“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: August 2014

August 18, 2014

How Writers Behave In Plays, Movies and on TV Shows




– Female writers curl up on couches, draped in shawls, sipping a mug of tea using both hands. They do this while waiting for inspiration, or a handsome, rugged stranger, to arrive.

– Male writers either hunch over their keyboards in manly agony, or stride around their dishevelled apartments, slugging whiskey directly from the bottle. This is because, in order to prove their tormented masculinity, male writers must wrestle with their prose.

– In sophisticated rom-coms, writers will often work in teams. One partner takes the couch, while the other paces. If both partners are men, they will take turns crumpling up pieces of paper and tossing them into a nearby wastepaper basket, for sport. If one of the partners is a woman, she will hold a legal pad and do all the work, while the male partner stares out the window and whines about his love-life, not yet realizing that he’s really in love with his female writing partner. If both writing partners are female, they will discuss their favorite snacks, in minute detail.

– All writers, just before inspiration strikes, will shove their hands through their hair. This is because, especially in movies, writers are often played by attractive actors who have hair.

– Men write in cabins, like lumberjacks. Women write in isolated beachfront cottages, off-season.

– Female writers will usually come equipped with fetching, oversized hornrimmed eyeglasses, which they will remove once a man appears.

– Male writers will often wear saggy sweatshirts with college logos, and a few days’ growth of beard. This boyish, Kerouac-style look only is only appealing on movie stars. In real life, male writers will dress this way, but they’ll smell.

– The bestlooking onscreen writer ever was George Peppard in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. He’s the only writer in history who looked great with his shirt off.

August 14, 2014

Libby Gelman-Waxner: I Give Up



So many bestselling Young Adult novels have been set in dreary dystopian worlds, after civilization lies in ruins. So I decided to ask my perfect teenage daughter Jennifer, who devours these books, why young people are so obsessed with doom, and she told me, “Of course you don’t understand! Those books are incredible because they prove that grown-ups destroy everything! I mean, if you and Daddy weren’t only interested in your 401(k)s, wearing those embarassing yoga pants, and eating packaged foods filled with chemical additives, then we wouldn’t have climate change, war and baby seals choking to death on Swiffer products! And in all of those books, it takes a teenager to fix everything, because teenagers still have souls!” When I mentioned that I can’t even coax Jennifer into cleaning her room, let alone saving the world, she replied,  “My bedspread is on the floor because I care about refugees! It’s like, my bedspread is a refugee from my bed! STOP GOING INTO MY ROOM!”

To try and bond with Jennifer, I took her to see The Giver, which is a new dystopian movie based on a YA classic. It’s set in a future society where everyone is polite and rides matching white bicycles, because the government keeps all of the citizens drugged. Everyone lives in similar boxy, modernist houses surrounding some larger, official-looking structures, so the future seems pretty much like a mid-range state college, and because it’s the future, both men and women wear simple knit clothing that looks like ski pajmas; I’m not sure why, but ever since Star Trek, the future is all about stretch pants and tunics. Brenton Thwaites, who looks like a junior Abercrombie model, plays a boy who begins to question the imposed social order, and Jennifer commented, “Oh my God, he’s so cute! You can tell from his hair that he wants to break free!”

In The Giver, Meryl Streep plays an Elder who’s in charge of mind control and keeping everyone in line. She wears a long silver wig with bangs, and she speaks like a cross between Hillary Clinton and a really strict lesbian who runs an artists colony in New Hampshire. My favorite scenes were whenever Meryl popped up as a hologram in various citizens’ living rooms, and she’d always begin her stern surveillance lectures by saying, “I apologize for the intrusion” and then the other person would always reply, “I accept your apology.” I want Meryl’s hologram to start showing up in, say, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie or in my neighborhood yogurt shop, where she could say, “I require additional dried figs in my container.”

Jeff Bridges plays the Giver, who transmits the entire history of the world and all human feelings to the cute young guy, which of course made me wonder, “Where are that boy’s parents?”Jeff uses a strange, grizzled Yankee farmer voice, and he wears vests and long coats, so sometimes he seems to be playing Meryl’s lesbian love interest, as if they’re about to buy a panelled station wagon and found Mt. Holyoke together. Katie Holmes turns up as an especially chilly Mom, who has her son and his girlfriend arrested by the thought police. “Is Katie Holmes playing you?” Jennifer asked. “Katie only has one problem,” I told Jennifer, “which is that she seems to be taking the movie seriously.”

After The Hunger Games and Divergent and The Giver, maybe it’s time for a new set of movies, where the future is wonderful because all of the teenagers begin every day by asking, “Mom, do you need anything from Trader Joe’s? Because I’ll be happy to wait on the really long line, while you stay home and watch another wedding planner show in your robe.” Because that’s a future which would include a bag of soft-baked chocolate chip cookies with pecans, if you ask me.


August 13, 2014

Lauren Bacall



I was once on a panel at the Tribeca Film Festival, and the topic was romantic comedy. I was seated in-between Nora Ephron and Lauren Bacall. I knew Nora a bit and she was, as always, wonderfully funny and down-to-earth; she had the gift of instantly including everyone in her conversation, and making both the panel and the audience feel welcomed, as if we were all having lunch together. I was warier of Ms. Bacall, because in the theater community, there were legendary tales of her misbehavior. From what I know, much of her reputation was well-earned, and she could be demanding and capricious and cranky. But she had the gift of surprise: that day, she couldn’t have been more delightful. I think she knew that people were expecting a tyrant, which made her ease and humor all the more entrancing. If I remember correctly, she’d had a cold, and we had an extended chat about our mutual devotion to Nyquil. And of course, the entire time, all I kept thinking was, I’m talking to LAUREN BACALL.

There’s something irreplaceable and daunting about stars like Bacall, from Hollywood’s Golden Age. They seem to exist in lustrous, shimmering black-and-white, as the embodiment of glamour. There will always be stars, but  they’ll  be referencing people like Bacall. Stars of later generations are termed the new Bacall, or the next Katherine Hepburn. I had the feeling that Ms. Bacall was well aware of this; she’d started her career as a model and a Vogue cover girl, and she wasn’t at all embarassed by or unsure of her grand-scale allure. Supposedly, in her earliest screen appearances, she’d been nervous and to keep her head from shaking, she’d kept her chin down and her eyes up, and in the process invented a new standard of mocking flirtation.

That day, on the panel, a moment of the cantakerous Bacall surfaced. During the question-and-answer period, some people would stand at the microphone and chatter away, without ever quite asking a question. One film scholar went on for a very long time, untill Bacall commented, “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”


August 11, 2014

Secrets For Dealing With Your Mom



Because my mother placed an extremely high value on cleanliness, I liked to walk into her always-spotless apartment and say, “How can you live like this?”

If your Mom is asking intrusive questions about your love life, just tell her, “I’ve met the most wonderful man, and I know you’re going to adore him. But when he gets here, please don’t mention the swastika on his forehead.”

If your Mom asks, “Why do you hate me?”, because you haven’t called her in 48 hours, reply, “How much time do we have?”

Whenever my Mom asked, “Is that what you’re wearing?” I’d always answer, “Does it need underwear?”

As a rule, if you’re in big trouble, and it’s your fault: Moms like gifts.

If right before you’re about to accompany her to a social event, your Mom turns to you and says, “Don’t embarass me”, respond with, “I was just going to tell you the same thing.”

Tell your Mom that you love her. This will make her very happy and deeply suspicious.


August 10, 2014

Famous Interior Designers Who Got Arrested




This was a headline I saw online, which made me tremendously excited. But when I read the attached article, while it was interesting and featured many lovely photos, it was still pretty much a tease: the designers in question had been reprimanded for calling themselves Interior Designers, a title which in certain states requires four years of study and a license. These people would, however, have been legally allowed to call themselves Interior Decoraters. But this all got me thinking, about other, and perhaps more dramatic reasons why an interior designer would, or should be arrested, at least according to other designers:

1. Matching bedside table lamps. In 2014? Really? Like at the Holiday Inn, no, I’m sorry the more upscale Holiday Inn Express?

2. A cashmere throw improperly angled across a top-stitched elk-hide ottoman. It’s called the DIAGONAL, people!

3. A boldly patterned, seventies-inspired, foil wallpaper on an accent wall. AGAIN?

4. A row of twelve neatly arranged throw pillows, in coordinated earth-tones, each allotted the infamous decorater’s chop, along a built-in adobe sectional in a Sante Fe home. And on the very first night, the owner HANGED HIMSELF.

5. An amusing take on a mounted animal head, executed in wrought iron or bamboo or beadwork. Even if it cost $125,000, it’s still a CRAFTS PROJECT.

6. A mirrored bathroom. Unless it’s for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, NO ONE NEEDS TO SEE THAT. FROM BEHIND.

7. A kitchen with poured-concrete countertops. Stop kidding yourself, concrete is the GRANITE OF TRIBECA.

8. A flat-screen TV which rises from a custom-made chest at the foot of the bed. You’re not fooling anyone, WE ALL KNOW THERE’S A TV IN THERE.







August 8, 2014

New York in the Summer




As a child I had one primary ambition, which was to leave New Jersey and move to New York. It wasn’t that New Jersey was so bad, in fact, the Jersey suburbs are a terrific place to raise children. My small town was safe and there was a nearby lake with a waterfall, and I could ride my bike to school, and it wasn’t until years later that I realized the people who lived in a compound in my neighborhood, on a very large plot of land, were probably organized crime figures.

While growing up, I never divided the world into gay people and straight people, but into people who lived in New Jersey and people who lived in New York. Of course, once I grew up and actually moved to Manhattan, I discovered that all sorts of people lived in New York, which is pretty much the entire point of New York.

What I was looking forward to was a place of infinite possibilities, and taxis. From all the movies I’d watched and the books I’d read, New York seemed like a place where everyone lived in apartments and had all sorts of friends and wildly varied careers, while wearing interesting clothes and holding opinions about everything. All of this turned out to be true, plus you can watch couples screaming insults at each other on the street, which you can’t really do in more rural areas, where when couples fight, you can probably only overhear the distant sound of gunshots.

It’s August, when the city can grow empty, as people head for the beach; of course, when people say that New York is empty, they really mean that the people who can afford to buy or rent beach houses have left, often via helicopter. But I love New York in August, because over the past few days alone, I have done the following:

I attended a delightful party held on the rooftop of the Scholastic building in Soho, filled with writers and editors and all of the terrific people who work at Scholastic, which published my first Young Adult novel, Gorgeous. Scholastic has by far the most shockingly welcoming atmosphere I’ve ever encountered. At some companies, even in the elevators you can sense the prison-colony gloom, but Scholastic is the opposite. Everyone there seems to genuinely love what they do, plus there’s a truly impressive gift shop in the lobby, and a very large  version of Clifford the Big Red Dog.

I went to the Duplex to see a performance by Jeffrey and Cole, a wonderful comic team who had their own show on Logo. They’re both fantastically funny and limber, and the crowd adored them.

I went to the tailor to have a jacket altered, where while I waited, I got to do one of my favorite things, which is to watch strangers try on their outfits in the many full-length mirrors, as the tailor used straight pins to make their skirts and blazers and jeans fit flawlesly. It’s a moment of anxious vanity, as people reveal which body parts they’d like concealed or emphasized.

I did other things too, but in order to reassure my superb and impatient editor, I was mostly working on my new book, because working on a new book is an excellent way to spend August in the city.

August 7, 2014

Libby Gelman-Waxner: Goyim of the Galaxy


Have you ever noticed that there are almost never any Jews in outer space? While I was watching the surprise sci-fi blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy, whenever my mind wandered, because I couldn’t remember the names of any of the planets or their evil overlords, I began to focus on the intergalactic cast: there was a sly blonde hunk, played by the totally adorable Chris Pratt, there was a sexy, svelte green alien babe named Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana, there was a talking raccoon, a lot of people painted purple, and even an ambulatory warrior tree named Groot, but there were no Libbys, Davids, Estelles or Murrays. It’s as if in the future, Florida and the Upper West Side have ceased to exist. Would it be so hard to name a starship the Nebula Ben-Gurion, or maybe the X-15 Nev Shalom?

Going to see yet another Marvel franchise superhero movie is like trudging off for Labor Day with my in-laws: no one really looks forward to it, the experience is always pretty much the same, but for some reason we keep doing it. Guardians of the Galaxy follows the standard Marvel gameplan: there’s an all-powerful bad guy who wears a helmet which covers most of his face, and who speaks in a low, raspy Darth Vader-type voice, which is like listening to a heavy smoker on a respirator; there’s a precious ancient orb or cube which must be stolen, retrieved, tossed through the air in slow motion, and finally restored to its rightful owner, who will keep it safely stored until the inevitable sequel; the main hero is a cocky white male who becomes his best self; there’s a feisty female in a skintight bodysuit who kicks ass; and there are at least three endless battle scenes too many, all  involving grungy, brave little spacepods that soar to the rescue and blow up the massive death-cruisers. Some of the CGI effects, especially the talking tree, are fun; any time the movie starts to get sloggy, the director cuts to the chatty tree for a reaction shot, as if it was a puppy. By the end of the movie, all of the cranky, yet ultimately good-hearted characters have learned to band together, as a team and a family, and then they’re able to slaughter their enemies, because that’s what being a family is all about. Of course, all of the Marvel movies are really about watching a band of wisecracking superheroes save the jobs of the Disney executives, who paid billions for the Marvel archive.

I asked my 12-year-old son Mitchell Sean, who’s a big fan of video games and comic-con lore, if he liked Guardians of the Galaxy more than, say, the last Ironman or Spiderman movies. Of course he just rolled his eyes and made one of those exasperated verbal fry noises in the back of his throat, and said, “Mom, you’re not supposed to like those movies. You’re just supposed to go see them, to make sure the universe is protected. You are just so old.” Which is true, and that’s why I especially liked Glenn Close, who was playing a high-minded authority figure called Nova Prime, which sounds like either a new drug for erectile dysfunction, or a gourmet item at Zabars.






I also saw Snowpiercer, which is a much more downbeat futuristic movie that actually makes sense, which is probably why it’s only been screening in two or three art theaters. Snowpiercer takes place after climate change has frozen the planet and killed everyone, except for a select group of humans onboard a supersonic train which keeps circling the globe, like a Carnival cruise with better plumbing. The movie is the lovechild of directer Joon ho-Bong, who’s a master at keeping the movie exciting and amazing to look at it, even though it’s all set aboard that train, which has cars at the back, where the grimy, downtrodden workers service the engines, and increasingly more luxurious cars up front, for the rich folks who dye their hair and cavort decadently, just like the rich folks in the Hunger Games and every other movie about a peoples’ rebellion against injustice and the extreme use of eyeshadow. As the movie progresses, the workers, led by a determined Chris Evans, push forward, through the many levels of onboard society; it’s sort of like what would’ve happened if Che Guevera had used his miles to book a revolution on the Orient Express.

I loved Snowpiercer, even though not only did the always-dreamy Chris never take off his shirt, he never even took off his coat. The movie is gorgeously designed, so it looks like a German Expressionist musical. The plot is filled with genuine surprises, and when the embattled supporting characters, played by people like Octavia Spencer and Jamie Bell, got maimed or killed, I actually cared about them. And while there are special effects and there’s plenty of bloodshed, Snowpiercer gets its most shocking moments from simple stuff, like suddenly having all the lights go off on the train. There’s also something romantic about train travel, even in a dystopian tommorrow, and the more upscale  cars feature a swimming pool, a beauty parlor and a disco, because even downtrodden workers can appreciate an Ambassador Lounge.

A the end of any Marvel movie, the good guys have always triumphed, and they stand tall in the rubble, as the pounding theme music tells us that all of the movie’s stars will now be able to upgrade their second homes. By the conclusion of Snowpiercer, we’ve been through an almost biblical debate on the tragic nature of humankind. But I’m still waiting for a cinematic epic called Space Shtetl or Don’t Use The Sonic Transporter Until At Least An Hour After Eating, because the universe needs a few Libbys, and maybe a Sophie or two, if you ask me.




August 6, 2014

Am I Pretty?

So I was reading about this huge amount of Youtube videos in which preteen girls ask everyone
to tell them if they’re pretty or ugly. I watched a few of these videos, and at first they
were heartbreaking and then they grew boring, because most of the videos were quite long,
for someone asking such a succinct question. Also, the girls on the videos, whose looks
covered a wide range, all seemed strangely confident; not because they were impressed with
themselves, but because they had no problem making such a personal video for general
consumption. The comments were just what you’d expect, from the most incoherently vicious
to the most incoherently supportive. Here’s my favorite response:

August 5, 2014

If I Only Had a Drone


Drones are becoming cheaper and smaller, and remain shockingly unregulated. A personal drone might be a cross between an unpaid intern, a pet and a flying child. Here’s how I would use my drone, which I might call either Paul Jr. or Droney:

– I would program it to fetch toilet paper from an all-night CVS at 3 AM.

– I would use it to annoy my partner John, when he was sitting a few feet away. I would have the drone hover near his head and ask in a mechanical voice, “What are you doing?” and then, a split second later, “What are you doing now?”

– I would have it take photos of random people on the street, just to make them paranoid. Then I’d have it approach Justin Beiber but at the last second decide, “Nah” and zoom away.

– I would teach it to follow people who litter and scold them.

– I would have it reach inside the collars of people’s shirts from behind, if the tag sewn into their shirt has flipped up and can be seen. The drone would correct this and the people would thank me.

– I would train it to hover outside the door of any office where I was having a meeting, and as I emerged it would say, “Great meeting!”

August 4, 2014

More Rules for Riters


I love reading interviews with deeply pretentious, self-important writers, because they feel the dreadful burden of having to speak unto the world. I always want to tell them, “Honey, it’s okay.”

Like everybody else, writers crave rules, because if they can only figure out the rules and follow them, then artistic and commercial success will logically follow, right?

When I write in longhand on yellow legal pads and I cut some God-awful word or paragraph, the messy scriibbled cross-out reminds me of how virtuous I am. When I change something on the computer, it magically disappears, as if I’d never had such a terrible thought. Win-win.

Writers don’t need to be physically attractive, and we can comfort ourselves by imagining that instead of beauty, God gave us talent. This would be a delightful equation, except for the existence of staggeringly gorgeous, superbly talented writers, like Zadie Smith, Bruce Chatwin, Martin McDonough and Jennifer Egan. And if you have even an ounce of decency, you will now Google one or more of these writers, examine their photographs and snort, “Well, I don’t think they’re all that.”

Success can make some writers genuinely happier, because they can finally take a breath. It can make other writers even more bitter, because their success was too late and never enough.

A writer’s fantasy: he or she will write their own rave review under an assumed name and then, once this review has been published and the congratulations begin pouring in, the writer can sound confused and say, “Was it good? I haven’t seen it.”

August 4, 2014

This Is How We Don’t?

Here’s the new Katy Perry video, which, while hugely popular, has also been attacked for
something called “cultural appropriation.” This is a variation on charges of white privelege
and pop star entitlement, and while these critics may have a valid point, the video is, of course,
undeniably perky. I also saw a comment which claimed that the only people who would like
this video were “gays and hos”, which seemed a bit hostile. See what you think: