“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: January 2014

January 31, 2014

What To Wear

These items were available on Gilt Groupe, from the
designer Rick Owens. This was called
a trench coat:


Here is the trench coat, I assume, for evening:


This was called the Rover jacket:


This was called a parka:


This was called the undyed camo flight trench coat:

Rick Owens

This photo is from Scott Schuman’s terrific site,
The Sartorialist. It’s also a Rick Owens outfit,
hopefully from his Ah-Men collection:


Are these clothes oddly wonderful? Or just odd?
Maybe a little bit of both. Would I wear these
clothes? Probably not, but I hope someone will.
Someone brave.

A question, related to that last photo: what do you call
a male nun? A mun? A nan?

January 30, 2014

If I Ran The Super Bowl


1. I would stage a halftime extravaganza on the field during the game, so that the players could tackle Beyonce and Justin Timberlake, but maybe not Madonna, since she’s been using a cane.

2. I would only sell beer and sugary soft drinks in cups the size of wastepaper baskets, so the fans would look thinner.

3. I would leave a Post-it inside each player’s helmet, with the name of a guy on the opposing team. For a Secret Santa effect, each player would have to buy the other person an inexpensive but imaginative gift, like a pair of socks in the team’s colors, or a box of scented guest soaps shaped like tiny footballs.

4. I would require each player to design their own uniform, and the outcome of the game would be decided by Heidi Klum, Nina Garcia, Zac Posen and special guest Alyssa Milano.

5. Whenever the referee blew his whistle, I would have both teams break into choreographed dance routines, for a flash mob feeling.

6. To promote equality, I would have the opposing teams marry each other.

7. To avoid head injuries, every player’s helmet would be wrapped in an enormous knitted cosy, with a just-for-fun pompom.

8. Instead of using those endless Roman numerals, I’d take a tip from hurricanes and tropical depressions, and use names, as in Super Bowl Harriet or Super Bowl Mandy.

9. I’d combine the Super Bowl with the more appealing Puppy Bowl, by releasing hundreds of adorable puppies onto the field during the game. That way, the action would be constantly interrupted by players kneeling down to say, “Oooo!!! What a cute little doggie!!!”

10. I would allow all of the players’ Moms to run out on the field at any time, to wipe their son’s noses and to offer Advil.

January 29, 2014

Good Advice


Never let anyone take your picture right after you’ve just removed a knitted hat. Trust me on this.

When working in the theater or anywhere else, try to surround yourself with people who are smarter and more talented than you are. They will make you better.

This can be painful to accept, but sometimes stupid people can have good ideas. Sometimes these people are just folks you don’t like, and sometimes they’re genuinely stupid. But up to a point, everyone is worth listening to.

Whatever you eat while on an airplane has no calories. This is an established aerodynamic fact.

Save your anger for when you really need it. Then you can scare people.

Carmax is better and longer-lasting then Chapstick. I’ve been using the same tiny jar of Carmax for years, and it always works. However, when applying Chapstick you can fantasize that you’re either an Olympic skier, or a glamorous Russian spy, putting on her scarlet lipstick before a secret assignation with her Italian gigolo.

Some people carry a specific genetic defect: they always have to be right, about everything. When one of these people starts insisting on their opinion, always tell them, as sincerely as you can, “You know, I bet you’re right.” This will confuse and disarm them, until you can shoot them with a tranquilizer dart and release them back into their natural habitat, on Fox News.

There’s a simple, carefree way to fold a fitted sheet: ask someone else to do it.

Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is just fine.

I once interviewed a very successful songwriter and record producer named Joseph Brooks (he’d written the hit “You Light Up My Life.”) He had a sign over his desk which read, “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It just wastes time and only annoys the pig.”

Joseph Brooks also wrote a disastrous, autobiographical Broadway musical called In My Life, where the hero had Tourette’s. Brooks was later indicted for rape, but he killed himself before the case went to trial. Brooks’ son was recently convicted of drowning his girlfriend in a bathtub at the Soho House.

And so, a final bit of advice: you never know.

January 28, 2014

On Beauty

A few weeks before my mother died, she was going through photos of herself, as a teenager and a young woman. She looked up at me and said, “Back then I thought I was so ugly. But I looked great!”

This was heartbreaking, but then she laughed. While I was growing up, my mother often told me about three people whom she thought looked not merely beautiful, but “spectacular.” These were the poet W.H. Auden, the artist Louise Nevelson, and the writer Virginia Woolf.

While some people might consider this trio odd-looking, or even homely, my Mom worshipped them, both for their work and their uncompromising faces. Here they are:







A few years before she died, my mother took me to an event celebrating Woolf, at Town Hall. It was a passionate and somewhat terrifying evening, because the hall was packed with the fiercest Woolf devotees, mostly women around my Mom’s age, with defiantly silver hair, bold jewelry, the occasional cape and many, many canvas tote bags silkscreened with Woolf’s portrait. I suspected that if I said anything even mildly critical of their goddess, these women would rip me limb from limb, toss my lifeless body into the street, and then calmly resume their ardent discussion of Mrs. Dalloway.

January 27, 2014



1. Whenever someone says, “My new book/play/movie/TV show isn’t gay, it’s about people”, what they mean is:

“I want to make sure that the straight audience doesn’t stay away, because the gay audience alone is too small to make any money.”

2. Whenever someone asks “Why can’t the media ever show models with realistic bodies?”, what they mean is:

“I hate going to the gym.”

3. Whenever an online poster complains,”Why can’t someone create a TV show/movie/book/play where the characters just happen to be gay?”, what they mean is:

“Why can’t there be gay characters who are creepy, like me?”

There have actually been many TV shows/movies/books/plays with characters who just happen to be gay, but those works aren’t any fun to gripe about online.

Also: does anyone imagine that “characters who just happen to be gay” is the same thing as a plot?

4. Whenever someone says, “I hate Lena Dunham/Gwyneth Paltrow/Justin Beiber/Kim Kardashian”, what they mean is:

“Why aren’t I rich and famous like them?”

5. Whenever someone insists, “I don’t hate Obama, I’m just disappointed”, what they mean is:

“I thought that Obama was going to magically fix every problem in the universe and give me all the credit, since I voted for him.”

6. Whenever someone whines that, “Young people are all entitled spoiled brats who think that the world owes them a living, for following their bliss”, what they mean is:

“I’m old.”

7. Whenever someone says that, “You wouldn’t understand, it’s a black/gay/woman/man/queer/Latino/transgendered/young person thing”, what they mean is:

“You may be rich and successful, but I’m downtrodden and cool.”

8. Whenever someone declares that “I can’t tell the difference” between ice cream and any low-calorie ice cream substitute, what they mean is:

“Please go away so I can eat an entire gallon of the real thing.”

January 26, 2014

Because It’s Sunday

To honor Our Lord, here’s the wonderful Andrew Rannells in the sublime Book of Mormon:

January 25, 2014

No Can Do


When I read about people with excessively modern jobs, such as Life Coach or Professional Closet Organizer or Pet Masseur, I wonder what their occupations might have been in colonial times. This always leads me to consider my own ineptitude. Here are only a few of the many things which I can’t do:

1. Drive a car. I failed my driving test six times; I’ve written about this phenomenon in my essay collection, I Shudder. When folks encourage me to try again, I ask them: do you really want to be on the road behind someone who needed that many attempts? Sometimes I wonder, should an emergency situation arise, if I could remember the basics of driving. The answer is no. If I had to, say, somehow get an extremely pregnant woman to a hospital, on a deserted backroad, I would try to hail a cab.

2. Cook. Microwave popcorn is pretty much it. If I were required to create an impromptu dinner party for twelve, again, I would hail a cab.

3. Give directions. While I can usually get myself to wherever I’m going, the second someone asks me to guide them, my brain freezes. When friendly tourists ask me to help them find a restaurant which I know is only a block away, I have to remind myself: apologize profusely, and tell them to ask someone else. Because if I try to explain where Perry Street is, that nice family from New Zealand will become hopelessly lost and will ultimately find me and kill me, for ruining their trip to New York. And I won’t blame them.

4. Swim. As a child, I learned to swim, but I never liked to. Every cell in my body kept howling, you are a land animal! Why would you ever submerge yourself? Why would you do something which requires such an unflattering outfit? Swimming is an early form of drowning. Hail a cab!

5. Any math beyond the most basic addition and subtraction. When I was in school, I’d sit in the front row of any math class and prop my eyelids open with toothpicks, and try to focus and absorb. This never worked. If I were an investment banker, I would be Bernie Madoff, only accidentally.

6. Speak a foreign language. Whenever I leave the US, I’m deeply ashamed, because so many people in France or Italy or Hong Kong have mastered not only their native tongues, but English as well. In high school, for my language requirement, I took Latin. My teacher was a sweet, seriously alcoholic ex-priest who would pass out a few minutes into each class. Unless you’re a radically old school clergyman, you will never have to speak Latin. There was, however a Latin version of a popular childrens book, called Winnie Ille Pooh.

7. Smoke. I know that smoking is an evil habit, but I still think that certain people are really good at it. The only reason I don’t smoke is that I don’t have the knack. I’ve tried desperately to smoke in that offhand, Belmondo manner, but the cigarette would always break, or tumble into my lap. So here’s today’s moral lesson: ineptitude can save your life. If I was Malcolm Gladwell,I could get a book deal out of this.

Here’s Jean-Paul Belmondo:


January 24, 2014

The Crafters Creed


1. Anything you create by hand will automatically be superior to a factory-produced item, because it is made with love and because it is so hard to look at.

2. Glue must always be visible, especially on yarn.

3. You can make an adorable piggy bank using a plastic container of Clorox bleach. Use felt for the eyes, a cork for the snout, toothpicks for the legs, and a pipe-cleaner for the pig’s curly tail. Then drink the entire bottle.

4. Anything you make using popsicle sticks will be improved by grimy fingerprints.


5. Creating stained glass panels, with the images of hummingbirds or beautiful butterflies, will catch the light when hung in a window. Of the institution where you’re being held against your will.

6. The wrapping, ribbon and additional mylar embellishments on any gift must weigh at least three times more than the gift itself.

7. As you can see in the images below, any item can become more terrifying if you make it smile.



8. Anything can become an earring, if you force it to.

9. Anything made of ceramic must resemble a mound of something you wouldn’t want to step in.

10. You need that new Martha Stewart hole-punch more than your child needs to go to college.

11. Anything can be improved by being densely covered with glitter, including a sleeping baby.

12. A hand-crocheted hat should always look as if it’s eating the person who’s wearing it.

13. It’s always inspiring to work with found objects, like the CD below. Because it will become just a tiny bit harder for someone to throw out a CD which looks like a fish.


14. Or a paper plate which looks like a pirate:


15. The loveliest word in any language: styrofoam.


January 23, 2014

Heal Thyself


When I first met John, the man who would become my partner, I told my mother that I was going out with a handsome doctor. She was delighted, and immediately asked, “Is he Jewish?” When I said no, she looked puzzled and then asked, “Is he smart?”

This is one of those stories which would make my mother howl, “Don’t make me sound like a Jewish mother!” But I rest my case.

When I first told my friends about John they were also very excited, because they assumed that he’d immediately write them prescriptions for whatever they wanted. “500 Ambien? Sure! Let me get my pad!”
John, as an ethical man, would never do this, but my friends liked him anyway.

Both my friends and total strangers also have no problem asking John for free medical advice, and revealing truly unattractive, diseased body parts. “Is this a rash?” a friend will ask, over dinner, rolling up his pants leg.I always encourage John to say, “That looks like Ebola. But you have another leg.” John, because he can be way too generous, will always sit and listen.

I like to torment John, by constantly asking him deeply stupid medical questions. When we’re watching a TV show, and one of the characters gets poisoned with a green, glowing substance, I’ll ask John, “So what do you think the antidote would be? Would it be a red, glowing substance?” Detective shows always like to invent a name for, say, a dangerous street drug which kills an unwary teenager at a rave, in the opening moments of an episode. The detective will head over to the dead student’s prep school, to ask the other kids, “So, was Zachary using KTR?” That’s when I’ll turn to John and ask him, “Have you ever used KTR, which is also called K-Blast?”
My goal is to make John yell, “It’s a TV SHOW!”

Yes, I did once try on John’s white doctor jacket, and I slung his stethescope around my neck. I felt very powerful. I wanted to stride through a ward, barking orders at nurses and worshipful interns. “Get me fifty CC’s of oxycoagulate! Prep this woman for orthoscopic knee surgery, and get her a better haircut! This patient is going into sepsis! Bring me a sandwich, and explain to me what sepsis is!”

As a child, I loved my toy doctor’s bag, which was filled with plastic bottles of brightly colored sugar pills, and oversize syringes containing a delicious purple syrup, which I would squirt into my mouth. Who thought up the idea of giving children toy medical equipment? Probably whoever invented candy cigarettes and Hasbro assault rifles. I still love candy cigarettes, especially the ones which are painted with food coloring or dye to look like they’re lit.

John refuses to watch most medical shows, because they’re so inaccurate. He does enjoy the most grisly docu-shows on the Discovery Channel, the ones which feature maggot-infested wounds. We both liked a genuinely inspiring documentary called A Trash Can Full of Skin. This was about a determined Englishwoman who had lost several hundred pounds, leaving her with a massive amount of loose skin. Only a surgical team in Kansas would agree to remove the skin, and the woman titled the documentary herself.
We also loved Getting On, the recent and very funny HBO series set in the geriatric ward of a hospital. John declared it extremely truthful, and not just because the doctors and nurses on the show spent a lot of time discussing stool specimens.


January 22, 2014

Power Browse


There are people who, when they saw the headline for this post, assumed it was about using your browser, on your computer. And then there are the people who, when they read the word “browse”, immediately became aroused, because they started thinking about sample sales.

Many people hate to shop. They find the whole idea boring, time-wasting and even, in a world where so many people must do without even the most basic necessities, immoral. These people often devote themselves to helping others, and they lead rich, rewarding lives.

People who hate to shop have only one problem. They have no souls.

My novel, I’ll Take It, was a tribute to my mother and her two sisters, who were all smart, cultured women, who always worked, because they had to and because they wanted to. They also possessed a trove of ancient and sacred knowledge, regarding discount outlets, January white sales, gifts-with-purchase and haggling. They passed much of this wisdom down to me.

Here are some updates:

In my book, I discussed the principle of visitation. If there’s something you hunger for, say, a coat or a pair of shoes, but there’s no way you can afford the item, you must visit it, repeatedly. You must make it feel loved and protected.You must also mark your territory, as if you’re peeing on the floor of Barneys, in a circle surrounding that cashmere sweater.

Eventually, if your desire is pure, the item will be marked down, sometimes more than once. I recently overheard a salesperson at Bergdorf’s tell a customer, “We’ve only just started the third cycle.” Deciding when to pounce on something or, in real estate parlance, when to “pull the trigger”, is the finest art. If you leap too early, there’s always the chance that the love object would have been further reduced. If you wait too long, another suitor will usurp you. There can be moments of panic, when you think that your prey has been sold, and then you spot it, on an entirely new rack, on a completely different floor.

If the item is indeed gone, this is your zen, which also applies to apartments, graduate degrees and fiancees: if you missed out on this one, it’s because God has something even better in mind, waiting for you down the road.

The principle of visitation applies equally to online purchases. The internet is designed for product visitation. One click and there it is: if you listen, by the fourteenth time you view something, you can hear it purr. You can even get to first base, by depositing the item in your online shopping bag or cart, but not yet proceeding to the orgasm of purchase. PayPal is, of course, the modern pimp.

Also: there can be a great spiritual satisfaction in endlessly circling a product, getting ever-closer to consummation, and then deciding, no. I don’t really need it. I already own something just like it. I don’t want it to arrive via Fedex, and then try it on, only to realize that it’s too tight or too short, and then have to cope with shipping it back for a refund.

Deciding not to buy something can make you feel not just saintly, but as if you’ve actually dug a well in a Saharan village.

An ultimate satisfaction? There was a jacket I yearned for, but even after it eventually went on sale, it was still too exorbitant. TWO YEARS LATER, I discovered the jacket at Century 21, for a fraction of the original price. AND I STILL DIDN’T BUY IT.

Bow down before me.

January 21, 2014

Native Son

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I have a new Shouts and Murmurs piece in The New Yorker this week. I’m having trouble getting the link to work, but if you go to The New Yorker’s website, you’ll find it.

Because this Shouts is about my home state of New Jersey, I’d like to say some nice things about the Garden State:

1. In Menlo Park, there’s a monument to Thomas Edison’s invention of the lightbulb. It’s a very approachable three-story cement column with a huge lightbulb on top. It’s one of the few national monuments which looks like it needs a lampshade.

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2. I attended Piscataway High School, where I had an algebra teacher with the perfect algebra teacher name: Eugene C. Schnure.

3. There were at least fifteen girls named Debbie in my high school. That’s why, in Addams Family Values, I named the black widow killer, played by Joan Cusack, Debbie Jellinsky.

4. The bits of colored glass, polished by the sea, which wash up on the beaches at Cape May, are called Cape May diamonds. The medical waste, including crack vials and used syringes, which washes up on the beaches of Sandy Hook is called something else.

5. Svetlana Alliluyeva, the daughter of the Soviet tyrant Josef Stalin, lived for a while in Princeton. When my Mom and I would eat lunch at a pancake house in Princeton, we thought it was hilarious to look around for Svetlana and then declare, “No Svet!” Svetlana later changed her name to Lana Peters. I don’t know if these events are related.

6. Basia Piescka Johnson, a Polish chambermaid, married her employer John Seward Johnson, an impossibly wealthy heir to the Johnson&Johnson empire. After her husband died, Basia lived in great splendor in Princeton, where she was worth 2.7 billion dollars. This is a true Cinderella story, because it involves an impressive art collection.

7. The picture below features the bridge into Trenton, with the motto, “Trenton Makes, The World Takes.”


January 20, 2014

Excuses, Excuses


I love hearing people make excuses, especially for their most inexcusable behavior. Some recent examples:

1. When Juan Pablo Galavis, the current Bachelor, was asked whether there should be a gay version of the show, he said absolutely not, because gay people are too perverted. When he was rightly attacked for making this statement, he insisted that English wasn’t his first language, and that in Spanish the word for perverted means “intense and affectionate”, and that since gay people are so intense and affectionate, they would make viewers, especially children, uncomfortable. This guy speaks fluent Stupid.

2. Another idiot, Liam Payne from the boyband One Direction, tweeted his support for the Duck Dynasty clan and their “business prosperities and family values.” When this guy was called on his tweet, he cited freedom of speech. No one is disputing his civil rights; people are objecting to his support of open bigotry.Liam also claimed that the tweet was a private matter. Which is just like posting naked photos on Facebook, and then wondering how a prospective employer got a look at them.

3. Vladimir Putin, a global power-idiot, was interviewed by George Stephanopoulos, about Russia’s recently enacted anti-gay laws. Putin first said that before criticizing other countries, the US should “clean its own house”; Putin said that homosexuality was still illegal in many states, which hasn’t been true since the Supreme Court’s Lawrence Vs. Texas decision in 2003. Putin also said that compared to lots of other countries, Russia was progressive.He added that only homosexual propoganda would be punished, not homosexual protest. And as always, he claimed that the anti-gay laws were designed to protect “the children.”
This is all your basic, “Well, maybe I broke the window, but Jimmy did it too” excuse. Along with “And I only broke it so that someone else wouldn’t come along and break it.”

4. Chris Christie has offered a cornucopia of excuses, including, “I didn’t know”, “I’m on the case” and “Mistakes were made.” Would your parents let you get away with any of these?

5. The titleholder remains Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who endearingly admitted to smoking crack, but said that he didn’t really remember doing it, because he was so drunk.

If you’re ever in serious trouble, here are some recommended excuses:

“Hold on, since when is murder illegal?”

“I was sleepwalking, then sleep-driving, then sleep-robbing a bank.”

“It was a crime of passion, because I passionately wanted a Lexus.”

“Some of my closest friends are gay people, and they don’t mind that I hate them.”

“I was dehydrated. I mean, wouldn’t you be, after having to run that far from the scene of an accident?”

“Would it help if I offered the judge a rose?”