a clubhouse. In another episode, he believed the government had tested "deadly placebo drugs" on Bill, supposedly made by "Puh-fizer" (Pfizer). This is why as a gun owner, he has never joined the N.R.A.
Due to his beliefs, he uses the alias Rusty Shackleford whenever he doesn't want his real name known, including when ordering pizza. However, Dale inevitably reveals his identity anyway after a few minutes through one act of stupidity or another, such as using the two names interchangeably with the same person.
In the episode, "Peggy's Gone to Pots", the original owner of Dale's stolen alias paid him a visit, and asked him to sign some paperwork so that Rusty could get on with his life. Apparently, Rusty Shackleford is the name of a third grade classmate of Dale's who Dale thought was dead, but in fact simply moved away. Dale has claimed to have the birth certificate of a child who died in 1953 with the name Rusty Shackleford. It is not known whether this document is real or fake. The neighborhood block charter was the only document he has ever signed with his real name. He refuses to sign any document authorized by a government official. Along with the alias, he often wears a faux mustache to "tighten" his security.
Dale, unlike Hank and Bill, has very little physical strength. According to "The Texas Skilsaw Massacre", Dale can only bench press 35 pounds. And in Get Your Freak Off, Dale himself admits that a little girl could probably beat him up.
Character Creation and Possible Influences
Johnny Hardwick has stated in an interview that the voice he uses for the character is essentially a “really lousy” impression of William S. Burroughs. Dale bears a slight resemblance to Burroughs and he speaks slowly and hesitates between words, except when excited, much like Burroughs. In the fifth season episode “The Exterminator", Dale took a job in an office and was forced to shed his hat and dark glasses and don the type of generic grey suit that was Burroughs’ trademark. Like Dale Gribble, William S. Burroughs worked as an exterminator and had an interest in firearms.
Dale is clearly modeled on Hunter S. Thompson, with his bald head constantly covered with a hat, always wearing sunglasses, chain smoking, distrust of government, and love of firearms. (Boomhauer, however, has slurred speech that exaggerates that of Hunter S. Thompson, suggesting that both characters are partial caricatures of Thompson). In one episode a scene change shows the end of a conversation with Dale, the subject of which bears a striking resemblance to Hunter S. Thompson's funeral (having his ashes shot out of a cannon atop a tower), and ends with Dale saying something along the lines of "That's how I'd do it."
The first appearance of a character resembling Dale Gribble was on an episode of Beavis and Butthead. The Gribblesque character was sitting in his underwear chain smoking while Beavis and Butthead had phone sex with his girlfriend.
Mike Judge has also said that he has modeled the character after Robert Patrick, as he originally wanted him to voice the character.
- Dale presumably suffers from Paranoid Personality Disorder, although it is unknown how he acquired the disorder.
- Even on countless occasions, Dale never found out about the affair of his wife, Nancy Hicks-Gribble, and close "friend", John Redcorn. The closest he ever came to learning of the affair was when Peggy was about to tell him but didn't since Peggy knew Dale was a good father and did not want to ruin the relationship between him and his family. He once had a subconscious dream that in "Vision Quest" that was telling him about Redcorn's involvement, but he seemed to misread the situation completely: A native American man with a ceremonial headdress was making love to his wife and he was handed Joseph wearing the same headdress. It is possible he does know and is simply in denial.
- In ”The Exterminator”, it is revealed that Dale likes eating nine small meals per day.
- Dale is extremely close to Hank's father, Cotton. He respectfully always addresses him as colonel and shares Cotton's sense of humor.8
- In two episodes, Dale has been known to speak fluent Russian and have an interest in Russia's controversial president Vladimir Putin.
- Dale seems to understand Bobby and be more attentive to his personal interests than either of his parents.
- It is unknown who his mother is but in one episode he said she had passed on and Dale is seen after mentioning it.
- The license plate on Dale's truck is LXD-352.
- Dale wears a hat with Mack (a truck company) on it.
- In "Bad Girls, Bad Girls, Whatcha Gonna Do", it was revealed by Bobby that Dale reads romance novels.
- Dale shares his last name with Gribble, an underwater crustacean that is, in essence, the equivalent of an underwater termite. This most likely coincides with Dale being an exterminator.
- He has been known to try surviving outside his house. Quite possibly this helped keep him alive when he thought he had rabies in To Kill a Ladybird and again in Master of Puppets.
- Dale always wears eyeglasses with clip-on sunglasses on a hinge.
- He personally seems to respect Bill the least, taking every opportunity to insult him.
- He can eat more hot dogs at once than Bill.
- The first time Dale uses the alias Rusty Shackleford is at a Mason Lawnmowers seminar.
- Dale's "Bugabago", a reference to RV manufacturer Winnebago, is a 1992 Dodge Grand Caravan that does not even remotely resemble an RV.
- Dale was originally going to be voiced by Steven Root, but Root did not feel he suited the character. He was instead voiced by Johnny Hardwick.
- At the end of "Night and Deity", Dale reveals that his favorite show is Sanford and Son. In Hilloween he is also seen watching it. This is also referenced in the episode "Pregnant Paws", when Dale briefly stops in front of the TV set (which is playing Sanford and Son) before proceeding to arrest Jim Helstrom. In the closing credits of the same episode, he is seen watching the show with Jim.
- In the episode King of the Ant Hill, Dale attempts to persuade Hank to reconsider hiring him to spray his lawn, explaining to Hank that he has dedicated his professional career to the study and control of arthropods. Dale, continuing to elaborate on his experience and expertise as an exterminator, explains that he's "personally taste-tested each and every household insecticide."
- It is possible that he and Boomhauer are very close. In one episode, it is revealed they take a yearly fishing trip together without Bill or Hank. Also, when Hank isn't the one to talk Dale out of something, it is usually Boomhauer - that, or Boomhauer is almost always with Dale on his crazy schemes. Dale also rarely insults Boomhauer or has a bad word to say about him, being the first to stick up for him in Luanne's Saga after Hank jumps to the conclusion that Boomhauer is dating Luanne.
- In the episode “DaleTech“ Dale tells Cotton that he’s allergic to citrus fruit when Cotton asked him if he was the one who drank Hank’s grapefruit juice.
- Season 1
- Season 2
- How to Fire a Rifle Without Really Trying
- Texas City Twister
- The Arrowhead
- Jumpin' Crack Bass (It's a Gas, Gas, Gas)
- Husky Bobby
- The Man Who Shot Cane Skretteburg
- The Son That Got Away
- The Company Man
- Bobby Slam
- The Unbearable Blindness of Laying
- Meet the Manger Babies
- Snow Job
- I Remember Mono
- Three Days of the Kahndo
- Traffic Jam
- Hank's Dirty Laundry
- The Final Shinsult
- Leanne's Saga
- Junkie Business
- Life in the Fast Lane, Bobby's Saga
- Peggy's Turtle Song
- Propane Boom
- Season 3
- Season 4