“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: March 2014

March 31, 2014

The Garden State

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A few weeks back I had a Shouts and Murmurs piece in The New Yorker which celebrated the sordid glory of my home state, New Jersey. I’ve just received a wonderful note from Greg King, who enclosed an additional Jersey news item:

“After Carmen Reategui, 34, was arrested for DUI in Readington Township, NJ, and was too impaired to drive home, she called Nina Petracca, 23, who arrived at the police station impaired herself (and was arrested for DUI), and both women called Ryan Hogan, 33, to take them home, but he also arrived impaired and was arrested…”

A DUI Trifecta! Thank you, Greg!

New Jersey always has a special perspective on substance abuse. A high school classmate of mine once asked me if he should call the police, because someone had stolen his cocaine stash from his locker. When I tried to gently remind the guy that cocaine possession was also a crime, he looked confused and finally said, “Fuck that shit!”
I don’t know why Fuck That Shit does not appear on the New Jersey license plates.

New Jersey certainly deserves a better Governor than the vile Chris Christie. Christie’s office just released a report on the bridge closings scandal, in which the lawyers Christie appointed declared him innocent of any wrongdoing. This of course made Christie seem even more guilty.

At a recent Republican summit, Christie tried desperately to salvage his Presidential hopes, by saying that his reputation for candor was a real plus. “In New Jersey,” he said, “nobody has to wonder whether I am for them or against them.” Maybe the license plates should read The Vendetta State.

Christie has become the new Sarah Palin. For a microsecond, both seemed appealingly fresh and straightforward. And then both revealed themselves as vicious, paranoid lowlifes – and they’re both proudly opposed to gay marriage.

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March 30, 2014

How To Feel Like A Better Person Without Making Any Real Effort

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1. Buy a box of Mallomars and eat eighteen of them at one sitting, leaving two in the box. Then congratulate yourself on showing self-control.

2. Skim the first few sentences of an article on fracking. Then think to yourself, well I’m certainly not going to do any fracking today, so I’ve helped the environment.

3.When you’re waiting on line for quite awhile behind someone who’s chatting on their phone while also making a complicated coffee order, don’t stab that person to death with a hunting knife. You are allowed to mention this fact on your application essay to get into heaven.

4. Don’t get tickets to see a play which you know you’re going to hate.

5. Call your mother when she least expects it. Tell her that nothing’s wrong, and that you just wanted to hear her voice. All of this will drive her wild with suspicion.

6. Have a compassionate, nonjudgemental thought about Gwyneth Paltrow. Then, if this is too exhausting, imagine the Pope and President Obama, at their recent private summit in Rome, giggling together about Gwyneth.

7. Obsessively visit something completely unnecessary, which you are dying to purchase online. Wait an entire week and then take a deep breath and tell yourself, you see, thanks to my self-discipline, the urge to buy that ridiculous luxury object has passed. Then buy it, because since it’s still available after an entire week, God wants you to have it.

8. Pay your bills for rent, utilities and other basic necessities. Then mentally award yourself the Nobel Prize for Responsible Adult Behavior.

March 29, 2014

Ludwig at Yale

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John and I have just returned from seeing a terrific student production of my play Valhalla, in New Haven. The production was a senior project for Spencer Klavan, who played James Avery, director Irene Casey and set designer Maggie Ditre. Everyone involved did a great job, and I enjoyed revisiting the play.

Valhalla is tricky – it’s a comic epic which entwines the lives of the fictional James Avery, a wild Texas teenager from the 1940s, and Mad King Ludwig (pictured above), who filled Bavaria with his extraordinary storybook castles. Both characters share a passionate longing for escape and beauty, which imperils everyone around them.

It would be foolish to try and recreate the grandeur of Ludwig’s palaces onstage, so the play focuses on their emotional impact. The play works best when it’s performed simply and swiftly, and the Yale production used an ideal unit set, of platforms surrounded by a series of intricate boxes, inspired by the work of Louise Nevelson, another appropriately grand eccentric. If you’d like a modern equivalent of Ludwig, try this:

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Valhalla’s been produced everywhere from Dallas to Edinborough, and it features one of my favorite scenes from all of my plays. It’s an oddly romantic, moonlit meeting in a forest, between a suicidal Ludwig and an equally despairing, humpbacked Princess Sophie. The photo below is from the original production of the play, directed by Chris Ashley at the New York Theater Workshop.The heavenly Peter Frechette played Ludwig, and the blissful Samantha Soule was Sophie. You can’t see Sophie’s hump in this photo but trust me, it was substantial.

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Ludwig brings out the neglected beauty in Sophie, who’s always considered herself to be hideous. Most of the details in the play are historically accurate, although the actual Sophie wasn’t a humpback. She wasn’t a humpback in the earliest drafts of the play either, but I decided that the character needed some greater challenge. I remember the day when I brought this scene to rehearsal, and Samantha looked at me like I was crazy, and then she proceeded to be brilliant, at one point using the pistol to scratch her hump. Towards the end of the scene a now exultant Sophie exclaims, “What an incredible day! Just this morning I was the loneliest humpback in Europe.” To which Pfeiffer, a royal advisor, responds, “Was there a contest?”

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Samantha also played Sally Mortimer,the prettiest girl in the very small town of Dainsville, Texas. Here she is with Sean Dugan, who played James. At one point Sally decides that, “Inner beauty is tricky, because you can’t prove it.”

March 28, 2014

Except…

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I’m not sure why, but I can always find an exception to even the very best advice:

1. “Be yourself” – Would you say this to a serial killer?

2. “You can learn far more from failure than from success” – In my experience, at best, failure teaches you to make a different mistake the next time around.

3. “Write what you know” – Unless what you know isn’t all that captivating or original. As the actress Jeanne Moreau once said, “The ideas we can have about ourselves often aren’t very interesting.”

4. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” – So if I give a homeless person a million dollars, should I expect him to return the favor? How long should I wait? Maybe this should read “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, but don’t hold your breath.”

5. “All people are created equal” – Excuse me? Have you ever been in a lockerroom? Of course, all people should be treated equally, but that’s another story.

6. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” – But what if you’re judging a book cover contest? And as to appearances, as one actress once said to another, “Don’t be afraid of makeup.” To which the other actress, who’s a friend of mine, replied, “I’m wearing makeup.”

7. “On their deathbed no one ever wishes that they’d spent more time at the office” – But what if they loved working? What if their office had a really great couch? What if their family life was a living hell? I knew a woman who loved her career, and who was carried into the hospital clutching her phone list.

March 26, 2014

How To Speak Gwyneth

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On her website Gwyneth Paltrow has just announced her divorce from Coldplay frontman Chris Martin as a loving, “conscious uncoupling.” I applaud Gwyneth for sensitively remaking the English language.

If Gwyneth had shot Chris Martin at point-blank range she would have “passionately de-lifed him.”

If Gwyneth had backed her mini-van over Chris Martin she would have “automotively unlegged him.”

If Gwyneth and Chris had engaged in a spiteful brawl at McDonalds, they would have “McNuggeted our needful differences.”

If Gwyneth had caught Chris having sex with a younger woman, Gwyneth might have called her “an outlying love-option” or “that fat little whore.”

If Gwyneth and Chris have a pre-nuptial agreement, it is most likely called “our economic de-embracing hugscript.”

Since Gwyneth and Chris refer to themselves as “co-parents”, their children are called “our genetic minglespawn, or Chrisfelt Gwynlings.”

If Gwyneth and Chris got drunk and made love, their celebration would be termed an “unconscious re-coupling.”

March 25, 2014

My Beloved

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I’m a whore. My partner John has reminded me of this fact by sending me a photo of something I claimed I’d love forever and have now pretty much abandoned: my IBM Selectric.

For years I would work only on my Selectric for a simple reason: it was indestructible. When the Selectric did bad work, I could hit it, and it would laugh. An IBM Selectric is a tank.

I didn’t grow up with these machines, which havn’t been manufactured in over thirty years. I discovered them and became addicted. You could buy reconditioned Selectrics for very little money, so I soon owned four. There was one man left in New York who still knew how to repair Selectrics, and everyone in the Selectric underground would use him.

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For some reason, they still manufacture the complicated ribbons which Selectrics require, along with the correcting tape and the metal balls which allow the user to change the typeface:

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After a handwritten first draft and many Selectric drafts, I would finally transfer my work onto the computer. I was my own secretary. I was always terrified that I’d push the wrong button and lose whatever was on my Mac forever. And yes, I have all those backup whatevers in place, but we’re not talking about rational behavior.

When I first watched Madmen, there was a scene in the secretarial pool where every desk had a Selectric. It was Selectric porn.

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I still have my Selectric horde, but I’ve almost stopped using them entirely; the computer is just too convenient. My Selectrics sit there, gathering dust, like army surplus. I may never type on a Selectric again, but a Selectric will always be useful – as a weapon.

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March 25, 2014

New Delusions

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In the NY Times a psychotherapist was quoted as saying “I dislike the terms ‘patient’ and ‘client’.” She preferred to use the term “the people I work with.”

No. When I go to see a reputable doctor of any kind, I am happy to be called a patient. If I’m someone the doctor works with, then I’m a co-worker, and the doctor should pay me.

If I worked at Kmart I wouldn’t want to be called a Sales Associate. I would rather be called a cashier, a salesperson or a salesclerk, because these terms indicate a skill and therefore have dignity. “Sales Associate” is just a way of saying, “We won’t pay you a living wage but how about a hug?”

When I visit Walmart or Arby’s I don’t want to be called a guest. If I was a guest of Walmart then I’d be allowed to sleep there or at least enjoy a free meal. I’m a customer, which means I can expect service, and not a chocolate on my pillow.

I once worked at a magazine which kept inventing new titles for people, like Deputy Features Consultant and Creative Editorial Associate. Someone finally explained to me that while no one’s salary or responsibilities ever changed, they could now order stationery with their new title. If I was appointed deputy anything I would want a badge.

Whenever I’ve visited a modern, Google-style company, there’s usually a centrally located foosball table, a spacious complimentary snack room and curving wood desks with low partitions winding through a loftlike space, for the feeling of a progressive preschool. Everyone is always trying very hard to pretend that they’re not adults, working in an office. But they are. Because if you can be fired, you’re working in an office. And just because you’re using a Mac, it doesn’t mean that you’re not typing.

Two of my favorite sales-gentlemen on Home Shopping were just hawking Waterford Crystal bowls, champagne flutes and biscuit jars. A caller said that she now owned 104 seperate pieces of Waterford, and that she was celebrating her 45th wedding anniversary. The salesguys were stunned by this but then pulled themselves together and both blew the woman a kiss. One guy said, “45 years! I can barely get a date!” The other guy told him, “You can’t manage 45 minutes!” And the first guy yelped, “Stop!”

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March 24, 2014

Pringles

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This is a pipe organ made entirely out of Pringles cans.

But as a longtime Pringles fan, I can assure you that
Pringles are not just a sturdy construction material.
Many people are afraid of Pringles. Someone once informed
me that because I’d eaten so many Pringles, “when you die
you’ll already be embalmed.”

As a public service, I will now explain exactly what
Pringles are made of, and why you have nothing to fear.

Maltodextrin – This is a substance harvested from the tears
of the goddess Aphrodite who, upon first glimpsing a
Pringle, whispered, “Pringles are so much more beautiful
than me.”

Disodium guanylate – A resin created by combining the
taste of freshly sliced potatoes with melted troll dolls.

Auotlyzed yeast extract – The crystallized essence of
two yeast spores making love, which causes their blissful
deaths.

Pringles Factoids:

Pringles flavors include Smokey Bacon, Prawn Cocktail
and for the Christmas season only, Peppermint White Chocolate.
For the Asian market, Pringles introduced Soft-Shelled
Crab, Seaweed and Grilled Shrimp – the Grilled Shrimp
Pringles are green. The rule for inventing new flavors
is that the name of the flavor alone must inspire
projectile vomiting.

Chemist Fredric Baur, working from 1956 through 1958,
pioneered both the distinctive Pringles saddle shape
and the legendary Pringles can. When Baur died in 2008
his family honored his wishes and buried his cremated
remains in a Pringles can.

In 2012, Proctor&Gamble sold its Pringles line to
the Kellogg Company for 2.695 billion dollars.

A tasty perennial: Sour Cream’N’Bile:

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New on the shelves, the increasingly
popular Dried Kitten flavor:

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March 23, 2014

One Degree Of Kevin Bacon

This clip has been all over the web: it’s Kevin Bacon reprising his dance from Footloose on
Jimmy Fallon.

Right before Kevin shot Footloose he appeared off-broadway
in my first play, called Poor Little Lambs. The play was
about the Yale Whiffenpoofs and Kevin was cast as the studliest
guy in the singing group. He was a joy to work with
and a terrific actor. I especially remember his soulful
rendition of a poem his character wrote called “I, A Guy.”

Kevin was also, of course, effortlessly cool. We were
having a cast party where everyone was eating triscuits
and drinking wine out of plastic cups and I turned to
find that Cher was standing next to me. She had a crush
on Kevin but he was otherwise involved, and he was a
very loyal and honorable person.

At one point in the play all of the male characters
appeared in drag, which was a Whiffenpoof tradition,
and Kevin was a demure vision in peach chiffon ruffles,
as designed by William Ivey Long.

The play was given a great production directed by
Jack Hofsiss and the cast featured such wonderful actors
as Albert Macklin, Miles Chapin, Bronson Pinchot, and
Gedde Watanabe. The play itself was a very early effort
and a wake-up call: the writing was lacking, and working
with such talented people made me realize that I had a
very long way to go, if I ever really wanted to become
a writer.

March 22, 2014

Pennies From Heaven

Pennies From Heaven is a little-seen, yet amazing Herb Ross movie from 1981. All of the
stars lip-synched to period recordings. This number features Christopher Walken – many
people don’t know that Walken began his career dancing as a chorus boy on Broadway.

March 21, 2014

Life and Death

I’ve been following the varied reactions to the death of Fred Phelps, the vicious leader of the Westboro Baptist Church. Over the course of his lunatic life, Phelps lead his increasingly tiny band of followers in picketing the funerals of people with AIDS, Matthew Shepard, various soldiers and others. Among the people whom Phelps condemned were Princess Diana, Jon Stewart and Mister Rogers. While Phelps often targeted gay people, he seemed to hate just about everyone.

From reading Phelps’ Wikipedia entry, I discovered that he’d originally been a lawyer, defending many African-American clients against discrimination and defeating Jim Crow laws. It’s unclear exactly how and when he turned to spewing hatred as a career.

Many people have exulted in Phelps’ death, which is entirely understandable, especially because he preyed on people who’d often just lost their loved ones. Others have chosen to treat Phelps with the forgiveness he denied his countless enemies. I’ve read posts from people who feel that Phelps ultimately helped the cause of gay rights, by becoming a symbol of irrational hatred.

I’m not sure how I feel. On one hand Phelps was only a venomous curiosity, a powerless man seeking the lowest form of attention, and worthy only of oblivion. But when I was about to include a photo of Phelps with this post, I decided not to, because I didn’t want to look at him. Phelps was genuinely evil, in that he wallowed in what Tennessee Williams called “the only unforgiveable thing”, meaning “deliberate cruelty.”

One of the placards which Phelps would use at AIDS funerals read “FAGS DIE, GOD LAUGHS.” What interests me about this is the concept of God laughing. I could never believe in a God who took pleasure in hatred, but I like the idea of a God with a sense of humor. If God is laughing, maybe he’s laughing at Fred Phelps.

March 20, 2014

Tech Notes

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My gym has been doing a big push for all of those monitoring devices, which are worn on people’s wrists or on bands around their chests. These devices transmit data to a set of large flatscreen TVs hanging on the walls throughout the gym. This way, everyone can see other people’s heart rates, and how many calories they’re burning. If gymgoers are so eager to reveal these personal statistics, then I feel the flatscreens should also report:

The person’s IQ.

The person’s net worth.

What the person looks like without their hairpiece.

Reasons why the person has been asked to leave the gym on more than one occasion.

The details of the person’s two most recent divorces and restraining orders.

The reasons why the person thinks it’s okay to leave a pile of sodden towels on the floor of the lockerroom – is their Mommy dropping by later to tidy up?

There are also monitoring devices which you can attach to your pet, so that while you’re at the office you can electronically check on your cat’s or dog’s level of activity. If you do this sort of thing you will soon return home to find the door open, your couch clawed to shreds, and a note written by your pet reading, “Monitor this, asshole.”

For quite a bit of money, you can have your home wired so that you can turn on all of your appliances while you’re out of the country, just by using your phone. You can be sitting at a cafe in Paris and microwave popcorn back in San Diego. Hopefully, this system will then make your head explode.

There is now a dating app for Orthodox Jews called Orthodate (I’m not kidding.) In their profiles, all of the men on this site claim to have a “trim, athletic build.” Maybe their tefillin are actually heartrate monitors.

Blognick