“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: April 2014

April 30, 2014



Martin McDonagh is one of my favorite playwrights; his work has been produced many times on Broadway and everywhere else. At least two of his plays, The Lieutenant of Inishmore and The Pillowman, are outright masterpieces. In almost all McDonagh’s plays, the darker and more vicious the action becomes, the more wildly hilarious the proceedings grow. As more characters get dismembered, shot in the face and buried alive, everything only gets funnier, and not polite/literary amusing, but truly funny. McDonagh constantly toys with audience expectations. Just as we feel that a character has suffered enough and deserves a hug or at least a moment of relief, another character will enter and beat the first guy to a bloody pulp, and then the bloody pulp with also be diagnosed with tuberculosis. In The Pillowman, one brother asks another something along the lines of “But didn’t you know that if you cut off all of a child’s toes and fingers and left him alone in the middle of a forest all night long, that he would bleed to death?” The other brother replies, “Well, I know that now.”

I love all of McDonagh’s plays, but the only work which had puzzled me was The Cripple of Inishman. I’d seen two productions, and neither had really worked for me. Many of the characters in McDonagh’s plays have thick Irish accents, and this requires an American theatergoer’s close attention. On Wednesday I went to a matinee of the new Broadway production directed by Michael Grandage, and suddenly the play made wonderful sense. It follows the desperate life of Crippled Billy, a young man living on a bleak Irish island in the 1930s. Everyone in the play mocks Billy relentlessly, and his otherwise doting aunts decide that even a blind girl would have problems kissing Billy. Even though I knew the play, the many plot twists still surprised and delighted me.

In this production, Billy is played by Daniel Radcliffe, who’s both accomplished and movie-star magnetic, while happily joining an amazing ensemble of actors. I especially liked a beautiful young English actress named Sarah Greene, who plays Helen McCormack, a cruel and gleefully violent local girl. This actress never tried to soften the role or distance herself from it, which made her irresistible.

McDonagh has also begun writing and directing movies, including the terrific In Bruges with Colin Ferrell; even though all of the characters keep talking about how boring Bruges is, the movie made me want to move there. McDonagh’s movies are also giddily violent, but I think it’s even harder to chop people up onstage.

Here’s a photo of McDonagh, who’s a handsome devil.


April 29, 2014

Reasons Why It Took George Clooney So Long To Get Engaged


1. So many people online kept insisting that he was gay, so he began to wonder.

2. He needed time to save up for the ring.

3. He kept waiting for Angelina to leave Brad (because Jennifer Aniston kept assuring him, “Oh, it’s gonna happen!”)

4. He kept waiting for Brad to leave Angelina, because even though George is straight, he’d still marry Brad, duh.

5. His bride-to-be is a lawyer so on their first date, she surprised him with a binding pre-dessert marital contract, and he really wanted the tiramisu.

6. He finally met someone who was smarter, sexier and prettier than he is.

7. He’d bought expensive wedding gifts for so many other people and he was finally getting fed up.

8. He’s being paid a fortune by the Soviet government to distract the media from what’s going on in Ukraine.

9. He was getting tired of Jewish women referring to him as Mister Picky and Mister-I’m-Too-Fancy-To-Marry-A-Normal-Woman-And-Be-Miserable.

10. He finally accepted the fact that Jo, from The Facts of Life, on which a young George had appeared as a handyman, was never going to marry him.

April 29, 2014

The Police Gazette


Recent criminal activity:

Felicia Smith, a 42-year-old teacher in Houston has been arrested for giving a 15-year-old student a “full contact lap dance” in front of her entire class. In his deposition, the boy says that he slapped Ms. Smith’s butt several times and that the teacher’s dance caused him to have “an erected penis.” Smith concluded the four-minute-long dance by telling her student, “Happy birthday, baby.”

My verdict: I feel that Ms. Smith should go free, as long as she wasn’t teaching grammar.

49-year-old Thomas Kroger, of Ceres, California, was found dead in the freezer of an auto body shop on April 14th that was owned by his husband, 26-year-old Jacob Cervantes, who has pleaded not guilty. The pair got married in August of last year and Kroger’s death may have occurred anywhere between December 1st and April 10th.

My verdict: pending. Maybe the happily married couple were just playing a sex game called “Let’s pretend that you’re a loin of pork”, that went terribly wrong.

72-year-old singer/songwriter Paul Simon and his songbird wife, 47-year-old Edie Brickell, were both arrested at their home in New Canaan, Connecticut, after a dispute reported by Brickell’s mother, which involved “shoving.” The pair were charged with Disorderly Conduct and released.

My verdict: Edie Brickell is at least six inches taller than her husband, and she’s 25 years younger. She should be ashamed of herself for shoving a tiny little old man. But at least she didn’t put him in the microwave.

April 28, 2014

A Special Day

This is a clip from Addams Family Values, featuring a song I wrote with the wonderful
Marc Shaiman.Even though the scene takes place at a summer camp, the song is part of
a Thanksgiving Day pageant: no one has ever questioned this. I wrote the lyrics
while sitting alone in my apartment; watching the song being performed,
with gusto, by actual children, was another matter entirely,since the song
is called “Eat Me.”

This scene also includes some of my favorite actors ever, including Harriet Harris,
Christine Baranski, Peter McNichol, Julie Halston and even the movie’s director,
the sublime Barry Sonnenfeld, in a cameo appearance as a camper’s Dad.

April 27, 2014

Fashion Worth Fighting For


I just got back from Ground Zero, which is always a disturbing and enlightening experience. Several of the major new structures, including the transportation hub and the Freedom Tower, are getting closer to completion, and the architecture is staggering. The site of a terrible tragedy has become a bustling, international tourist destination. This was on a much smaller scale, but I was reminded of visiting South Beach in Florida, a few months after the designer Gianni Versace was shot to death on the steps of his mansion. Tourists were already posing for photos on the steps, with their young children, and searching for bloodstains.

I was watching a forgettable rom-com on cable, which was called, I think, Someone Like You and starred a young Ashley Judd and Hugh Jackman, often in their underwear, as battling roommates. At one point the couple steps out onto their balcony, and as they chatter, the Twin Towers loom behind them. After 9/11, some moviemakers would digitally remove the Towers. If you revisit the musical The Wiz, you’ll find a vast, choreographed number swirling through the World Trade Center plaza. Seeing the Towers, especially unexpectedly, is unnerving, but it also makes me grateful for the photographic record.

Among the New Yorkers I’ve spoken to about it, no one seems enthusiastic about visiting the new 9/11 museum, which has been painstakingly thought out – there’s been a recent dispute over the depiction of Muslims in some of the exhibits. For people who were in town on that day, the events still feel raw. I’m not sure why, but I have more trouble looking at photos of the crumbling Towers now (I watched the buildings come down from my rooftop.) At the time, there may have been a numbness which has only just begun to recede. And I don’t want to claim any personal stake in the tragedy, as my home wasn’t harmed and I didn’t lose anyone.

Many artists have set stories in and around the events of 9/11. Because I’m a comic writer, I took a more oblique route. In my play The New Century, a group of characters from all over the US end up in Manhattan, and at least two of them visit Ground Zero. Shane, a young hustler/stripper, visits Century 21, the discount flagship which sits right beside the site. In the days following 9/11, I was always struck by the fact that the large Century 21 sign was just about the only landmark still visible amid the rubble. The fact that the store re-opened, in 2002, felt like a hopeful development, and the store’s motto, on the shopping bags, had always been “Fashion Worth Fighting For.”

I wrote The New Century as a tribute to the spirit of Century 21, because I think of the store as an emblem of survival. When the play was produced at Lincoln Center, I received a wonderful note from the store’s owners, who enjoyed the play; they also enclosed a gift card, which I used immediately. Today I was back at Century 21. It’s a great store, and one of the country’s last few true discount palaces. Most such stores don’t really offer designer goods at a substantial savings; they usually just sell not-so-great merchandise manufactured especially for the outlets. But a passionate shopper can still unearth amazing bargains at Century 21, from topflight manufacturers. The Ground Zero store is always busy with customers from all over the world.

While I was shopping, I ran into one of the store’s owners and we had a terrific conversation. This was the sort of encounter that could only happen in New York, and I was so impressed that the owner was shopping at his own store. Because I’m an idiot, I immediately asked him if he got a discount, and he said yes. Then I asked him, “How much?” As soon as I said this, I realized that I was being insanely rude, so I yelled, “Don’t answer that!” and he smiled.

There’s no correct way to approach a tragedy. The facts, and the loss, remain indisputable. My favorite depiction of the Twin Towers remains the truly awe-inspiring documentary Man on Wire. This film follows the fearless wirewalker Philipe Petit’s 1974 highwire travel between the towers. The footage is terrifying and breathtaking. Even just thinking about this movie gives me vertigo. But it’s a way to remember the doomed buildings. Watching Petit scamper back and forth between the buildings’ summits is unsettling and triumphant.

April 26, 2014

A Philosophical Moment


On Home Shopping yesterday, while the salesfolk were hawking nylon tote bags “in all of today’s most trending colors”, they began asking the shoppers who called in an additional question, on the air: “If you could change places with anyone in the world for one day, who would you choose?”

Many people chose the Pope, which may reveal something about the Home Shopping demographic, although I kept wondering: why did these callers want to be the Pope? Because they admired him? Because they’d use their Freaky Friday body-swap day to declare divorce, birth control and gay marriage to be just fine? One caller was flustered by the question and then firmly replied, “Walt Disney’s wife” (who died several years ago.) Again, I wondered about her choice: was she too modest or afraid to want to become Walt Disney himself? Walt met his wife Lillian when she was a secretary at his studio, and she also worked as an ink artist on several cartoons. Walt originally wanted to name his most famous creation Mortimer Mouse, and Lillian is credited with encouraging him to use Mickey. The Disneys had a long and happy marriage, and after Walt’s death Lillian remarried. She became a philanthropist, donating fifty million dollars to build the Disney concert hall in LA. Which of these attributes had attracted that Home Shopping caller?

Here’s my thinking: it’s a terrible question. On one hand, the question may simply require a natural curiosity about someone else’s life. But since the callers tended to name famous people, the question seemed to be more about dissatisfaction. The Home Shopping sales staff was pretty much asking, “If you could be someone better, someone rich and famous and powerful, someone who didn’t have to buy cheap nylon tote bags, who would you be?”

I once overheard two actresses chatting, outside an audition room. One of the actresses, who was otherwise a gifted and delightful person, asked her friend, “So tell me – who’s having your career?” She was serious, and this struck me as one of the saddest and scariest questions I’d ever heard.

Everyone gets depressed and cranky at times, and everyone’s felt pangs of envy. Personal re-invention can be necessary and thrilling. But sincerely wanting to become someone else is a surefire route to madness. At one point the perky Home Shopping salesladies asked one of the young showroom models who else she’d like to be. At first the model refused to answer, which I applauded. But since she’d been put on the spot, she finally sputtered, “My Mom.” I think this choice was just a loving tribute to her mother, but it’s also a Freudian arcade ride.

That’s Walt and Lillian pictured above, with their rodent goldmine. Now that I think about it, maybe all that Home Shopping caller wanted to be was obscenely rich.

April 25, 2014



Justin Bieber has done it again: by posing reverently at a Tokyo shrine to Japanese war
criminals, he’s offended millions. He’s tweeted an apology in which he explains that
he’d had his driver pull over to what he thought was a place of prayer, and he concludes,
“I love you China and I love you Japan.” Earlier Bieber had visited the Anne Frank
house in Amsterdam, where he’d written, in the guestbook, that if Anne was still alive,
“Hopefully she’d be a Belieber.”
Just to save time, here are some future Bieber apologies:

“So sorry to black people everywhere. Thought Martin Luther King was Luther Vandross.
Shouldn’t have compared myself to him, as a ‘sexy-time dude.'”

“Jews, u know I luv u. Thought concentration camps were for gettin’ ready for the SATs.”

“Shouldn’t have called my new album 9/11 – thought you could buy Big Gulps there.”

“Got it – all female cops not really strippers. Yay u!”

“Props to India – didn’t mean to tell Calcutta audience Don’t Have a Cow.”

“Gay dudes rule – will stop callin’ gay shit so gay.”

“Helen Keller u rock – thought u wuz snooty.”

“My bad, Pope Francis – ur not a nurse!”

April 24, 2014

Beauty and Cats


After attending this week’s Auto Show, I began recalling my other favorite cult events, including the Beauty and Hair Show and of course, the epic International Cat Show. The Beauty and Hair Show was held at the midtown Coliseum, which has since been demolished, but it was an orgy of booths and kiosks devoted to personal grooming. One of my favorite stops was the Eva Gabor Elegant Lady Wig Collection, a sizable corral staffed with ladies in matching gold mesh mini-togas, all wearing wigs with sophisticated names like Nancy Newport or Countess Mitzi. I was later told that the Eva Gabor wigs were a favorite of transgendered sexworkers, for their durability.


Many booths featured the most extreme forms of nail ornamentation, including 24K gold 3-inch press-on talons. Each of these nails was also encrusted with diamond chips and enamelled with a tiny animal print, and a hole had been drilled at the tip of each golden nail, so that a charm on a tiny chain could dangle. There were women wearing this sort of massive nail art on every finger, and I wondered how they could use a phone, or the toilet.

The B&H Show was attended by hairstylists and manicurists from all over the country, dressed to thrill. I saw a male couple from DesMoines, wearing hand-sequinned graduation robes over their Hawaiian shirts and harem pants, with little fezzes, sprouting tassels, set at an angle on their heads. The show climaxed with a ruthlessly competitive hair-off. The models were all volunteers, which meant that while these men and women weren’t especially attractive, they had a passionate desire to be models. They would allow the battling stylists to glue yards of hair extensions to their actual hair, and this combination would then be sprayed and sculpted into everything from a bobbing, woven Easter basket, filled with actual Easter eggs, to a replica of the Chrysler building, which included tiny twinkling electric lights.


The Cat Show was held at Madison Square Garden and it was packed with owners and animals so it smelled, well, like a cat show. There were cages everywhere, filled with cats, and the owners were often fairly large people wearing even larger sweatshirts with iron-on full-color photos of cats. The many breeds of cats were displayed on a small stage, where the owners would hold the cats stretched high in the air, like furry sausages. It was like a slave auction where the slaves were incredibly bored.


That year the centerpiece of the Cat Show was a hugely publicized special guest appearance by a recently cloned cat. A substantial crowd had gathered to watch the clone wandering around a chickenwire enclosure. All I kept thinking was: how does anyone know if this cat is really a clone? Everyone was happy to believe the brochure. As far as I could tell, it was just a not especially distinguished cat, waiting to pick up its check and head out for a smoke.

April 23, 2014

Car Show


I know nothing about cars. I failed my driving test six times, for good reason, and so I’ve never gotten a license. But yesterday, John and I went to the grand, glorious Manhattan Auto Show, because John, who’s an excellent driver, is thinking about getting a new car. The show is still going on at the Javits Center on the far West Side, where the enormous glass exhibition spaces are filled with block-long LED screens, acres of white carpeting, interactive consoles and above all else, glistening new cars, trucks, mini-vans and motorcycles, many set atop slowly rotating white platforms, to be properly lusted for.


Since I know nothing about cars, none of this interested me. When John would ask me which car I preferred, I tended to say things like, “the red one.” When we looked at the eco-friendly hybrids, I kept imagining having to shove celery and bran into the gas tanks. John was very patient and I do enjoy being a passenger. But here’s what fascinated me about the car show: the car people.

The place was crowded with bedrock, car-adoring Americans, wearing their most comfortable, oversize clothes. If you want to know who buys their jeans at Costco, in the Kirkland house brand, go to the car show. There were many sets of fathers and sons, bonding happily over Toyotas and Mercedes and Mazdas; my favorite Dad and lad were a middle-aged guy in a tucked-in, washed-out Sears polo and khakis, inspecting a Lexus beside a teenage boy wearing full makeup, artfully swooshed hair, skinny black pants and multiple piercings. There were also many groups of female friends, with everyone recording their favorite cars on their phones, like baby pictures.

The most impressive people were the impossibly glamorous sales reps. There were far more female reps, I think because they’re both more alluring and because male customers might feel intimidated by other, more knowledgeable car dudes. The women were all incredibly welcoming and well-prepared with every possible bit of information about a Prius or a Subaru or a Hyundai Hatchback. They were also undeniable babes: the Ford ladies, for example, all wore matching, fitted cobalt blue sheaths, while the Volkswagen platoon were allotted black mesh cigarette pants and skimpy grey blazers. The Lincoln women were the most high-end luxury bombshells, in spike heels and plunging, skin-tight black catsuits, with freshly blown-out hair and centerfold-ready, too-much-is-just-a-beginning makeup and eyelashes. And I want to put this delicately, but I believe that this year’s Lincolns come equipped with rather impressively engineered airbags.

From chatting with some of these women I learned that they travel all over the country for their employers. In earlier years, trade shows would often hire local actresses as window-dressing, but these women were expert salespeople, who just happened to look like Japanese anime superheroes. I’ve heard that at the boat show, bikinis are involved.


April 22, 2014

Libby Gelman-Waxner


I know why Johnny Depp was rightfully paid many millions of dollars to star in the new computers-gone-mad movie Transcendence: it’s because at one point Johnny is required to shave his head. When Johnny has to sacrifice his trademark floppy bangs, he seems more upset than when he’s diagnosed with a fatal case of radiation poisoning. For Johnny, his hipster hair, tortoiseshell eyeglass frames and bank teller vests are essential, because remember, we’re talking about a 50-year-old movie star who still wants to be called Johnny.

Transcendence follows the same route as all of those Frankenstein and Vincent Price movies, in which a gifted doctor or scientist crosses the line, and a horrified co-worker says something like, “There are some things which man was never meant to tamper with!” In this latest version, after Johnny’s death, his grieving widow manages to upload both his consciousness and his wardrobe into a mega-computer. This whole process is the result of Johnny’s TED-talk worthy tech brilliance. Whenever a star has to play a genius or even a pediatrician I always start to wonder: in real life, did Johnny even finish high school?

Once Johnny is permanently online, he starts to invent all sorts of revolutionary nano-ware, which can cure the sick, make flowers grow and create mind-controlled armies, using the itinerant poor folk of some godforsaken midwestern hellhole; Johnny’s plans are like a malevolent form of Obamacare. If I could crawl inside the internet, my thinking would be different. I’d do things like comparison browse for appliances, delete all mean comments about Anne Hathaway, and have thousands of unwanted pizzas delivered to Time-Warner executives.

As Johnny gets crazier, Rebecca Hall, as his devoted spouse, has to wander around his desert ultra-lab, wearing flats and classic tapered white shirts. She’s constantly surrounded by projected images of Johnny, as if she’s trapped in a fan’s website, or in some fiendish new Disneyworld pavilion devoted to all things Johnny. Rebecca eventually gets very distraught, but come on: wouldn’t an online husband be kind of ideal? It would be like being married to Google, or an even prissier version of Alex Trebek.

Johnny is great when he’s playing freaks like Willy Wonka or Sweeney Todd, but he’s had problems with more everyday characters, who have to do things like open doors and drive cars. In Transcendence Johnny seems smooth-skinned, pampered and lost, like a rich lady trying to locate her driver after a premiere. But at least Johnny’s underground lair is impressively spotless. Maybe Johnny’s character also created a digital cleaning lady, if you ask me.

April 21, 2014

Fashionable Questions


Today I was walking behind three Manhattan women, all wearing a near-identical uniform. Each woman had on black leggings, coupled with a blazer or serious cardigan, long enough to cover what needed to be covered, with a scarf draped around their necks, to draw the eye away from problem areas. Each woman was wearing her sunglasses shoved onto the top of her head, and dangled an outsize designer handbag in the crook of her arm. Every item was either black, grey or burgundy. When these women first spotted each other, did they realize that they resembled a midtown version of the Lollipop Guild? Did they feel mortified or reassured?

When a young gay man wears his sunglasses perched on top of his head, is he deliberately trying to evoke Jacqueline Onassis and Lee Radziwill?

Are tissue-thin, second-skin yoga pants even appropriate for doing yoga?

Today I saw a man wearing a diamond tennis bracelet, the sort of thing a philandering husband buys his long-suffering wife as an apology. Was I supposed to think that this man was either extremely gender-confident, or an absent-minded thief?

How many seperate tote bags and purses, when heaped over one woman’s back and arms, are too many? At what point should I worry that this woman was just evicted from her home?

When I see a person in business attire and a helmet biking to work, why do I always worry about the smell of sweat once they get there?

When I see a child wearing an expensive store-bought Disney princess costume, and it’s not Halloween, is it permissible to inform that child, “A real princess wouldn’t be caught dead in rayon taffeta”?

April 21, 2014

Alternative Easter Post

I was thinking about posting a parade of chocolate bunnies, but I decided that this blog has already had its share of holiday chocolate. So I’m going with what I’ve always considered a very sexy photo: it’s Tony Perkins and Tab Hunter, at the height of their youthful Hollywood stardom. They’re on an arranged date with two pretty girls, but their interests obviously lie elsewhere. If you’d like to see a larger version of this image, it’s worth Googling::