“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: February 2014

February 16, 2014

Olympic Spirit

Here’s my tribute to the games, from “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”
In the immortal words of the great Jane Russell,
“Honey, you’ll hurt yourself.”

February 15, 2014

Fashion Saturday

I discovered this garment, from designer Rick Owens, on Gilt Groupe. It’s called the Long Jungle Vest:

Rick Owens

I’ve been trying to decide where I might wear my Long Jungle Vest. Here are some options:

To my cousin’s wedding, where I would ask, “Wait, didn’t the invitation say Black Tie or Long Jungle Vest?”

To a cocktail party, where I could tell everyone, “You see? Doesn’t it look better without sleeves?”

To the office, where if anyone looked at me oddly, I would say, “Oh my God, what’s wrong? Do I have something in my teeth?”

This next look is called the Nylon Island Jacket:

Rick Owens

I could wear it:

When I’m visiting Nylon Island.

When my Long Jungle Vest was at the dry cleaners.

When I was working in either a public school cafeteria, or at a car wash.

This last item is called the Smock Tee:

Rick Owens

I think it would work:

At a job interview which involved the words, “Rinse, please.”

If I was attending a costume party as a Mocha Latte.

At my inauguration as the Mayor of Nylon Island.

February 14, 2014



My family took Valentine’s Day seriously. When my brother and I would wake up on February 14th, sometimes my parents would have covered our pillows with those little candy Be Mine hearts. My Mom would bake a cake in a heart-shaped pan, and I would be sent to school with valentines for my teacher and my entire class, which would be stuffed into a decorated shoebox on the teacher’s desk.

But there was a great Valentine’s Day mystery at our house. My parents were very much in love, and every year my Dad would give my Mom several valentines, in envelopes marked SBKR. Back then, all I knew was that my Mom’s name was Selma Klahr Rudnick (Klahr was her maiden name.) Whenever I asked either my Mom or my Dad what the B stood for, they refused to tell me. It was clearly part of their secret language.

I only found out, many years later, that my mother’s middle name
was Blossom. To her dying day, she still refused to talk about it, but I got the impression that she thought Blossom was either a silly or a frilly name, and definitely not her style. So my Dad was the only person who was allowed to call her Blossom or at least to use the initial.

My Dad’s first name also held a secret. I grew up thinking that he was Norman Rudnick, but I found out, again years later, that his mother had in fact named him after her favorite silent movie star, Mabel Normand, and that his legal first name was Normand. Which, like my Mom, he thought sounded too exotic or too French and just not him. Mabel Normand had been the great love of the silent film pioneer Mack Sennett, who created the Keystone Kops, and she was also at the center of the notorious William Desmond Taylor love triangle/murder. She became addicted to cocaine and died at 37, of tuberculosis.

While my parents were Selma and Norman, on Valentine’s Day I think of them as Blossom and Normand.

My own partner, John, has continued this romantic tradition, because he has a tattoo on his shoulder, of a heart with a dagger through it, and my name. We’ve joked that he can always change the tattoo to read I HATE PAUL or RAUL, but I still think it’s the most wonderfully romantic thing anyone’s ever done, especially for me.

And yes, I’m way too chicken to get a JOHN tattoo. But there are photos of me, watching in agony as John happily gets his tattoo. He’s amazingly impervious to pain, but just watching him getting tattooed almost killed me. When I told my mother about John’s tattoo, she thought about it and then decided that she approved because, as my Aunt Lil had remarked,”You can take a ring off.”

February 13, 2014

Cheer Up

Since today yet another snowstorm is blanketing the East Coast, here are some sunny pick-me-ups:

1. Earlier this week in Iraq, as an instructor at a terrorist training school was showing his students how to wear a suicide vest, he accidentally blew himself up, along with at least 22 other potential bombers. When the New York Times interviewed various Iraqi citizens about this event, many of them couldn’t stop laughing.

2. When I saw this photo of KD Lang and Tony Bennett embracing, at first I thought they were a long-time gay couple getting married.


I was wrong, but I still think they’re both wonderful.

3. It’s been entertaining to watch the turmoil surrounding that contestant on The Biggest Loser whom many people feel lost too much weight. Do these people watch The Bachelor and worry that some of the winning couples might not really be in love?

4. Last week I had a piece in The New Yorker, which celebrated the particular lunacy called New Jersey. Some folks felt I went too far. But this week the Mayor of Trenton was convicted of bribery, fraud and extortion. Since 2000, the mayors of Asbury Park, Camden, Hamilton, Hoboken, Newark, Orange, Passaic, Patterson and Perth Amboy, among others, have also been convicted of various crimes. Come on, Ho-ho-kus, Metuchen and Teaneck, catch up!

5. It must be challenging to grow up in Mianus, Connecticut.

6. Soleil Moon Frye, once the star of Punky Brewster, has named her new baby Lyric Sonny Roads Goldberg. He joins his siblings Jagger Joseph Blue and Poet Sienna Rose.

7. On long car trips, children sometimes count cows or out-of-state license plates. In Manhattan, I like to count men wearing peacoats with the collars turned up. If they’re also wearing turtleneck sweaters, chances are that they’re fantasizing about being either A) Daniel Craig, B) Billy Bigelow in a production of Carousel, or C) a rugged guy in an Old Spice commercial, wearing a knitted cap as he strides along a wharf.

8. You know that it’s “a significant weather event” when Channel 2’s intrepid weather stud, Lonnie Quinn, takes off his jacket and does the weather report with his shirtsleeves rolled up. Sometimes he even reports from his Mobile Weather Lab, which seems to be a mini-van with a flat-screen TV in the back. Lonnie used to be an actor on a soap. I think he’s waiting for President Obama to call him on the air, and ask, “So Lonnie, tell me about this icy rain.”

February 12, 2014

Child Stars

Shirley Temple’s death was announced yesterday, and in the video above she sings
“Animal Crackers”, which is a much more bizarre song
than I remembered, with references to “swallowing animals”
and a janitor named Mr. Klein.

Shirley is undeniably appealing and she’s refreshingly
chubby and upbeat, when compared to the haughty mini-sirens
on the Disney Channel.There’s also something oddly middle-aged
about her; she’s like a good-natured, hardworking housekeeper
who can’t wait to get home, put her feet up and maybe enjoy a
solitary slice of cheesecake with her bourbon.

Unlike many of today’s child performers, Shirley doesn’t
seem neurotic or fragile. While she’s enjoying herself,
she’s doing a job, entertaining us. I can see why she
eventually left show business, because even as a toddler
she seems too sane. She lacks the Norma Desmond desperation
of the child stars who’ll try anything to remain in the spotlight.

I’ve worked with several child actors and they tend to be
either tiny, tireless show biz machines, who mimic adult
behavior, or genuine actors. I was surprised to find that
in both cases, an acting career
had almost always been entirely the child’s idea. I’ve
rarely dealt with a ferocious stage parent, who’s shoved his
or her child in front of the cameras. Most often, the
children had seen other kids on TV, and begged their
parents to let them begin auditioning.

Christina Ricci was ten years old when she first appeared
as Wednesday in the Addams Family movies, and she was
sensational. She was a real actor, who worked from instinct,
and she mastered the necessary comic deadpan. If you click on
the bio page of this blog, you’ll find a photo taken on
the set, where Christina is styling my hair. She
was a delight, which is why the second film,
Addams Family Values, includes a major
Wednesday storyline.

The first Addams film, which I rewrote, included several
flashbacks, to Gomez and Fester as children and as teenagers.
I watched the auditions for the children involved.
It was especially disturbing to see all of the kids who
resembled the large, round, bald Uncle Fester, but on the
other hand, this might have been the one opportunity where
looking like a 9-year-old Fester had become a plus.

There was one little boy who was a little too authentically
Fester-like. He was too scary to cast in the movie, and the
crew referred to him as “the drooler.”

Shirley Temple managed to endure as an American icon
without either dying young or becoming a perpetual
rehab case. Like Garbo, she preserved her image by retiring
from films, in Shirley’s case, at age 22. Unlike Garbo,
she didn’t become a recluse but moved into politics, where
she served as the US ambassador to both Ghana and Czechoslovakia.
When she developed breast cancer, in 1972, she was one of the first
celebrities to discuss her disease openly.

Shirley continued acting on TV, but that’s not how she’s
remembered. It’s the ebullient, tap-dancing Shirley,
in her sausage curls and polka dots, who’s the equal
of Elvis and James Dean and Marilyn. She’s the adorable,
terrifying Great American Child.

February 11, 2014

Olympic Couture

While thanks to the hideously discriminatory practices of the Russian government, the Sochi Olympics feel sour and blighted, here’s a look on the brighter side, by which I mean the outfits. This first look feels as if it’s a gay rights protest, but I suspect it’s not:


Here are some of those All-American Ralph Lauren cardigans, which seem like a strange drug reaction:



I didn’t know that the Osmond Brothers were competing:


These Russian guys look like they’re representing a beauty salon bowling league from Queens:


I think it’s called Apres-ski in Aspen, where these coats would be accessorized with oversize sunglasses, shopping bags, cocaine and a private jet:


I believe this is from an earlier Olympics, when the games were less fraught. Or these might be marionettes:


February 10, 2014

The Manhattan Olympics


This year’s events will include:

Trying to decide which corner of an intersection has the least amount of filthy slush, before putting your foot into it and starting to sink down.

Four friends. Choosing a movie or a restaurant. Points will be awarded for whoever says, “Well, I hate that Mexican place, but I hate it less than the Italian place.”

Convincing the co-op board that the renovations you’re planning are extremely minor, when they will actually take over a year and destroy the building’s elevator. Points will be awarded for saying, “It’s really only a few tiny cosmetic changes, nothing structural.”

Trying to decide whether to get into the elevator with a large dog who doesn’t look friendly.

Peeling off wet socks and trying to decide whether to launder them or throw them out.

Firing your shrink, cleaning person or accountant without feeling like a bad person. Points will be awarded for using the phrases “I will always be grateful”, “in both of our best interests” and “end of an era.”

Eating two very stale Ritz crackers for dinner because it’s too cold to get dressed and go to the store.

Congratulating yourself on remembering to bring your eco-friendly hemp shopping bag to Whole Foods.

Trying to get a waiter’s attention. Points awarded when everyone at the table simultaneously makes the signing-the-imaginary-check-in-mid-air gesture.

Carrying an oversize purse, a canvas tote bag, a gym bag, a rolled-up yoga mat and two plastic bags filled with yogurt and cat food, all while attempting to hail a cab while it’s sleeting, and while trying to ignore the nanny, child and folded-up stroller waiting for a cab on the opposite corner, and then realizing that they’re your nanny and child, and continuing to ignore them anyway.

February 9, 2014



The easiest way to get viciously attacked online is to say something even mildly critical about anything relating to Star Wars, Star Trek or The Lord of the Rings. The fans of these works are not only passionate but they also have plenty of free time to savage their enemies, especially anyone who misspells the name of a Klingon warship, or who forgets the correct recipe for Elvish porridge.
I finally caught up with The Desolation of Smaug, which is the latest installment in The Hobbit series, and I have so many questions:

How does an actor prepare to say a line like “Slay the she-Elf!” or “Have you lost your taste for dwarf blood?” And when he leaves his underwear on the floor, why have I started referring to my husband as “Elvish filth”?

Is the Dwarf King a person or a new mattress size?

Is it my imagination, or are the dwarves wearing Uggs? Since the really nasty Tolkien creatures are called Orcs, couldn’t they battle the Uggs?

In all of the Tolkien movies, the characters always set out on a journey. Then they travel across a plain, through a forest, across a lake and finally up a mountain. Why can’t at least one dwarf say, “You know, guys, this time out, can we at least think about Paris?”

Lee Pace plays the arrogant Elf King, with Joan Crawford eyebrows and a crafts-project crown. Is he supposed to look like a wrathful priestess in a Martha Graham dance piece?

Why isn’t there a character named Elvish Presley?

When Bilbo Baggins enters an enormous subterranean hall filled with acres of gold, there are avalanches of gold coins, golden platters, golden goblets and cheesey golden figurines. Just like in pirate movies, why does
everything look like it’s been sprayed with cheap radiator paint? Why did I keep expecting to see my cousin Amy descend the grand staircase along with her twelve bridesmaids, for some wedding photos, at Bilbo’s of Great Neck?

The Elves are all gorgeous, with miles of stick-straight, shining hair with no split ends. Orlando Bloom, as the elf warrior Legolas, is the Marcia Brady of Middle Earth. So why can’t there be a scene where we see the elves ironing each other’s tresses, and picking out cashmere sweaters and berets?

When Smaug the dragon finally flies into view, is he supposed to look like something which was embroidered on the back of a hot pink satin bomber jacket, at a roller disco in 1978?

Richard Armitage, who plays Thorin, the dwarf king, is always smoldering and angry. Is he irate because he knows that his wig makes him look like a sexy bobblehead? And are real-life little people understandably upset, because the Tolkien movies use special effects to make tall actors seem like dwarves? Will there someday be a more politically correct movie called Twelve Years A Hobbit?

When the dwarves built their massive palace, why did they need such high ceilings?

Why does every fantastical city in the Tolkien movies have many levels connected by impossibly winding stairways and footbridges without railings? Why do these cities always end up looking like M.C.Escher placemats?

Is Ian McKellan, as Gandalf, starting to look like a more even-tempered Elaine Stritch?

The first two Hobbit movies are both equally fun and endless, and I’ve completely forgotten what Bilbo and all of those dwarves are seeking. I do know that Bilbo is still carrying around a golden ring, but it doesn’t even have a diamond chip, so he’s certainly not looking for a decent fiancee, if you ask me.

February 8, 2014

We’ll Call You


Actors lead very challenging lives, especially when they have to audition. An audition combines the worst aspects of a first date, a job interview and a government interrogation. The possibilities for rejection are total and unbearably personal: no, we don’t like the way you look, we think you have no talent, you just fucked up everything, and we don’t want you.

The first time I ever sat behind a table, watching actors audition, I was stunned. I wanted to not only offer every actor whatever role they wanted, but also a million dollars and a car. This was on my first play, which was called Poor Little Lambs, and it was about the Yale Whiffenpoofs, an acapella singing group (and this was years before Glee and Pitch Perfect.) So I got to sit there, watching all of these handsome, wonderfully talented young guys not only read lines from my script, but they sang to me. It was a young gay playwright’s wet dream come true.

I was so frozen that our very kind and understanding casting director, a Scotswoman named Mary Colquohon, took pity on me. After the first ten or so actors had auditioned, she whispered to me that I should probably be taking notes, on the forms which were waiting on the table in front of me.

Mary, who died far too young, was a pure delight, a sort of more upbeat but equally strict, redheaded Mary Poppins. When a thug once cornered Mary in the vestibule of her apartment building, Mary told him, in her very no-nonsense burr, “Oh, put down that knife.” He did, and he ran away. No one messed with Mary.

I should mention that, in my experience, there are two kinds of casting directors. A few are often failed actors or directors, who unleash their bitterness through the pettiest power plays, keeping actors waiting for hours and humiliating them. Most of the casting people I’ve worked with are the opposite: they adore actors, and love discovering new talent, or re-introducing a veteran performer who might not have been considered.
They’re the very best kind of cheerleaders, and they create the most welcoming and stress-free atmosphere possible.

Poor Little Lambs ended up being cast with a terrific batch of young actors, including Kevin Bacon, Blanche Baker, Bronson Pinchot, Albert Macklin and Miles Chapin.

Because Poor Little Lambs was my first play, I didn’t know much about how show business worked. The play was produced by a charming but eccentric man named Richmond Crinkley, and every day he would instigate a huge fight with someone involved with the play, and then he’d announce that the production was cancelled. I would become frantic, and write long, detailed letters begging Richmond to reconsider. Luckily, some tiny sliver of my brain warned me: for your own mental health, it’s good to write those kind of letters, but never send them.

A rule for working with crazy people, in the theater or anywhere else: while they’re erupting, just wait it out. Crazy people usually can’t sustain their madness, and pretty soon they’ll wear themselves out and then they’ll pretend that nothing happened. No, it’s worse than that: they won’t pretend, they will actually never remember how crazy they were. Because that’s what being crazy is all about.

On one of my later plays, I Hate Hamlet, one of the roles called for an extremely innocent ingenue. It was interesting to see how a variety of young New York actresses expressed innocence, wearing everything from frilly, white lace blouses to low-cut, skin-tight white leotards.

As auditions progress, and move into the callback stage, the actors face an even more confounding situation. By that point, the people who aren’t right for any of the roles have been weeded out, so everyone who’s been called back is great. I always want to somehow convince these actors that if they don’t get the part, it’s not because they did anything wrong. The director is creating a balanced group of performers; this person looks like they could be that person’s son, or husband, or boss, and so on.

Stars, as a rule, won’t audition, which is a privilege of stardom. Some stars will, however, “meet.” This means that the star will have a friendly drink, usually at a quiet restaurant, with the project’s director and writer. Everyone tries very hard to pretend that the meeting is not an audition, and sometimes the star is actually auditioning the creative team. Once in while, the director will casually pull a copy of the script out of his or her backpack, and ask if the star might like to read through a scene or two, “just for fun.” Some stars will agree to this, and others won’t. These meetings are exhausting.

Reading actors’ resumes can be helpful. There’s often a section listing the performer’s Special Skills, which can include things like acrobatics or martial arts training or the ability to speak several languages. I treasured one actress’s Special Skills, when she included “Answering the phone.”

February 6, 2014

Two Little Words


In the great movie 42nd Street, when the star breaks her leg, the producer makes a memorable speech to the terrified understudy. This is the classic you’re-going-out-there-a-frightened-little-girl-but-you’re-coming-back-a-star! speech. One of things the producer says, to inspire the young lady, is something along the lines of, “Think of the two most glorious words in the English language: musical comedy!”

In this spirit:

The two most disgusting words in the English language: Wet sneakers.

The two most depressing words in the English language: Interactive theater.

The two most spiritual words: Cashew turtles.

The two most useful words: Thank you.

The second two most useful words: Fuck off.

The two happiest words: Rent free.

The two words which inspire the most relief: It’s benign.

The two most terrifying words: I do.

The two most absurdly encouraging words: Extra strength.

The two most prayed-for words: Not guilty.

The two friendliest words, even when used during intense S&M sex: Good doggie!

The two most irritating words: Bill O’Reilly.

The two most delightful words: Tina Fey.

The two sexiest words: Real butter.

The two most longed-for words, for a child: Snow day.

The two most longed-for words, for a parent: Sleep in.

The two most intriguing words: Adults only.

The two most elegant words: Noblesse oblige.

The two least elegant words: Permanent press.

The two most shamefully satisfying words: Rave review.

The two most necessary words: Toilet paper.

The two most worrisome words: Black ice.

The two least worrisome words: Vanilla Ice.

The two most dangerous words: Why not?

The two most romantic words: Billion dollars.

No, I was kidding, the two most romantic words are really: Trillion dollars.

No, come on, let’s get real, the two most romantic words: Right now.

February 5, 2014

I Need To Know


1. Is taking a position on the Woody Allen/Dylan Farrow situation now a condition of American citizenship? At least online?

2. Even though I never met Philip Seymour Hoffman, should I still post a personal vignette of our relationship?

3. With regard to the fur parka which Joe Namath wore at the Superbowl, and which was fashioned from coyote and mink: is it more acceptable to wear the pelts of creepier animals? And was Joe’s hairpiece also coyote?

4. Why do female meteorologists seem so much more trustworthy than the guys? Is it because so many weatherdudes have frosted their hair to look like they’re playing mah jong with my Aunt Sylvia, by the pool in Boca, in 1982?

5. Do I enjoy watching both the Today Show and Good Morning America specifically because the camraderie between all of the many hosts has gotten so desperate? Why does it seem as if very soon, Samantha Guthrie or Robin Roberts are going to bring a gun to work?

6. While I was watching the brave Mayor DiBlasio zoom down that toboggan they set up on Superbowl Boulevard in Times Square, why did I keep hoping to see Chris Christie do the same thing?

7. When I read about a couple who’d both taken out restraining orders against each other, why did I find it romantic?

8. Remember that exhibit, which has toured the world, of actual human bodies with the skin removed? Why do I want to see those bodies combined with Legos?

9. Why does the word “toboggan” always look as if it’s spelled wrong?