“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: November 2013

November 30, 2013

I Hit Hamlet, Cont.

One of the upsides of someone dying is that it becomes easier to gossip about them.

The initial Broadway run of my play I Hate Hamlet was tumultuous, owing to the epic misbehavior of the production’s supremely alcoholic star, Nicol Williamson. The play also featured Celeste Holm, who was known for both her fine acting and the fact that, at the time, she was one of the few surviving cast members from the original Broadway production of Oklahoma and the classic film All About Eve. Celeste enjoyed discussing these experiences and on occasion, she’d pull her Academy Award, for her performance in Gentleman’s Agreement, out of her shoulderbag.
During the play, Nicol was dressed as Hamlet, in a black velvet tunic and black tights. Because he was a fine gentleman, his hands often wandered to his crotch, and during a lengthy technical rehearsal, they stayed there. I was sitting beside Celeste in the empty theater and she commented, “Nicol is so vulgar.” She paused and added, “You know, I’ve seen it. It’s HUGE.”
On another night, during previews, I added an innocuous line to a scene Celeste wasn’t in. Before the performance, I was summoned to her dressing room. She told me, “If that line remains in the script, I cannot appear in the play tonight or ever again. Paul, you have made me feel like a French whore.” Celeste was 73 at the time. Since I’d already decided to cut the line, her virtue was safe.
I always enjoyed watching Celeste apply her many expert layers of makeup. She’d had some work done, but she was very savvy: she never tried to look younger than she was, but simply lovely, with great success. A friend had directed Celeste in a play in Philadelphia, where Celeste had volunteered to pay for the replacement of the theater’s entire lighting system, so it could become more flattering. Upon her first onstage entrance, Celeste would pause for a very precise few seconds, to allow her many fans to applaud. Celeste was old school, and when another actress misbehaved, Celeste murmured, to no one in particular, “She really shouldn’t do that. She’s not talented enough.”

If you’d like to read more about the I Hate Hamlet experience, you can find an essay I wrote about it in The New Yorker archive; the essay also appears in my collection, I Shudder.

November 29, 2013

A Special Day

Doesn’t Black Friday sound like the title of a Billie Holiday song?

If you want to humiliate your store employees, make them wear Santa hats.

Which is the most disturbing product at Costco:

A) Cake on a stick – for people who are too lazy to use utensils
B) Those enormous pies that are sold in white plastic containers which resemble toilet seats
C) Any food in the shape of a log
D) Any food which is sold by the bucket, as in the Bucket of Brownie Bites

In the Macy’s parade, the enormous dreidel was followed by several enormous elves. At Santa’s workshop, when the elves make the dreidels, do they keep asking Santa, “What are these things?”

When I see an ad for something I have no interest in buying, I feel virtuous, as if I’m actually saving money, and helping others.

November 28, 2013

Everything Looks Delicious

Because this year, Chanukah and Thanksgiving coincide, I’ve been wondering what would’ve happened, if Jews had been invited to that first Thanksgiving:

1. Someone would’ve brought dessert, in a white cardboard box from a nice bakery.
2. At least one of the Jewish settlers would have been very upset over the way the Pilgrims were treating the Native Americans, and would’ve written a serious, Pulitzer-finalist musical about the situation, entitled “No Thanks.”
3. A Jewish settler would’ve complimented her Pilgrim hostess on how lovely the table looked. But secretly, that settler would’ve been thinking, “Do we really need all of those crepe paper turkeys?”
4. One of the Jewish guests would’ve commented, “It’s like Passover, with benches.”
5. There would’ve been a seperate children’s table.
6. A Jewish settler might’ve complimented a Native American guest on her hand-beaded poncho, mentioning, “I love that look. And it’s seasonless.”
7. If there were leftovers, the Jewish guests would’ve wrapped them up and forced the Native Americans to take them, insisting, “It’s going to be a long winter, so you’ll need a snack.”
8. One of the Jewish guests would’ve brought a sweater and asked, “Why are we eating outdoors? In November?”

November 27, 2013

More Boston

I’ve just returned from Boston, where I had a great time. Last night I was part of an event at the Brookline Booksmith, which has the most helpful and adorable staff, and where authors are invited to sign the wall of the mens room. I was reading alongside David Levithan, whom I already knew was a delightful person, and who was providing complimentary mix CDs to people who bought books by all of the authors involved. I met Rainbow Rowell and Bill Konigsberg, who are both big-time YA authors, and who not only read beautifully, but were willing to be packed into David’s Prius. Today I was part of a panel on novels with strong female protagonists, which reminded me of when I was in college and the only male student in a seminar on The Educated Woman in Modern America. I don’t know where contemporary feminism would be without me.
I also persuaded the always sensational Emily Heddleson of Scholastic to join me in purchasing Crumbs cupcakes. One of the varieties featured a Star of David and was called the Chanukah Good Guy Cupcake. Emily and I discussed the possibility of an anti-semitic Chanukah Bad Boy Cupcake.
I will always love Boston because the superb Speakeasy Theater once persuaded the Mayor to declare March 3rd as Paul Rudnick Day – if you don’t believe me, click on my bio page and scroll down to view the official proclamation. While I was intensely honored and grateful, I’d hoped that this would become an annual event, and that everyone in the city, and eventually the nation, would get the day off, to celebrate. I also pictured some sort of bronze civic statuary, and maybe my profile on a coin. But sadly, I’m pretty much the only person who continues to celebrate Paul Rudnick Day. And yes, I know what you’re thinking: in the hearts of the American people, every day is Paul Rudnick Day.

November 25, 2013


Tonight at 7 PM I’ll be participating in an event at the Brookline Booksmith, at 279 Harvard Street in Brookline, Massachusetts, along with the wonderful authors David Levithan, Rainbow Rowell and Bill Konigsberg. I intend to introduce myself as Suzanne Collins, who wrote The Hunger Games books. I read today that, due to the phenomenal success of the Hunger Games movies, the trilogy may become a theme park attraction. If you’ve read the terrific books or seen the first two films, you may see this as a challenge. It could be the first ride where after children enter the Hunger Games arena, most of them won’t survive. This could be a problem for repeat business, and the lawsuits would be endless. But there could be marketing potential in bows and arrows, hatchets and delicious poison berries.
Tommorrow I’ll be in Boston, on a panel at the NCTE Conference on Adolescent Literature. Maybe I’ll bring a machete.

November 24, 2013

New Commandments

1. Never ask a question you don’t want the answer to. As in, “Am I pretty?” “Did you like my novel?” “Do you love me?”

2. Never go to a party you can’t leave – like a party on a boat.

3. If some tiny flicker in your brain wonders if someone has had plastic surgery, they always have.

4. When someone says, “I want your advice”, what they really mean is, “I want you to listen to me while I repeat myself many times, I want you to hate the people I hate, I want you to nod and make appropriately sympathetic noises, and I don’t want you to give me any advice.”

5. White chocolate is not chocolate. Carob chocolate is not chocolate. Chocolate with raspberry liquer inside is not chocolate. People who claim, “Oh, I hate milk chocolate” are not people.

6. Approach any new situation, not with low expectations, which would be depressing, but with an open mind – allow yourself to be surprised. This applies to relationships, apartment hunting and bad musicals.

7. People never change. But they can have the decency to lie.

8. Only lend someone money if you can afford to never get it back.

9. There will always be someone younger, smarter and more attractive than you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t fire them.

10. Never buy anything that’s reversible – it will look equally terrible both ways.

November 23, 2013

Public Relations

My favorite interview question came from a reporter for The Jewish Daily Forward. Addams Family Values had just opened, and the reporter asked me, “Do you think the Addams Family are Jewish?” I answered, “Do you want them to be?”
My most awkward introduction occured while a play of mine was being produced in California. I was set to appear on an extremely liberal radio show in Berkeley. The host had one of those solemn, whispery, NPR voices, and he said, “Later today, we’ll be talking to Alice Walker about female genital mutilation. And now here’s Paul Rudnick, the author of Jeffrey.”

November 22, 2013

Friday Thoughts

Which will be more upsetting: all of the babies who are going to be named Katniss, or all of the babies who are going to be named Smaug?

This year, Chanukah coincides with Thanksgiving. Which has started me thinking about the similar fashion choices of pilgrims and Orthodox Jews. And don’t the menfolk of Duck Dynasty look like Orthodox Jews who shop at L.L. Bean?

At a whimisical Judaica store in Florida, I saw a menorah hand-carved to resemble Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Then why not an Osmond family menorah, or the Joint Chiefs of Staff?

As a Jewish child, I preferred it when Chanukah arrived closer to Christmas, so I could feel properly martyred. Which has just made me wonder if there are Jewish martyrs. Which has almost made me write, “You mean, like my mother.” But then I heard my mother’s voice say, “That’s not funny.”

November 21, 2013

Please Give

I’m fascinated by the most elegant fundraising events for the worthiest charities, like the recent Food Allergy Ball at the Metropolitan Museum. Did the cater-waiters serve only empty plates, just to be on the safe side? I attended a gala at the Pierre, with a Winter Wonderland theme, for 100 Women Against Child Abuse. I kept picturing the membership committee, considering a 101st woman, with someone murmuring, “I’m just not sure about Evelyn. I once saw her shove a little girl at FAO Schwarz.” The legendary, irresistible diva Jessye Norman once sang at a black-tie evening where she was given an award as an American Woman of Style. She acknowledged her hosts, saying, “Thank you for helping me to realize a dream I never knew I had.”

November 20, 2013

Katniss Kontinues

I have just seen Catching Fire, the excellent new installment in the Hunger Games series. I was accompanied by my close friend Libby Gelman-Waxner, and we agreed that Finnick Odair, the hunky new Games contestant, was at least bisexual, because he was the only person in the movie who called Katniss “honey.”

November 19, 2013


I am so often wrong, about everything. I was attending a book conference in Chicago, and I was invited to participate in an event called “The Laugh’s On Us.” I assumed that this was a gay event, for the following reasons: the title, the fact that it was scheduled on or near Gay Pride Day, and the lineup of other speakers, which included Ross, the popular gay intern from the Jay Leno show,and Paula Poundstone, the terrific comedian. The room was filled with smart, welcoming, comfortably dressed women and gay men. When it was my turn at the podium, I read a section from Gorgeous, my YA novel, dealing with the comic travails of a gay movie star, and then I made an impassioned speech regarding the recent Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. The crowd was appreciative, but as I was babbling, I realized that this was simply an event devoted to comedy, and that the smart, welcoming, comfortably dressed women and gay men were librarians.

November 18, 2013

There’s Nothing Wrong With Having Nice Things

Mayor-Elect Bill DiBlasio may not be moving into Gracie Mansion, so that his son can remain in his previous school, and, as a show of humility, Pope Francis has chosen to live in the Vatican guesthouse, instead of the opulent Papal apartments. I’m at a loss – I thought that becoming powerful was all about helping the less fortunate, while enjoying rent-free luxury real estate. Couldn’t our new Mayor and the Pope allow the rest of us to use their official residences, on a time-share basis?

I miss the Tsar.