“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: May 2014

May 14, 2014

William Ivey Long


This is wonderful news: on this Friday, May 16th, Jeopardy will be devoting a full category to my friend William Ivey Long, the brilliant and now clearly legendary costume designer. It’s the first time Jeopardy has ever allotted a costume designer his own category, and the honor is well deserved. Even if I hadn’t known William since I was in college, I’d still adore both the man and his work. William’s designed well over fifty Broadway shows – I know this because a few years back, I co-hosted, along with Susan Stroman and Wendy Wasserstein, a party to honor William’s fiftieth show. The party was held at Central Park’s boathouse, which William and his completely amazing team decorated for the occasion: in one corner there was a bevy of showgirl mannequins, dripping with pearls and very little else, from The Producers, and over by the windows you’d find a mannequin wearing the daring yet somehow elegant black lace bodysuit which Anita Morris wore in Nine. There were costumes from Guys & Dolls, Hairspray, Chicago, Crazy For You, and so many other glorious shows. William’s just been nominated for yet another Tony Award (I think he’s won six so far) for his breathtaking work on Bullets Over Broadway. He also somehow manages to be an exceedingly kind and generous man, and to never lose his Carolina accent.


William’s also designed ballets, movies, and wedding gowns, and I especially remember his bold designs for a massive Siegfried and Roy spectacular in Las Vegas; these costumes needed to be both gorgeous and durable, since the white tigers in Siegfried and Roy’s show would occasionally pee on them. I’ve written about my friendship with William in my book I Shudder, which now demands to be updated. Bravo, William!




May 13, 2014

The Normal Heart


Last night John and I went to a screening of the excellent new HBO screen adaptation of Larry Kramer’s classic play, The Normal Heart. Ryan Murphy directed, with an amazing all-star cast, including Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons, Taylor Kitsch, and Julia Roberts. The movie has clearly been made with enormous love for the original material and as can be expected, if you’ve ever seen The Normal Heart onstage, the story is completely involving and beyond heartbreaking.


I remember seeing the play in its original production at the Public Theater, in 1985, with Brad Davis playing Ned Weeks, the central, ferociously enraged character based on Larry Kramer; the action centers on the earliest, harrowing days of the AIDS crisis, and the founding of the Gay Mens Health Crisis. At that time, the mainstream media was pretty much refusing to even mention the epidemic, so the play became essential, as a source of not just mesmerizing drama, but sheer information. The set was scrawled with the rising numbers of the infected and the dead, and these numbers were constantly being updated. If you were a gay man, or anyone else, in NYC at that time, you had to see The Normal Heart.

The play has only grown in stature; there was a recent, award-winning revival on Broadway, where Joe Mantello played Ned brilliantly; he plays a supporting role in the HBO version, and he’s equally terrific. The Normal Heart doesn’t just seem like a necessary historical document, which would in itself be an achievement; it’s also a funny, sexy and galvanizing work.

The screening was very glamorous; John and I got there early, and footage from the red carpet was being screened inside the theater. There was a parade of handsome, talented, out gay actors, many with their spouses, including Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons, Jonathan Groff, Stephen Spinella and Denis O’Hare. Assembling this many happily gay stars would have been unthinkable, even a few short years ago. Heterosexuality was equally well represented, by the staggeringly attractive Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (Pitt is also a producer on the movie.) Brad and Angelina can never break up, because how could either of them do any better?

John has known Larry Kramer for many years. In the movie, there’s a scene where a handful of GMHC volunteers are being ignored as they hand out fliers and ask for donations on the dock at Fire Island; in real life, John had been one of those volunteers. I’ve known Larry for a shorter time, and I’ve always been in awe of him. He’s become legendary, as a writer, a prophet and an activist. He’s also known for his outsize personality. When he came to see my play Jeffrey, I was terrified. But Larry’s response was wonderfully gratifying, because he enjoyed the play and, due to the play’s central romance, between a cater-waiter and an HIV-positive bartender, Larry told me that seeing the play made him want to go on a date.

Larry was at the screening last night, and as Ryan Murphy pointed out, it’s high time that he also appeared on a postage stamp. He’s an extraordinary man.


May 12, 2014

My Monica


New Yorkers try excruciatingly hard to be blase about celebrity-sightings. I was once waiting on line for a movie when I saw a guy in a field jacket standing next to a woman wearing a floppy hat. I gestured towards them and told my friend, “Oh look, they think they’re Woody Allen and Diane Keaton.” Then I realized that it was Woody Allen and Diane Keaton.

Scandalous celebrities are another matter entirely. My partner and I were once at a screening, seated just behind Donald Trump and Marla Maples, the beautiful young girl Trump had just married. The couple was surrounded by Trump’s cronies, all of whom looked like Jabba the Hutt with a combover. Marla looked shellshocked, as if she’d just started to realize what she’d gotten herself into.

I once attended a fundraiser, pre-prostitution scandal, for Eliot Spitzer, at someone’s Soho apartment. Everyone there agreed that Silda, Eliot’s wife, was so much smarter and more charismatic than the candidate.

I was at a revival of Lanford Wilson’s play “Burn This” at the Union Square Theatre, and I was seated in the same row as Monica Lewinsky. During intermission, as I squeezed past Ms. Lewinsky, I noticed that she had her shoulderbag carefully positioned between her knees. The shoulderbag was open and inside, also open, was a family-size bag of peanut M&Ms. This made me worship her.

May 11, 2014

Big Kiss

In case you’ve somehow missed it, here’s the video of football player Michael Sam finding out
that he’s been drafted by the St. Louis Rams, and then kissing his boyfriend. The couple
then happily shove cake into each others’ faces.


This is a wonderfully historic moment, for the following reasons:

1. Sam is not only openly but triumphantly gay.

2. It’s really romantic.

3. It’s sexy – as many people have pointed out, Sam’s boyfriend, Vito Cammisano, is also an
athlete – he’s a swimmer, so their relationship pretty much counts as gay porn.

4. It’s a moment that has mesmerized so many gay men with absolutely no interest in
football, like me.

5. It’s a step forward without violence, which in terms of any civil rights movement,
is rare.

6. Because Sam is getting the good news over the phone, it’s like a scene from a movie
in which an actor or actress finds out that they’ve either landed the lead in an upcoming
project, or been nominated for an Oscar.

7. Because of this video, everyone, now and in the future, can share in this moment
of victory.

8. It’s a joyous and unguarded moment, moving from suspense through tears to celebration.

9. As many folks have also pointed out, this video is likely to upset bigots everywhere,
but then again, what doesn’t? It’s also a nice rebuke to those fundamentalist, viciously
homophobic twins, who’ve just had their house flipping show cancelled by HGTV. The twins
and their followers have of course framed this as a free speech issue, and after
referring to gay people as demons, the twins now claim to love everyone. Since when
does the Bill of Rights guarantee every American their own HGTV show?

Last night I watched an episode of Property Brothers, a different HGTV show,
where the Scott twins, who seem perfectly nice, renovated a fixer-upper for a gay
male couple. One of the gay guys kept coming up with more and more ideas, as the
house “spoke” to him. These ideas continued to destroy the budget and time frame for
the renovation. The twins, and the other, more sane, member of the couple were barely
controlling their urges to strangle the “creative” gay guy.


I’ve always felt that true equality demands an equal measure of gay
gossip, gay home rehab shows and gay celebrity
romance. That’s why couples like Michael and Vito, Ellen and Portia,
and Neal Patrick Harris and David Burtka have changed the social landscape,
and more power to them.

Also, instead of trying to pinpoint the precise “cause” of homosexuality,
shouldn’t scientists be trying to figure out why so many sets of twins
go into real estate?

May 10, 2014

Things Your Mom Would Really Like For Mother’s Day


1. For you to finally meet someone who will love and appreciate you, just the way you are, but also agree with her about how you could use a haircut.

2. For you to call her just to say hi, and not because you feel obligated or guilty. In other words, she wants you to lie. Is that so hard?

3. She would like you to explain, once and for all, what she did to you while you were growing up that was so terrible.

4. While she insists that she hates Mother’s Day, and that the whole thing is just an excuse to sell cards and flowers, if you don’t buy her something that cost a decent amount of money and shows some thought and caring, she will tell everyone that she has no children.

5. She would like you to think of her, for once in your selfish life, as a person and not just a Mom. And she doesn’t want you to reply to this request by insisting, “I didn’t ask to be born.”

6. She would like you to send her so many flowers that when her friends see them, she can tell them, “It’s embarrassing, I don’t need flowers, but what do you think these cost? Just guess. I don’t need to know, I’m just interested. Just an estimate.”

7. If your family is Jewish, she would like you to stop referring to her as a Jewish mother, because it’s an insulting stereotype. And she doesn’t care that you dropped out of medical school, even if she’s told all of your relatives that you’re just “taking a break.”

8. All she really wants is for all of her children, whom she loves more than her own life, to be happy. And thin. And to own a decent sports jacket. And to keep the hair out of their eyes. And to stand up straight. Would it kill you? And if you just said, or even thought, “It might”, then you should be ashamed of yourself. And you should buy your Mom that new coffeemaker she keeps emailing you photos of.


May 9, 2014

Overheard & Underwear


I just passed a batch of 4 and 5-year-old kids, racing around a neighborhood playground. I overheard one of them tell the other, “I’m going to make you pay for that!” At first I thought they were playing, say, Batman and the Joker, but then I decided that, due to the first little boy’s powerful intonation, maybe they were playing Joan Crawford and Bette Davis.

I was once heading through my building’s hallway, when I interrupted some other children shooting each other with Nerf-ball guns. As I passed, they respectfully stepped back, but as the elevator doors were closing I heard these children shout, “Gay man! Gay man!” I instantly became politically outraged, until I realized that they were shouting, “Game on! Game on!”

I’ve just received an email from Jockey, advertising a 20%-off sale on Mothers Day gifts. At first I thought, who in their right mind would give their Mom underwear? But then I thought, well, Jockey also makes fancy underwear. Which made me think, who in their right mind would give their Mom fancy, sexy underwear? Why don’t they just call it the Norman Bates Collection?

May 8, 2014


This is Sister Cristina, the young nun who’s rocketing to stardom on the Italian version of
The Voice. As a teenager, Cristina had enrolled in a drama school sponsored by nuns, but just
before she was about to sing for the Pope, she broke her ankle. Then Cristina felt the call
and became a nun, leaving Italy to work among the poor in Brazil. Then she returned to a
convent in Milan and entered a Christian singing competition, which led to her appearance
on The Voice. This video has been viewed over 41 million times, and Cristina is still on
the show.

I think my favorite things about this video are the closeups of Cristina’s sensible
shoes, the shots of the other nuns rocking out, and Cristina’s eyeglass frames.
All of the stories about Cristina tend to mention Sister Act, and Whoopi Goldberg
has praised Cristina on Twitter.

I originally wrote Sister Act for Bette Midler, and in one of the many drafts there
was a scene where Bette, in a habit, sang Try A Little Tenderness to a newlywed
couple, while trailing the microphone cord over her shoulder, Vegas-style. If you’d
like to know more about how Sister Act came to be, there’s an article spilling the
beans in my book I Shudder; this article originally appeared in The New Yorker.

May 7, 2014

Mr. James

The internet has driven itself into a meltdown, chattering over the red carpet fashions at the
Met Ball, which was held in honor of the Costume Institute’s new exhibit devoted to the genius
couturier Charles James. The celebrities in attendance wore outfits careening from the
entertainingly atrocious to the truly elegant. I loved them all, maybe because unlike at
the Oscars, no one was pretending that they just happened to toss on a ten-ton designer gown
for an otherwise serious-minded event. The Met Ball was a celebration of fashion,
in all of its glorious excess and occasional restraint.


Sarah Jessica Parker was sensational in an Oscar de la Renta – SJP always seems
genuinely knowledgeable about fashion.

Beyond Fashion Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The internet was a bit divided over Neal Patrick Harris and David Burtka, but I think they look
great, and what’s more, I bet that Charles James would have agreed.


A photo can never do Mr. James’ work justice, so if you can,
head to the Met.




May 6, 2014

Social Notes From All Over


In an earlier post, I mentioned the many misspellings of my last name, including the especially unfortunate Redneck. But there was a wedding announcement in this past Sunday’s New York Times which made me feel better. Francesca Butnick, 28, is a fancy Manhattan lawyer who married Clifford Silverman, 29, another fancy Manhattan lawyer. The announcement noted that “the bride is taking her husband’s name.”

I understand completely.

In the same section, there was a larger announcement regarding the wedding of decorator Nate Berkus to Jeremiah Brent, a decorator who appeared on The Rachel Zoe Project: this was a wedding built by Bravo. The two guys are both handsome and accomplished; Jeremiah is the son of Gwen A. Johnson and Terry B. Johnson. The announcement mentions that Jeremiah had “changed his given surname”, which led me to assume that he’d grown up as Jeremiah Johnson, which was the name of a Robert Redford movie where Redford played a grizzled mountain man. The always-helpful blog Towleroad tells us that “The decor combined their color palette of black, whites and creams and included gold touches, and natural elements like geodes and minerals, mixed in with lush greenery. The ceremony wall was custom built and linens from Berkus’ own fabric line blended with his Target collection.”

I’m not sure what a ceremony wall is, but I want one.

In an earlier edition of The Times, an item discussed “A Utah woman accused of killing six of her newborns and storing them in her garage.” The item says that “The woman, Megan Hunstman, told the police that there were eight or nine dead babies in her home in Pleasant Grove”, although Captain Mike Roberts of the Pleasant Grove police only found seven, and claimed that Ms. Huntsman was confused. “She couldn’t remember the exact number,” said Captain Roberts, “so she threw a ballpark figure out there.”

Maybe towns should just never be named Pleasant Grove…

May 3, 2014

On Vomiting


When I was a child, I made a solemn vow: I would never vomit. Vomiting seemed just too disgusting. I was determined to never undergo that indignity. I might become a thief or a murderer or even a Cub Scout, but I would never vomit.

Then, when I was maybe 10 years old, I got food poisoning and vomited enough for an entire daycare center. I was so dehydrated that I began to hallucinate. I was in my bed, watching the movie musical The Harvey Girls on TV. This movie opens with a glorious number called On The Atcheson, Topeka and the Santa Fe, in which a train arrives in a prairie town. In my delirium, I decided that the train was roaring through my bedroom, and my parents found me huddled against the wall, avoiding injury.

About a week ago, I had whatever that current virus is. This resulted in agonizing stomach cramps, a fever and a hideous sensitivity to light. I couldn’t sit down, lie down or stand up; every position made me want to barf and collapse. I couldn’t open or shut my eyes; both options made me dizzy. The most awful aspect of all this was the following: I desperately wanted to vomit, to rid my body of its cackling intestinal demon, but my body wouldn’t cooperate. I would lie in a fetal position on the bathroom floor and then crouch over the toilet, but it just wasn’t happening. I had become the sort of person who yearned to vomit, who dreamt of vomiting, who was praying to every possible vomit god. Finally, I vomited profusely and repeatedly, like a cartoon character or someone in a frat-boy movie. It felt sublime, and after a day or so of recovery, I was fine.

The only possible treatment for this sort of thing, as anyone who’s ever contracted it knows, is the cool embrace of the bathroom floor tiles. These tiles don’t really help matters much, but they seem to at least understand the pain involved. It’s like having a soothing floor-nanny.

Maybe the reason I’d always hated and feared vomiting was the loss of control. And the smell. And the taste.

Now I regard vomiting as a sign of great emotional maturity.

My partner John is going through a prolonged and hideous version of this kind of illness. John’s a doctor, so he knows all the possible causes and not-very-effective remedies. Plus, the cat keeps trying to sit on his stomach. Part of loving someone involves listening to them vomit, and rooting for them. John and I were once on a plane from, I think, Aspen, Colorado to Los Angeles. This flight is so notoriously rough that it’s been dubbed The Vomit Comet, for good reason. John was fine, but I spent the entire flight having that familiar inner debate: should I try to remain disciplined, or just head for the bathroom and get it over with?

P.S. Unless you are truly perverse, never Google “Vomiting” and look at the Images.

P.P.S. One morning during John’s illness, I awoke to discover that the cat had vomited on the floor in sympathy. I made this discovery with my feet.

P.P.P.S. The eternal question: after vomiting, do you look at it? Have you ever experienced a form of forensic nostalgia, a remembrance of lost meals?

P.P.P.P.S. I was once walking up Eigth Avenue, when a sturdy woman, wearing a white tank top and cutoff jean shorts, ran out of a Mexican restaurant. She balanced one strong foot on the base of a nearby lamppost and vomited more than I’ve ever thought a human being was capable of. A lake of vomit formed on the sidewalk. Her friend stood beside her, encouraging her. After the woman was, I imagine, empty, the two women went happily back into the restaurant, to continue eating.

May 3, 2014

Daily Inspirations


I believe that people should be called whatever they would like to be called. This applies to anyone who would like to be called queer, transgendered or Inuit. It does not apply to anyone who would like to be called Melodee-Kaitlynn or Starminder.

There is nothing more tragic than wanting desperately to wear a color which you know will look terrible on you.

Today a tall, able-bodied young man, carrying a beer and a large bag of chips, asked me for money. I told him that I would only give him cash if he promised to use it to buy potpourri.

A recent study proved that using those cylindrical foam rollers is superior to pre-exercise stretching. However, when a person is using a foam roller while lying on a mat at the center of a crowded gym, they should not make noises which indicate childbirth.

I was watching a TV report on an LA newswoman who kept chattering away about how, following her DUI arrest, she’d hit bottom and was now ready to take responsibility for her life. At no point did she mention that her lips were so filled with collagen that they resembled air mattresses. But then I chastised myself for judging this woman, because maybe her lips were actually filled with vodka.

Whenever someone says “My Mom is my best friend”, I always think, “And that’s why you don’t have any other friends.”

Never give a child, or anyone else for that matter, more than two choices. These choices can include, “You can stop whining, or I can beat you to death with your Princess Jasmine doll.”

May 1, 2014

Nicky Martin


Nicholas Martin, a wonderful director and a superb human being, died yesterday. Nicky was
one of the most truly adored people I’ve ever met. He was the chortling, ebullient, inspiring
center of a devoted theatrical circle; everyone in the theater knew Nicky, or wanted to.
He was a source of true delight, and he made every encounter, whether it was a working
relationship, a friendship, or just a hello on the street, into an event.

I only got the chance to work with Nicky once, when he directed my play The New Century
at Lincoln Center. Up until then I’d only known the Nicky Martin legend; people loved
him so much that he seemed mythical. He’d begun his career as an actor, and then moved
into teaching and ultimately directing. He was a master of re-invention, accumulating
fans from every new venture. One of his last projects was Chris Durang’s brilliant
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, which won last year’s Tony Award for Best Play, and
Nicky was nominated for his direction. That play encapsulates all of Nicky’s favorite
themes, encompassing loss, hilarity and theatrical dazzle. Nicky had also directed
a memorable production of Noel Coward’s Present Laughter, starring Victor Garber
as a matinee idol with friends, lovers and staff swirling around him.
Present Laughter was in many ways a portrait of Nicky.

The last few years had been rough on Nicky, as he’d suffered a stroke and then cancer.
But being Nicky, even his misfortunes became parties. After his stroke, I visited
Nicky in the hospital, and his room was not only filled with flowers and balloons,
but the supreme playwright John Guare was sprawled across Nicky’s bed, and the
matchless actress Dana Ivey was seated nearby. John had brought along one of his
students, and Andrea Martin, Debra Monk and Nathan Lane were due any minute.
Brooks Ashmanskas, the sensational comic actor who’s currently enslaving audiences
in Bullets Over Broadway, was an especially close friend of Nicky’s;
I think they’d met when Brooks was Nicky’s student at Bennington.

Nicky served as the Artistic Director of both the Huntington Theatre in Boston and
the Williamstown Theatre Festival; he could attract the finest talent just by paging
through his address book. He both loved and understood actors. The New Century’s
cast included Linda Lavin, Jane Houdyshell and Peter Bartlett, and I would sit beside
Nicky and share his pure joy at watching these world-class performers. Nicky made
actors, and playwrights, and everyone else, feel safe and appreciated. He had
the air of a sophisticated, giddy child, curious about everything and always expecting wonder.

Here’s a tribute, from his days at the Huntington: