“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 2014

December 31, 2014

Shocking New Year’s Eve Confessions

selma-movieMy mother’s first name was Selma, so whenever I see ads for the current movie called Selma, I think it’s about her.

In the days following 9/11, there was video footage of Palestinian crowds raucously celebrating the terrorist attacks on the twin towers. This footage was broadcast everywhere, around the clock. In this clip you can see a woman wearing a scarf and large-framed eyeglasses – Tootsie glasses. My mother was convinced that this woman looked exactly like her, and that people would think she’d somehow  joined Al Qaeda. She was right, at least about the resemblance – if that Palestinian woman had been carrying a PBS totebag and wearing Mexican jewelry, they could’ve been sisters.

Here’s a photo of my Mom and me.

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My mother died a few years back, and when annoying phone solicitors, raising money for not-the-most-worthy causes, still call and ask to speak to Mrs. Rudnick, I take a secret pleasure in announcing, “Mrs. Rudnick passed away”, because it always makes the solicitors feel guilty and apologize.

A journalist once asked my mother, “So where do you think your son gets his creative spark from?” She replied, “I’m not sure, but he reads a lot of magazines.” I can’t say she was wrong.

December 30, 2014

Overheard During the Holidays

Bowl-Candle-Holder-Girls“My daughter is NOT having a baby. We stopped THAT in its tracks.”

“So now we’re not allowed to torture people, even terrorists? ‘Cause I got no problem with that, whatyacallit, waterboardering. I mean, if somebody kills 3000 people, what’re we supposed to do? Give ‘em CAKE? If you’re a terrorist that’s what you’re gonna get? CAKE?”

“This Christmas I bought myself a watch. I coulda spent the extra money on my kids but I just thought, fuck it.”

 

 

December 23, 2014

Thou Swell

I was looking for a Christmas song to post but everything felt a bit tired. So I thought I’d share Thou Swell, the Rodgers and Hart song from A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. This number stars June Allyson, who was always cheerful and down-to-earth, as if she’d just wandered onscreen after taking a brisk walk and maybe washing her car (she performs this buoyant number wearing flats.) Late in her career June endorsed Depends, the adult diapers, but this never seemed embarassing because June always sparkled with common sense. We could all use a little June Allyson nowadays.

December 22, 2014

My Favorite Things

SONY DSCIn an online catalogue I saw a desk which is available in a variety of finishes, including “Distressed Oatmeal.” If I had a band, I would name it Distressed Oatmeal.

I saw a sign on a charming roadside cabin,with a wreath on the door and a full-sized Victorian sleigh out front. The sign read “Last Time To See Santa.” My partner John and I immediately began to discuss: what was wrong with Santa? Was he retiring? Were the MRI results that dire? Or has everyone simply been too naughty for too long, and is Santa finally giving up?

I love it when Jewish singers like Barbra Streisand make Christmas albums. Streisand’s version of I’ll Be Home For Christmas is glorious, but while I listen to it I always think, Barbra, we missed you at Chanukah. Barbra, why are you so excited about misletoe? Barbra, when you sing Ave Maria I can hear Golda Meir weeping and rending her clothing.

I love those enormous inflatable Christmas displays on front lawns, of six-foot-tall working snow globes and groupings of life-size carolers, or as seen here, the jolliest manger imaginable, where the baby Jesus looks like a flotation device.

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Here’s a snowglobe which includes two bottles of vodka.

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When the electric fans which keep these displays inflated are unplugged, usually late at night, the displays collapse into puddles of weary plastic and then the lawns resemble Civil War battlefields or Samuel Beckett plays.

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December 22, 2014

Merry What?

cd31f0b7-5eaa-466e-a8e2-22cf7fb4e784This has been an especially fraught holiday season, and no one seems in the mood for caroling and egg nog. Here are a few possible solutions for holiday trauma:

– Gather your loved ones and begin singing “Deck The Halls.” When you get to the first Falalalala, say “fuck it” and stop.

– Think about touring the holiday-themed windows on Fifth Avenue and visiting the tree at Rockefeller Center, then ask yourself, “Am I out of my mind?” and stay home instead.

– Consider attending some sort of religious ceremony, but then obsessively follow the news on TV and online instead.

– If your kids keep asking about when Santa’s going to get here, stare at them and ask, “Who are you?”

– Remember that the forecast for Christmas Day, at least on the East Coast, involves unseasonably warm temperatures and rain, which feels appropriate.

– If you’re feeling especially overwhelmed, remind yourself that within a few years, we’ll have luxury resort hotels in Cuba.

December 18, 2014

Libby Gelman-Waxner: It’s Only A Play

02PLAY-tmagArticleWhile I am of course known as America’s most beloved and irresponsible film critic, as a New Yorker and a cultured human being I very much enjoy going to the live theater, and not only to see Hugh Jackman remove as much clothing as possible, although whenever I see Hugh in a tight t-shirt I want to stand up and shout, “Hey, all of you downtown not-for-profit performance pieces about deconstructing Antigone in a trailer park – you could use a little Hugh!”

Last night I attended Terrence McNally’s wonderful comedy It’s Only A Play, and let me just say this: the minute the curtain rose on an over-the-top Manhattan penthouse with lucite sidechairs and cream-colored carpeting, I was in heaven, and when Nathan Lane entered in a tuxedo I experienced a theatrical orgasm which was only enhanced by my $12 bag of peanut M&Ms. Whenever Nathan shows up onstage, in anything, the audience becomes his giddy slaves, and he has an extended phone conversation which made me forget all about the endless construction in Times Square, anything Dick Cheney has ever said, and whatever North Korea is up to next. In fact, I feel that we should send Nathan to North Korea, because I’m sure that the entire population would immediately follow him instead of Kim Jong-un.

The play takes place over a single night, as a group of theater people wait for the reviews of a new Broadway show. Matthew Broderick plays the adorable playwright, Megan Mullally is the madcap producer, and the blissful Stockard Channing snorts and sulks and bewitches as the resident diva. F. Murray Abraham uproariously plays a vicious critic; sadly, I am most likely the only critic of any sort entirely lacking in such bitterness and envy. I always yearn to tell all other critics: maybe you would be happier people if like me, you understood grooming, poise and why you never really need to see any theatrical work which doesn’t feature a centrally located ottoman.

During It’s Only A Play the characters experience the intoxication of hope and the agony of televised reviews, along with lots of delicious tirades against importing English productions to steal American Tony Awards. There’s also a terrific young actor named Micah Stock, who plays a cater-waiter hired to heap coats on the bed. Just watching Micah do this filled me with joy because it meant that just offstage, there were probably hot hors d’oeuvres and trays of gourmet chocolate-chip cookies. To me, a Manhattan party where Nathan Lane can accidentally eat dog treats is the highest form of art. Nathan’s reaction when he discovers what he’s done is much more worthwhile than say, worrying about the English class system or a rap version of Anna Karenina, if you ask me.

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December 17, 2014

We’ll All Dance the Hora

61xzuemgptlMy family was too Jewish to celebrate Christmas but not Jewish enough to always haul out the menorah, light the candles and say the prayers. Some years we’d just pick a December day which was convenient for all family members, and we’d exchange gifts for a customized Rudnick celebration. I always admired my parents for not succumbing to Xmas mania, which I secretly felt would be like sending Hitler a handwritten note reading “All is forgiven. Stop by for highballs and brie.”

I’m fascinated by how some Jews feel the need to compete with the goyim, and to promote Chanukah with all the glitz and fanfare of a holiday TV special. To rival the annual 24-hours-a-day televised Yule log, you can now download an eternal menorah. Here are some other examples of Chanukah excess:

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Jewish cookies

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December 15, 2014

More Moments of Gay Zen

Whenever right-wing Christian websites attack my work, they tend to identify me as “Homosexual playwright Paul Rudnick.” I can’t decide which term these fundamentalists are more suspicious of – “homosexual” or “playwright.”

I love Taylor Swift, for her genuine and appealing talent and because she seems to have been created as a homework assignment by a really bright gay little boy.

I could be wrong, but Santacon strikes me as an overwhelmingly heterosexual event. It’s some Yuletide version of straight people in drag.

In the suburbs, I noticed far more gay guys at Wild by Nature, the knockoff of Whole Foods, than at Stop and Shop. Wild by Nature is the Grindr of supermarkets.

I recently saw a wonderful photo of Kim Kardashian and the legendary Larry Kramer at an awards banquet. These are two people whom I never imagined I’d see in the same frame, and the picture reminded me of that classic shot of Sophia Loren and Jayne Mansfield.

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December 14, 2014

All I Want For Christmas

Here’s an acapella group from Oxford doing the Mariah Carey classic. My first play, which was called Poor Little Lambs, was about the Whiffenpoofs, the acapella group at Yale. I always like watching these groups, because in a few more years, most of these guys will become lawyers or doctors or whatever, and I wonder if they’ll find a way to keep singing.

December 12, 2014

Bless the Beasts

4dogs_8578Yesterday Pope Francis assured a little boy that someday, he’d get to rejoin his beloved dog in heaven. Whether you believe in heaven or not, this was both a wonderful, humane gesture on the part of the Pope, and extremely savvy marketing, because here’s Hollywood’s most unbreakable rule: you can kill or maim just about anyone, and still retain the audience’s sympathy, but you must never, ever, in any way, harm a dog. People love their dogs more than they love their children, because dogs love them back in the most uncomplicated, irresistible way. If a character kicks or, God forbid, shoots a dog, that character is toast.

Strangely, the Catholic church has been debating the ultimate fate of animals for centuries. Some Popes have insisted that when animals die, they go nowhere, because animals don’t have souls. Other, less unpleasant Popes have decreed that God loves all of His creatures, and welcomes them into paradise. Which of course, has made me wonder, but what about the bad dogs? Do the pitbulls who bite children end up in heaven, or are they required to linger in puppy limbo for a few millenia? Where do the Jewish dogs go? A dear Southern friend of mine had an uncle, who’d explained that when dogs died, they went to dog heaven, which wasn’t as top-notch as human heaven, but it was still heaven. Jews, this fellow noted, also went to dog heaven.

Carnivores, and the people who run McDonalds, are nervous about the current Pope’s words, fearing that if cows have souls, consumers may begin turning vegetarian. Some people won’t eat anything with eyes: will they eat something with a soul and an afterlife?

Here’s why dogs aren’t merely equal to human beings, but far superior: dogs never have bitter debates over which species are going to heaven.

How could anything this cute not have a soul?

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December 11, 2014

Name That Name

census-bureau-sealIn Afghanistan, most citizens use only a single name, but lately census takers have been urging everyone to invent surnames. One guy, named Khaliuddudin, picked Mayroj as his second name, because it means “the highest.” This has made me wonder: if all Americans were suddenly allowed to select new surnames, what would happen?

– There would be way too many Skywalkers and Solos and Vaders.

– Would anyone still choose Smith or Jones, aside from people checking into cheap motels? Sadly, I bet that plenty of people would go for easy, ordinary names out of sheer laziness, the way many of us use 1234 as our passwords.

– Would there be pockets of dizzying imagination, as in Mike Iwannaluvya or Kelli #Onedirectionbiggestfan?

– Would some folks get political, as in Jason Freedomlover or Helen Indievoter?

– If teenage boys were allowed to change their names, would we get more Timmy Blackops or Timmy Bigones?

– If small children get in on this, will there be an Alison Prettykitty and a Jimmy JimmyJimmy?

– Maybe people could be paid by corporations to become  Debbie Cokezero or Harold Dayquil.

 

 

 

December 9, 2014

Libby Gelman-Waxner: Moses the Barbarian

exodus_01-plague-battles-and-big-waves-in-first-exodus-gods-and-kings-trailerSeeing Exodus: Gods and Kings made me even prouder to be Jewish, and not just because Moses is played by a star named Christian. This movie shatters every stereotype of Jews as being brainy or rich or overly cultured, because Moses is portrayed as a swarthy, two-fisted brawler, barreling through the desert on horseback and sometimes skewering two evil Egyptians with one thrust of his golden sword, like shish kebab. I loved watching Christian Bale gradually morph into Charlton Heston, thanks to an array of belted caftans, hair extensions and fake beards. Christian manages the colossal task of never embarassing himself, even when late in the film, he has to hunch over those stone tablets, diligently chiseling the ten commandments as if they were an overdue crafts project, and he really wanted that merit badge.

When it comes to biblical epics, I’ve always favored both The Ten Commandments and The Greatest Story Ever Told, because they feature celebrity cameos; the Demille movie also includes Anne Baxter as the Pharoah’s haughty wife, sneering, “Moses, Moses, Moses!” with, according to IMDB, “Yvonne De Carlo as Sephora.” Exodus makes do with John Turturro as a dying monarch who resembles my Aunt Sylvia at the pool in Boca, and the glorious Sigourney Weaver as someone called Tuya, a name which seems perfect for knock-knock jokes. Ben Kingsley also shows up as a wise Hebrew elder, and I was hoping that maybe Ian McKellan, as Gandalf, might be glimpsed near a pyramid, having lost his way. But overall, Exodus is a very solemn movie, although like the very best epics, just about the entire cast uses quasi-English accents, as if the Old Testament was produced by the BBC.

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There’s been some controversy over the fact that Exodus stars only the most extremely Caucasian actors, slathered in makeup the color of redwood patio furniture. The Australian Joel Edgerton plays Ramses with a shaved head and a gallon of black Cleopatra-style eyeliner, and Joel’s gaudy outfits made me wonder if gold sequins had been one of the 12 plagues. There’s a scrawny burning bush, but God is played by a snippy English child actor, as if the Lord was Malfoy from the Harry Potter series. There’s something fun about the idea of God as a spoiled brat, because it explains everything from the Holocaust to that last Transformers movie.

The plagues are the highlights of Exodus, because Egypt gets visited by some pretty snazzy special effects, including locusts, frogs and gnats which give everyone onscreen a terrible rash, as if they’re having the worst summer camp experience ever. Because we’ve all seen so many CGI tidal waves and tsunamis, the parting of the Red Sea is no big deal, although I might have spotted a few charioteers surfing. And when it comes to the relationships between Moses and Ramses and their wives, the movie gets incredibly PC. Moses marries a gorgeous, unblemished babe whom he meets at an oasis, and they promise to love and respect each other forever, as if the ceremony was taking place on the beach in Easthampton. In ancient times,  most of the guys had many wives and concubines, but then so do the billionaires in Amagansett.

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My only problem with Exodus is that I’m not sure why it was made, because the story of Moses is awfully familiar, especially from that animated Disney version with the tiny noses. Exodus tries really hard not to seem too Jewish, which made me long for Mel Brooks to show up with a brisket and a bottle of Manischewitz. Maybe director Ridley Scott just wanted to make a deeply goyische version, like Troy with matzoh. But at one point an exasperated slavemaster does begin a sentence by saying “Let me tell you about Hebrews”, which is just the way my Aunt Sylvia talks, after she’s had a few Mai Tais over canasta. Exodus ends with the Jews finally approaching the Promised Land, and I only wish that, as the music soared triumphantly, we’d seen superimposed images of Albert Einstein, Jerry Seinfeld and Barbra Steisand, if you ask me.

 

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