“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: July 2015

July 31, 2015

How To Make a List

list1. Congratulate yourself on deciding to make a list.
2. Find a scrap of paper – I like to steal the notepads from hotel rooms for just this purpose. I will also sometimes use notepads which I inherited from my mother, with the letterheads from companies she worked at thirty years ago. The backs of envelopes are also good, especially tiny little envelopes.
3. Find a non-working ballpoint pen. Scribble furiously, trying to make the ink flow. Throw the pen away, wondering if pens should be recycled in some way. Find a working pen.
4. Title the list in capital letters. Underline the title many times. You’re on your way!
5. List the first item. For a moment, be unable to think of any additional items (this counts for lists of party guests, office supplies, books you want to read, or a To-Do list for activities like renewing your passport, getting a haircut and buying toilet paper.) Ponder if a list with a single item even counts as a list.
6. Making a list is like writing a novel – just plunge in, and ideas will start to flow. No, I’m wrong – making a list is much more practical and satisfying than writing a novel. Although of course, nowadays many film and cable companies are happy to option the lists compiled by celebrities, or their ghost-listers.
7. Rank the items on your list in terms of importance, using an improvised, incoherent system of stars and checkmarks.
8. Because your list is handwritten, you realize that you can’t read your own handwriting. Go over the list and spell out the most important items in big block letters.
9. By this point, your list should look so haphazard that it could be used as evidence at a competency hearing, and not in your favor.
10. Stare at your list, especially if it’s written on a paper napkin, and decide that if you were Picasso, that napkin would be worth millions at auction.
11. Fold your list into a tiny, grimy little square.
12. Lose your list.
13. Find your list months or years later, and feel good because either A) You’d accomplished everything on the list or B) You accomplished nothing on the list and it’s too late to do anything about it now.
14. Turn the list over and start making a new list on the back.

July 28, 2015

Tim Federle

I’m posting this for two reasons. First, because it’s a video of the sensational writer Tim Federle, giving a commencement speech. Tim’s speech is hilarious and touching and incredibly smart about fear and self-doubt and becoming a writer. The speech is genuinely inspiring, on every level.

My second reason is completely self-serving: during his speech, Tim graciously quotes from the introduction I wrote to the first published version of Jeffrey. I’ve met Tim, and he is a total joy. His books Better Nate Than Ever and Five, Six, Seven Nate! are wonderful, and I can’t wait to read his upcoming YA novel, The Great American Whatever.

July 26, 2015

Five Things Coco Chanel Never Said

Coco-chanel1. “Everyone looks great in tight white shorts.”

2. “There’s no wrong way to rock a tube top.”

3. “Nothing says ‘I care about my personal hygiene’ like wearing flip-flops on the subway.”

4. “Deodorant is for losers.”

5. “Everyone needs to carry at least five shoulder bags and totes at the same time, and one of them should hold something mysterious which squirms.”

July 21, 2015

Christopher Street Bagel

BN-JM068_NYBAGE_M_20150720162300In the photo above artist Hanna Liden’s bagel sculpture is being installed, where Christopher Street meets the Hudson. Today I walked past another stack of Ms. Liden’s bagels at Christopher and Sixth Avenue. These are the most wonderful public art projects. I’m not sure why, but a huge cupcake or even a candy bar would seem more obviously fake and less enticing. These bagels look appropriately New York-size. Ms. Liden said that she toasted the bagels to make them appear, “A little damaged, a little grimy – like the city.”

July 21, 2015

Today’s Delusions

5_19When a car is backing up, and the little video screen on that car’s dashboard streams footage of whatever is behind the car, I like to believe that the screen is showing a new TV show called “WATCH OUT!!!”

When I Skype, I always believe that whoever I’m Skyping with is actually onboard a Soviet space station.

When I sit in a massage chair, I sincerely believe that there are elves imprisoned in the chair, rubbing my lower back, and that someday, either the elves will organize and demand at least a salary, or that the chair will stop working and I’ll rip it open with a boxcutter and find hundreds of tiny elf bodies, dead in a suicide pact.

When chalk grafitti covered the facade of a recently gut-renovated, zillion-dollar brownstone, I decided that the grafitti was actually a feng shui project on behalf of the new owners. The terrifying thing about this delusion is – I may be right.

I believe that mosquitos and spiders take a profound personal delight in biting human beings, and brag about it.

July 14, 2015

Today’s Decisions

set-of-3-sparkling-red-swirl-gift-boxes-lighted-christmas-yard-art-decorationsFrom now on, whenever I want anything, from more butter on my pancakes to sneakers in my size, if I don’t get it I am going to threaten to develop a program of nuclear weapons.

When I was in college, I had to decide between becoming a writer or a Mexican druglord. I see now that, in terms of access to escape tunnels, I made a poor choice.

I am never going to vote for anyone with a seriously asymmetrical head like Scott Walker’s. He looks like a cyborg made from spare parts. By a bored preschooler.

If I was a billionaire, and I gave 100 million dollars to build a library or a museum, I would be far too modest to have the building named after me. I would ask that the building be called The Someone Very Special Concert Hall or maybe The Shy Philanthropist Who Everybody Loves Institute.

I am going to resist ordering any of the Christmas In July illuminated ornaments from Home Shopping. Especially the ones where the hosts claim, “And you can use them all year round, clustered on a sideboard for Sunday brunch!”

I think that being a network news anchor is harder than it looks, especially if you’re gay, and you’re introducing a story by a gay member of your action news team. Because no matter how much you’re dying to, you can’t say, “So girlfriend, what’s happening in Moscow? Hmmm?”

Not a decision, but a question: why do I find the photo below so unnerving?


July 12, 2015


6586860_600x400On the train I saw two adorable best friends, around 16 or 17, on their way to see Taylor Swift. I knew this because the girls were dressed identically in Taylor-inspired outfits: rhinestoned wire headbands with cat ears, and plunging, skimpy white t-shirts silkscreened with the Statue of Liberty, tucked into black, high-waisted short-shorts. They also had terrifyingly matching deep spray tans and the most complicated, matching eyeliner, fake eyelashes, blush, smoky eyeshadow and very dark hair with matching blonde highlights. They would’ve looked like hookers except because they matched, they looked like very innocent members of a club. They were carrying large open picture frames made of white oaktag, on which they’d written quotes from Taylor Swift songs. There was a camera duct-taped to the back of each frame, so the girls could stick their heads into the frames and snap selfies. They sat across from two teenaged boys they’d just met, and they handed the boys their personal phones and asked them to take pictures of the two of them. They’d clearly practiced their poses, where they put their faces together, but not touching (which would smear their makeup) and they flashed identical smiles revealing acres of blindingly whitened teeth. When one of the girls scrolled through these photos, she commented, a little disappointed but still approvingly, “They all look the same.”

The girls could have been their Moms, squealing over N’Sync, or their grandmothers, shreiking over the Beatles, or their great-grandmothers, in bobbysox and poodle skirts, swooning over Sinatra. They loved Taylor, but they really loved the occasion, which had given them a reason to get all tanned and waxed and dolled up.

The girls I saw aren’t in the photo above, but I’m sure my girls would approve, and then make comments.


July 12, 2015

Patti LuPone Is My Hero

imageThere’s been all sorts of hubub over people texting and letting their phones ring in theaters. One jerk climbed onto the stage before a performance of the terrific Broadway play Hand to God, and attempted to recharge his phone in a non-working outlet which was part of the scenery. When people managed to track him down via social media, this idiot at first admitted he was drunk but that he didn’t know what the big deal was. Then, after he continued to be attacked online, he issued a carefully worded apology, which sounded as if a publicist had written it. Meanwhile, over at Lincoln Center, an audience member was texting throughout a show, until the sensational Patti LuPone, as part of her exit at the close of the first act, grabbed the phone out of the woman’s hands and left the stage. The House Manager returned the woman’s phone after the show.

This isn’t an issue about millennials versus fogies, or an adjustment to the digital age, because plenty of old people are also using their phones in theaters. It’s simply inexcusable behavior. If you don’t want to watch the play, leave. Using your phone will distract both the actors and your fellow audience members. I only wish that Patti LuPone had stomped on that woman’s phone, or led the audience on an intermission march, to toss the woman and all of her devices into the Hudson.

When I first got a phone, years ago, I was terrified of forgetting to shut it off during a performance. This didn’t happen, but I managed to do something just as bad. A casting call was being held for a play of mine, and the director and I were seated behind a table as actors auditioned for us. Auditioning is a necessary but hideously painful process for the actors involved, and I hate anyone who makes the situation worse. I’d placed my phone on the table, so I’d be sure it wouldn’t ring. I’d miscalculated and, during an actor’s audition, my phone buzzed. I dove for it, and apologized profusely to the actor, but this wasn’t enough: I had just become every asshole I’d ever criticized for being a selfish douchebag with a phone.

This is an easy fix: shut off your phone completely or even better, leave it at home. Nothing in your life is that important. If you’re a surgeon awaiting the news of a possible heart transplant, check your phone at intermission.

P.S. I saw Ms. LuPone in Shows For Days, the play in question, and she is, as always, heavenly. I also met her backstage, for the first time, and she was a joy. Anyone who gets a chance to see Patti LuPone on stage should consider themselves blessed. I’d also be perfectly happy to provide her with a shotgun, to deal with those rude audience members. People would cheer, but then, audiences always cheer for Patti LuPone.

July 7, 2015

Great Moments In Infomercial History

final.final_.final_.crepe_Perhaps the greatest infomercials of all belonged to Cher, who, years ago, extolled the virtues of various shampoos and conditioners while wearing a wig. Cher’s Aquasentials line of cosmetics included a serum called, if I remember correctly, the Miracle Lift. A few drops of this serum provided an instant facelift, and Cher discussed how she’d used Miracle Lift on only one side of a male crew member’s face. The result? “He looked like he had a stroke!” said Cher, triumphantly.

My latest favorite involves Jane Seymour, who rivals only Suzanne Somers in her willingness to sell absolutely anything. In Jane’s current ad she shows off her killer bod by asking something like, “Why would a 62-year-old woman wear a bikini on the beach?” The answer, of course, would be, “Because she’s being paid to.” Instead, Jane insists that her supple skin is the result of a product called Crepe Erase. In a later vignette, Jane and a co-host test the product by using two biscuit-sized circles of cookie dough. One circle is left untreated, and becomes cracked and dry. The other circle has been slathered with Crepe Erase for a week, and it’s smooth and ageless, without stretch marks. Jane is stunned and delighted because from now on, all of her cookie dough is going to look FLAWLESS.

The tragedy of this infomercial is that Jane never nibbles any of the cookie dough. She could say, “It’s not only incredibly youthful-looking, it’s delicious!”


A product called Secret Hair has returned. These are hair extensions attached to an elastic band and the models demonstrate by removing them. It’s truly creepy, because I always expect the models to keep going and remove their prosthetic legs, their teeth and maybe their glass eyes. Best of all is a subsidiary product called Secret Bangs, which are attached to headbands.


July 5, 2015

More Rules For Riters

man with ink well and feather quillEveryone will always tell you that your book, play or movie has too many endings. They will be absolutely right. Ignore them.

I saw a play recently, and at the end of the first act I thought it was a little whiny. The second act was one trillion times more whiny and I loved it. I admire writers with the courage of their obsessions. You don’t have to agree with a writer in order to appreciate his or her work.

Fight the development of writers OCD: all chapters do not have to be the same length.

In movies, especially comedies, there are certain actors who improvise brilliantly. Not all actors can do this: you can see the panic in their eyes, and they start repeating the same lines, like “What did you say?” or “Fuck you!” over and over again. This is where writers can come in handy.

There’s a wedding announcement in today’s paper for a delightful couple named Lisa Dacey and Jennifer Snook. Their names sound like the heroines of a Jane Austen novel set in the age of marriage equality.

July 2, 2015

Enthusiasm Index

Thumbs-up-thumbs-down-1One of the many things I love about books is that you can enjoy them without changing your clothes, or leaving your apartment. You don’t have to leave your couch or even sit up. Reading a book is easier than eating, because you don’t have to chew, which can become exhausting.

When it comes to seeing movies or shows, I have far more complex standards:

1. I want to see the show so much that I will make arrangements in advance and pay for a full-price ticket.
2. I want to see the movie enough to battle the crowds on the opening weekend.
3. I want to see the show enough to purchase a half-price seat at the TKTS booth, or if I know someone involved in the show, I’ll lean on them for a freebie.
4. I want to see the movie enough to wait until the second or third weekend, and I’ll ask friends who’ve already seen it if I should bother.
5. If someone comes to my home, dresses me, carries me to the theater, and provides ice cream afterwards, I’ll go see the show.
6. I’ll pay to watch the movie on cable.
7. I’ll ask someone who’s seen it to describe the show to me in under three sentences, which will be completely satisfying.
8. I’ll search online for a movie’s shocking surprise twist, which will be plenty.
9. I won’t even be able to finish reading the first paragraph of a capsule review of the show or movie.
10. I won’t be able to remember the title of the show or movie.
11. I will viciously attack the show or movie, and anyone who liked it, based on nothing.
12. I’ll accidentally watch a few seconds of the movie when it’s on HBO, and quickly surf to Home Shopping.