“Gleefully wacky and irreverent.”

–The New York Times

“Line by line, Mr. Rudnick may be the funniest writer for the stage in the United States today.”

–The New York Times

“Deeply funny musings and adventures elevate Paul Rudnick to the highest level of American comedy writing.”

–Steve Martin

“One of the funniest quip-meisters on the planet.”

–The New York Times

“Paul Rudnick is a champion of truth (and love and great wicked humor) whom we ignore at our peril.”

–David Sedaris

“Quips fall with the regularity of the autumn leaves.”

–Associated Press

Month: December 2013

December 31, 2013

I Didn’t Know

Stork

Because it’s New Year’s Eve, I’d like to pay tribute to maybe the finest TV show ever, which ran on the Discovery Channel from 2009 through 2011, and which was called, gloriously, I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant. This show told the stories, through documentary interviews and re-enactments, of women who managed to give birth without being aware they were pregnant, and one episode was titled Baby In My Sweatpants.

The women’s stories were often similar: the surprise-Mom was using birth control, she didn’t gain weight, she’d had other children, but she still Didn’t Know. One morning she experiences agonizing stomach cramps, which she blames on either food poisoning or the flu. Then she retreats, most often to the bathroom at McDonalds, where she takes, in the words of one surprise-Mom, “a wicked dump”, followed by a wave of relief: “I mean, I just felt so much better.” Then the toilet starts to wail.

The surprise-Mom is shocked but ultimately delighted and she then informs the surprise-Dad, who says something like, “I didn’t see that coming!” and then welcomes the new addition. My concern is this: someday, that surprise-baby will grow up and most likely watch his or her episode, the way a person might page through a wedding album or graduation photos. Will that now-grown baby be proud to learn that they were not only an accident, but possibly a bad batch of McNuggets?

In the coming year I’d like to see the following new shows: I Sued My Parents For Mental Anguish, I Was A Toilet Baby, and I Still Wear Those Sweatpants. There’s an actual upcoming show called Sex Sent Me to the ER, which includes the story of a 400-pound male virgin who, while having first-time sex with his 100-pound girlfriend, accidentally slams her head through the wall. “My first reaction,” the guy recalls, “was that I killed her. I thought, Jen is dead.” Happily, Jen only has a concussion, and a TV deal.

An early clip from Sex Sent Me to the ER also features a threeway gone wrong, with the two women screaming at each other, as the man, lying on a gurney in a hospital gown, yells, “Shut up! I’m the one with the fractured penis!”

December 30, 2013

Grand Hotel

This is a clip of one of the best musical numbers ever, from Grand Hotel, which
was gorgeously staged by Tommy Tune. It stars Michael Jeter
as a timid accountant who’s just checked into the hotel. Brent Barrett, who’s wonderful
as the Baron, had replaced David James Carroll, who would soon die of
complications from HIV/AIDS, as would the extraordinary Mr. Jeter.
The clip is from the 1990 Tony Awards, and there’s a longer version,
which includes an introduction by a sultry Kathleen Turner and
Jeter’s acceptance speech, which is available on Youtube.
If you click on this clip, it should go full screen.

December 29, 2013

The New Year

Face-close

A friend once told me that in the past year he’d been far too nice, and he resolved that in the year ahead he’d become more, as he put it, “cunty.” In this fine American spirit, here are some resolutions I’m considering:

1. In 2014, I’m going to become more petty. I’m going to say to people, “Tell me what you thought of the new Scorsese movie, in detail. So I can stop listening.”

2. In 2014, I’m going to begin criticizing strangers to their faces: “There’s no reason for you to be wearing black tights and high-heeled black suede boots.You’re not in Pippin.” “If you keep kissing that baby, you’ll put a dent in its skull.” “Stop shreik-laughing with all of your friends on the street, or I’ll push you in front of a car.”

3. In 2014, whenever I’m waiting in line for anything, I’m going to make as many exasperated faces and snorting noises as possible, so that everyone around me will understand how superior I am.

4. In 2014, if I can’t get a waiter’s attention, I’m going to tip only 5% and defecate on my chair.

5. In 2014, if it’s raining, I’m going to blame Obamacare.

6. In 2014, if someone is blocking the sidewalk in order to take a photo of their family, I’m going to get in the picture and expose myself.

7. In 2014, if I get a phone call asking for a charitable donation, I’m going to ask the caller, “But how can I be sure that my money will only go to the attractive children?”

8. In 2014, whenever anyone tells me, “Happy New Year!” I’m going to smile secretively and murmur, “Just wait.”

December 28, 2013

Miracles

Robot-Unicorn-Wallpaper-unicorns-24171150-1920-1080

People are always looking for parting-of-the-red-sea, instant-cure miracles, which are hard to come by. I prefer the following truly inexplicable wonders:

1. Flush toilets.

2. Airplanes. As with flush toilets, I know that science can explain how they work, but I will never understand these explanations.

3. Firefighters, doctors and nurses, teachers, police officers and sanitation workers.

4. My partner John, and our three imaginary children, who are away at boarding school and really no trouble at all.

5.The fact that Phil Robertson, the devoutly religious patriarch of the Duck Dynasty clan, is obviously going to hell.

6. Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl and activist, who was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman, because she supported the education of female students. This young woman is both unthinkably brave, and the opposite of Phil Robertson.

7. Whoever designed and built the parks which now almost encircle Manhattan.

8. Good dogs. I’m not going to include cats, just to spite them.

9. Lilac chocolate.

10. President Obama. And yes, I can now imagine so many people, both Democrats and Republicans, sputtering their complaints, which are sometimes valid, about President Obama. Two words: President Romney.

11. Anyone who wears anything with a rainbow on it, at the upcoming Olympics.

12. The fact that I was able to download the picture below, which is captioned “Unicorn Pooping a Rainbow.”

unicorn_pooping_a_rainbow_by_designfarmstudios-d2upaha

December 27, 2013

Selma

Like most genuinely stylish people, my mother could be quite strict. Elegance, as I believe Coco Chanel once said, is refusal. Here are some of the things my mother would not do:

Wear pants.

Dye her hair.

Wear anything synthetic.

Leave the house without makeup. Never a garish or noticeable amount, but makeup made her feel respectable, attractive, and prepared to face the day.

Wear fur. She didn’t have any great moral objection to wearing fur, but an aesthetic one. Fur could easily become very Miami Beach. When my Aunt Lil once bought a white mink stole, my mother didn’t approve, but she was too afraid of Lil to voice any objections. Lil was an amazing woman, and rather than slouching the stole, she wore it hanging around her neck with the squared-off ends somewhere near her knees; the stole looked like a white mink prayer shawl. If Lil was going to buy a fur, she wanted the world to take a good long look at it.

My mother struggled with her weight her entire life; her own mother had put her on diet pills when she was twelve years old. My mother tried every possible diet, from Atkins to the grapefruit diet to something which involved only popcorn and Diet Coke. One of her dreams, and she kept a file on this, was to create a comprehensive encyclopedia of failed diets. But she’d almost never shop at plus-size stores like Lane Bryant or The Forgotten Woman, because that meant you’d given up, and entered a world of elastic waistbands and way too much black and navy blue stretch fabric.

My mother joined Weight Watchers with her best friend Ann, and they stuck with the program. They bought little metal scales to weigh their food, and they forced themselves to eat the Weight Watchers frozen dinners, which looked like, as my mother put it, “frozen diapers.” Once my mother had lost thirty pounds, she bought herself a wardrobe of beautiful and expensive new dresses. But when the weight came back, she finally gave this wardrobe away. Maintaining her weight loss had been too exhausting.

There was another woman in her Weight Watchers program whom my mother admired because, while she was larger than my Mom, she was always very well-dressed. In her later years, my mother discovered Marimekko dresses, which she loved. These dresses were all-cotton, and imported – the company was based in Finland. The signature Marimekko prints were bold and cheerful, and my mother accessorized them with silk scarves and silver Mexican jewelry, and she looked terrific.

My mother was a publicist, and one of the shows she worked on was an exuberant, anti-apartheid South African musical called Sarafina (and yes, for you musical theater geeks, the show was technically called Sarafina!) The show’s cast was almost entirely teenage South African girls, and these girls thought that my Mom was the best-dressed woman they’d ever seen. The girls were on a budget, so my Mom took them to the Gap and advised them on buying inexpensive but appealing items, and to show their appreciation, the girls gave my Mom one of their signature derbies.

My mother was the Nelson Mandela of retail.

It’s easy to spot a stylish person, at any price point, because they don’t look like anybody else. People like to talk about being comfortable in your own skin; my mother was comfortable in her Marimekkos.

mari9

December 26, 2013

Good Things About Being a Riter

You can pretend that you’re always working, because you’re always thinking. Once in a while, I will catch myself actually thinking about something I’m working on, and I’ll be shocked. And then I’ll award myself bonus points.

You can completely justify eavesdropping, as “research.” A riter can justify anything as “research.” “Your Honor, I only got drunk and ran over a pedestrian because I needed to experience that feeling of reckless abandon, for my new collection of short stories.”

There’s been a lot of Science Section chatter lately, about the dangers of too much sitting. Researchers claim that, especially due to the constant use of tech products, people are sitting more than ever, which can have dire consequences in terms of obesity and heart attacks. I agree with this research wholeheartedly, but increased exercise is not the solution. Lying down is the solution. Riting and prostitution are almost the only professions which can be practiced while lying down. Except of course, prostitutes have dignity.

When you’re riting, and the work is going well, there’s a brief bubble of elation. This bubble can only be sustained by never allowing anyone else to read what you’ve ritten, or by the end of the world. Both are valid options.

I’m always impressed by political prisoners who manage to rite deeply moving, three volume novels on scraps of paper. These scraps are then smuggled out of the barren prison by being placed up another prisoner’s ass. That second prisoner must be grateful that the first prisoner wasn’t using a laptop.

When something I’ve ritten is published in another language, I somehow imagine that I can now speak that language.

December 25, 2013

If Santa Was Jewish

fc.santaART.120512

1. All gifts would include receipts.

2. It wouldn’t be a question of who’s been naughty or nice, but who voted Democratic.

3. The elves would have their own museum at the North Pole, honoring their culture, and their sacrifice.

4. Many children would receive not just gifts, but scholarships.

5. After coming down every chimney and discovering a glass of milk and a plate of cookies, Santa would sigh and insist, “My doctor is gonna kill me…”

6. Mrs. Claus would have her own interests, including Peruvian folk-dancing and water aerobics.

7. The reindeer would be named Donald, Blintzes, Mrs. Traub, Henny, Tuchis and Pisher.

8. As he approached each home, instead of calling out, “Ho ho ho”, Santa would yell, “It’s just me! Don’t shoot! I’m kidding!”

9. At the end of each Christmas, Santa would moan, “I can’t move!”

10. Children all over the world would send Santa hand-written thank-you notes because, as their mothers would tell them, “We’re not animals.”

11588164-cartoon-santa-claus-relaxing-on-the-beach

December 24, 2013

Libby

I’ve just seen August:Osage County and I thought it was wonderful, and not only because the movie justifies all of my most irrational prejudices about gentiles. Although according to this film, they all enjoy drinking, taking pills and sassing their mothers, who certainly deserve to be sassed. While some people will claim that August:Osage County is a soap opera, I disagree. It’s at least ten soap operas, which makes the whole thing even more fun, and a perfect Yuletide treat for families who consider chain-smoking, slapping and incest to be holiday traditions.

It’s especially great to watch that supreme actress, Meryl Streep, face off with that supreme movie star, Julia Roberts, who plays Meryl’s daughter. Of course, Meryl can demolish all of the scenery for miles around, with just the flick of an eyelash, but Julia’s got her haggard goddess glamour, which is equally powerful. Meryl’s character has cancer, so she gets to lurch around with either a scraggly scalp or a curly dark wig, while Julia responds with gritted teeth and peasant tops. It’s sort of like watching a high-stakes poker game, which begins when everyone slams their Oscars onto the table.

The rest of the cast is perfect as well, with Margo Martindale and Chuck Cooper supplying midwestern realness, and Ewan McGregor and Benedict Cumberbatch as visiting ambassadors to the land of drawl. When everyone, including Julianne Nicholson, Abigail Breslin, Dermot Mulroney and Juliette Lewis, sits down for a post-funeral dinner, the food flies. Everyone behaves terribly, and I kept thinking that if this was my family, we’d add phrases like, “Well, you’re welcome to have your opinion, even if it’s stupid”, “I hear what you’re saying, and now I understand why you went to a state school”, and “Let’s all just please keep our voices down, because the neighbors don’t need to know that we’re disgusting.”

Movies like August:Osage County remind us that you don’t need hobbits and CGI space capsules to have a good time, and that Meryl smirking behind her huge sunglasses is a terrifying special effect. The movie’s producers have seemed nervous, and the TV ads are trying to sell the film as if it’s a cross between Steel Magnolias and A Madea Christmas. The movie’s based on the terrific Pulitzer Prize-winning play, and the director makes a few half-hearted attempts at opening things up, by adding some longshots of the open prairie and a symbolic flock of birds, flying off. But I think that America will love watching Meryl and Julia wrestling on the floor, and maybe the ads should just use the tagline, “A Movie for Anyone Who’s Ever Wanted to Strangle Their Mom.” I think they might also add, “The Only Holiday Blockbuster That Isn’t At Least 45 Minutes Too Long.”

So please, because it’s Christmas Eve, I’d just like to remind everyone to drive safely and punch their parents. I just saw that footage of Pope Francis visiting with the retired Pope Benedict, and they were wearing matching white-and-gold outfits, like Siegfried and Roy. And I’m pretty sure they were chatting about world peace, and whether Meryl and Julia got along in real life, if you ask me.

December 23, 2013

Shopping Zen

I wrote a book called I’ll Take It, which was a tribute to my mother, her sisters, and their inspiring gift for shopping. They taught me that shopping is not a frivolous or shameful activity, but a celebration of both the human spirit, and the human spirit’s reverence for tchotkes, factory seconds, and the difference between true sale items and the crap they manufacture directly for those bogus “outlet” stores.

I’ve just read that Barneys is re-claiming its original store on 7th Avenue and 17th Street, now that Loehmann’s, the current tenant, is going out of business. This is a bittersweet moment, because while Barneys’ return to its ancestral home has a Lord of the Rings-scale resonance, we must all take a moment to mourn the passing of Loehmann’s, for what it once was.

The original Loehmann’s, founded in 1921, was housed in Brooklyn, and it was a true discount nirvana, where manufacturers would discreetly send their unsold, often high-end goods. Mrs. Frieda Loehmann lived over the store, and she would stand watch, making change, using the bills tucked within her ancient black dresses. She was a figure from Edgar Allen Poe, if Poe had understood the orgasm of a silk St. Laurent blouse, maybe missing a button, but still 80% off what you’d pay at Bergdorf’s.

Loehmann’s was considered a sacred and secret destination; you had to know about it. It was famous for its large, open, proudly democratic dressing room. There were no individual changing areas, so all the women would stand in their underwear, trying things on and freely offering advice to strangers: “That looks marvelous on you.” “It’s hitching up in the back.” “Frankly, it’s a little young.”

Husbands and sons were not welcome at Loehmann’s; their job was to stand uncomfortably off in a corner, holding a wife’s or a mother’s purse, so that the women’s hands would be free, to shop.

Years later, after Loehmann’s had been sold to a conglomerate, it became a nationwide chain, and lost its legendary luster. There were too many stores, and too few genuine finds, the racks filled with what could only be termed “a whole lot of polyester nothing.” Or as my aunts liked to say, while holding up a shirtwaist, “This is from those sisters, Polly and Esther.”

Of course, part of the Loehmann’s experience involved patiently pawing through chrome racks filled with junk, and then coming upon a gem, and gasping. The branch on 7th Avenue had a basement filled with menswear, and I’d occasionally find a true bargain, on something from last season. But it wasn’t the old Loehmann’s; it was just a slightly more sophisticated Daffy’s.

So maybe it was time for Loehmann’s to go, and for Barneys to rediscover its downtown roots. There was once a memorable TV ad for Barneys, where a bunch of kids sat on a New York stoop, discussing what they wanted to be when they grew up. One kid wanted to be a lawyer, another wanted to be a fireman, and a third aimed to become president. The group turned to a schnooky kid and someone asked, “So Barney, what’re you gonna be?” Young Barney replied, thoughtfully, “Well, you’re all gonna need clothes…”

After I’ll Take It was first published, it was widely read among my Aunt Lil’s friends in South Florida, who knew a thing or two about shopping. Of course, to save money, there was basically only one copy of the book in the entire state, and it would circulate among hundreds of women, many of whom would tell me, “I’m next.” While this wasn’t good for sales, I couldn’t complain.

My mother liked to buy used copies of I’ll Take It from Amazon, and give them as gifts. There’s a poetry to that.

December 21, 2013

Hints and Tips

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1. If you’d like to create an especially original tablescape for your Christmas Day family dinner, you have too much free time.

2. If you’re puzzled over how to dispose of a difficult item, such as a battery, a light bulb or an old cell phone, simply select any recycling bin and hide the item underneath whatever else is in there.

3. To eliminate a tricky stain, such as blood, red wine or grease, first thoroughly soak the area in white vinegar. Then place the fabric between two sheets of clean paper towels and press lightly with an iron set on a medium heat. Then roll the fabric in a white linen dishtowel and leave it in a cool, dark place overnight. Then throw it out.

4. If your young children grow fidgety during a long car trip, bring along a small duffel filled with books, games and snacks. Then leave the children at any police station or firehouse and never look back.

5. If you’d like to express your holiday gratitude to a special teacher, give them a colorfully wrapped tin of home-baked treats, and a hand-written note which says, “You’d be making more money at Arby’s.”

6. To create a memorable Yuletide eggnog, fill a punchbowl with eggnog, cinnamon sticks, tiny marshmallows and a human hand.

7. To preserve each year’s supply of Christmas cards from loved ones, ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”

8. If your holiday season is being spoiled by endless family debates over the Duck Dynasty situation, just sigh, smile thoughtfully and remember that wise adage, “If ducks had guns…”

December 20, 2013

Joy to the World

Because the reading of my play yesterday went well I’m in the holiday spirit.
This is what I’ve done to my fingernails:

christmas-ornament-glitter-nails

I’ve also created a punchbowl that looks as if it’s having a lobotomy,
and I didn’t forget my refrigerator:

Kitchen-christmas-decoration

Here’s the results of a jolly Xmas lynch mob:

knobbly-knees-clay-christmas-tree-ornaments-handmade-xmas-decorations-set-of-3-25492-p

This is how they celebrate Christmas at Pottery Barn.
It’s called “If Santa Had Taste”:

christmas-decorations-pottery-barn-5

This is what happens when you Google
Disgusting Christmas Ornaments. It’s called
“Toothy Sack ‘O Flesh”:

toothy_sack_o_flesh_ornament_by_dogzillalives-d6vlpe2

These are ornaments shaped like silvery hand grenades,
for all the tiny terrorists on your list:

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This final image truly reflects the spirit of
the holidays, in a Disney Nativity. It also shows
what would happen if Mickey and Minnie had a child:

Disney-Christmas-Decorations-Picture

As we should all remember to say to non-Christians, happy holidays!
And as we should say to atheists, happy Wednesday!

Blognick