Doris Roberts was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Her mother, Ann Meltzer, raised Roberts in the Jewish faith in the New York City borough of The Bronx with the assistance of her own parents, after her husband, whose name may have been Larry Meltzer or Larry Green, deserted the family. Doris' stepfather, whose surname she took as her own, was Chester H. Roberts. Chester and Ann Roberts operated the Z.L. Rosenfield Agency, a stenographic service catering to playwrights and actors.
Roberts' acting career began in 1952 with a role on the TV series Studio One. She appeared in episodes of The Naked City (1958–63), Way Out (1961), Ben Casey (1963), and The Defenders (1962–63).
In 1961, she made her film debut in Something Wild.She appeared in such 1960s and 1970s cult films as A Lovely Way to Die, No Way to Treat a Lady, The Honeymoon Killers, Such Good Friends, Little Murders, A New Leaf and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. In 1978, she appeared in a film about John F. Kennedy's assassination, Ruby and Oswald, in which she played Jack Ruby's sister. She also appeared very briefly in The Rose, as the mother of the title character (played by Bette Midler).
In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Rue McClanahan confirmed that in 1972 she was approached by Norman Lear during the taping of an All In The Family episode to be a late replacement for Roberts, who was originally intended for the role of Vivian in Maude.
She has usually been cast as a mother or mother-in-law on television, i.e. as Theresa Falco on Angie. She later appeared as Mildred Krebs on Remington Steele. After that show ended, she starred in the TV movie remake of If It's Tuesday, It Still Must Be Belgium (1987) and the National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989). She appeared on Alice, playing the mother of the title character (played by her former Broadway co-star Linda Lavin), on Barney Miller as the wife of a man who secretly went to a sex surrogate, and on Full House as Danny Tanner's mother. She played the unhinged "Flo Flotsky" on four episodes of Soap, and played lonely Aunt Edna on Step by Step. She also made an appearance on an episode of Walker Texas Ranger and sailed on The Love Boat.
Roberts achieved her widest fame for her role as Marie Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond. She was reportedly one of 100 actresses considered for the role. For her work on the series, she was nominated for seven Emmy Awards (and won four times) for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
She previously won an Emmy for a guest appearance on St. Elsewhere, playing a homeless woman, and she was also nominated once for her role on Remington Steele. She was nominated for appearances on Perfect Strangers and a PBS special called The Sunset Gang. In 2003, she made a guest appearance as Gordo's grandmother in the Disney series, Lizzie McGuire. The same year, Roberts received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In 2006, she starred in Our House where she portrayed a wealthy woman who took homeless people in her house, and in the Adam Sandler-produced comedy Grandma's Boy. In 2007, she made a guest appearance on Law & Order: Criminal Intent. In 2008, Roberts appeared in the romantic comedy Play the Game alongside Andy Griffith, who plays a lonely, widowed grandfather re-entering the dating world after a 60-year hiatus. She appeared in the 2009 film Aliens in the Attic, which was filmed in Auckland, New Zealand.
On September 23, 2010, Roberts played a schoolteacher in the second season premiere episode of The Middle. This appearance reunited her with Patricia Heaton, her co-star from Everybody Loves Raymond. Roberts returned in two other episodes that season, "The Math Class" and the finale, "Back to Summer."
Roberts will starring on upcoming ABC comedy pilot Counter Culture.
Roberts' stage career began in the 1950s on Broadway. She has appeared in numerous Broadway shows including The Desk Set (with Shirley Booth), Neil Simon's The Last of the Red Hot Lovers (with James Coco and Linda Lavin) and Terrence McNally's Bad Habits. She starred in McNally's Unusual Acts of Devotion at the LaJolla Playhouse in June 2009.
- 1983 — Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series — St. Elsewhere
- 2001 — Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series — Everybody Loves Raymond
- 2002 — Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series — Everybody Loves Raymond
- 2003 — Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series — Everybody Loves Raymond
- 2005 — Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series — Everybody Loves Raymond
Emmy Award nominations
- 1985 — Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series — Remington Steele
- 1989 — Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series — Perfect Strangers
- 1991 — Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Special — The Sunset Gang
- 1999 — Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series — Everybody Loves Raymond
- 2000 — Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series — Everybody Loves Raymond
- 2004 — Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series — Everybody Loves Raymond
- Barefoot in the Park (1967)
- No Way to Treat a Lady (1968)
- The Honeymoon Killers (1970)
- A New Leaf (1971)
- Such Good Friends (1971)
- The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)
- The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1975)
- Hester Street (1975)
- All in the Family (1976)
- Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (1976–1978)
- It Happened One Christmas (1977)
- Jennifer: A Woman's Story (1979)
- Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff (1979)
- The Rose (1979)
- The Diary of Anne Frank (1980)
- Angie (1979–1980)
- Cagney & Lacey (1982)
- Ordinary Heroes (1986)
- Love in the Present Tense (1986)
- Number One with a Bullet (1987)
- Simple Justice (1989)
- National Lampoons Christmas Vacation (1989)
- Blind Faith (1990)
- A Mom for Christmas (1990)
- Full House (1990)
- Used People (1992)
- Murder, She Wrote (1990, 1993,1994)
- The Grass Harp (1995)
- Everybody Loves Raymond (1996-2005)
- A Fish in the Bathtub (1999)
- All Over the Guy (2001)
- Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star (2003)
- A Time to Remember (2003)
- Raising Waylon (2004)
- Grandma's Boy (2006)
- Our House (2006)
- Keeping Up with the Steins (2006)
- Play the Game (2009)
- Aliens in the Attic (2009)
- Mrs Miracle (2009)
- Debbie Macomber's Mrs. Miracle (2009)
- Another Harvest Moon (2009)
- Mrs Miracle 2 (2010)
- Grey's Anatomy (2011)
- Hot In Cleveland (2011)
- Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension (2011)
- Counter Culture (2012)
- Desperate Housewives (2012)