“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: October 2014

October 11, 2014

I Loved Maleficent!

angelina-jolie-queen-elizabethIn this photo, Angelina Jolie is about to be declared an Honorary Royal Dame by Queen Elizabeth, at Buckingham Palace. During this meeting between two extraordinary women, what sort of things did the Queen say?

“I’ll give you Scotland if you give me Brad. One night. Would it kill you?”

“Billy Bob Thornton – explain that to me.”

“If you were Gwyneth you would hug me. Although of course, if you were Gwyneth, you wouldn’t be here.”

“Every time they make a movie or a play about me, I always say, ‘Why don’t you cast Angelina?’ But it’s always Helen Mirren.”

“You’re very smart to have so many children. Because take it from me, you want options.”

“I call this color Gallo Peach Chablis. And I love that you’re wearing London Fog.”

“Philip wanted to meet you, but I told him, yeah, right, that’s gonna happen.”

“You can try on my crown, if I can hold your Oscar.”

“Fine, you have a waistline. Fuck you. I’m kidding!”

“Your work with the United Nations is so impressive. But are you doing anything to help corgis?”

“If there weren’t cameras everywhere, I would do you in a royal heartbeat. No lie.”

“Let’s call Oprah and then scream and hang up.”

October 10, 2014

Jan Hooks

Like everyone else, I adored Jan Hooks, whose death was announced yesterday at 57. As  many others have said, the world has been losing far too many wildly talented, hilarious women over the past few weeks. Jan Hooks certainly gave the lie to that ridiculous argument about how women aren’t funny. Here she is as Kathie Lee Gifford on SNL:



October 9, 2014

Libby Gelman-Waxner: Judgemental

the-judge-2014-movieGoing to see The Judge is a little like binge-watching twelve Lifetime movies in a row, if Lifetime changed its mission statement to “Television For Older White Men.” Here are some of the plot elements:

1. A big-city hot shot attorney who’s sold his soul for money and a fancy car.

2. The hot-shot’s flinty, emotionally witholding Dad, who’s an incorruptible smalltown Judge.

3. The hotshot’s brother, whose early chance at a major league baseball career was destroyed by a car accident (the female version of this kind of character has her dreams thwarted by an unplanned teenage pregnancy, and that story appears in this movie too.)

4. The hotshot’s other brother, who suffers from an unexplained handicap that gives him the mental age of an innocent 10-year-old. In most movies, this character will usually wear a baseball cap and sneakers well into middle age, but in the Judge he settles for bangs.

5. Snarling local trash, always up to no good, and driving pick-up trucks.

6. An adorable child who asks smart, embarassing questions.

All of these folks collide in an idyllic town somewhere in a place that should be called, on the highway signs, “Not New York.” Robert Downey Jr. is always fun to watch as the hotshot, who expresses his personal growth by removing his sunglasses, and wearing a baseball cap backwards. Robert Duvall is his crusty Dad, and during their many intense confrontations, one of which is set outdoors during a violent storm, the two Roberts seem to be tossing an Academy Award back and forth, as they shout and weep and almost hug, but then don’t, because once they hug, the movie’s over. I kept hoping that the movie would include some John Grisham twists, but it’s more on the level of Murder, He Wrote, or maybe a new Dick Wolf series called Law&Acting.


I also saw Kill The Messenger, which is a more interesting movie based on a true story, about how a California newspaper reporter tried to uncover the truth about the CIA’s relationship with drug traffickers during the Contra mess. Jeremy Renner is great as the reporter, and the movie is a paranoid thriller in the style of All The President’s Men and The Parallax View. This means that the script makes being a journalist seem like a sexy, dangerous profession filled with  clandestine trips to Nicarauga, to interview druglords, and hotel room visits from shadowy figures with secrets to spill. These kind of films turn reporters into movie stars, which I think is just fine, although Kill The Messenger does have an awful lot of pounding, suspenseful music on the soundtrack, even when Jeremy Renner is just walking down a Sacramento hallway.

There are scenes in both The Judge and Kill The Messenger which take place in mens rooms, as characters hold extended conversations while standing side by side at urinals. This sort of scene may very well be the guy’s version of two female friends chatting over brunch, or while trying on shoes. But I hope that from now on, if a scene isn’t interesting enough, that directors won’t suggest, “Hey, what if both guys were peeing?”  Maybe the guys can just browse for really cool sunglasses together, if you ask me.

October 8, 2014

More Moments of Gay Zen

SpongeBob StudyI once got into a heated and prolonged argument with a close friend, over the fact that I’d enjoyed the Broadway production of Cats.

As a favor, I once participated in a reading of a play where I portrayed a heroin-addicted drag queen who died of an overdose in a phone booth, while singing Que Sera Sera. I was excellent.

At a bookstore in San Francisco, I did a reading of some of Libby Gelman-Waxner’s columns. After the reading, one of the store’s employees starting screaming at me, and accused me of taking a job away from a real female film critic. Another employee took me aside and explained that the first employee was upset “because her girlfriend’s in Australia.” I replied that if I was that woman’s girlfriend, I’d be in Australia too.

I do sometimes judge books by their covers. Occasionally I buy them because of their covers.

The director Chris Ashley and I once had to instruct a completely adorable, straight stage manager, on the proper way to say, “Get her.” The stage manager kept emphasizing “get.”

When straight guys come across cheap pageboy wigs, do they immediately put them on and take elaborately staged mug shots of each other?

I knew that an English production of Jeffrey was in trouble, when I saw that the proscenium featured an enormous cutout of the Statue of Liberty with a nipple ring.



October 7, 2014

Marian Seldes

Marian SeldesI didn’t know the wonderful actress, teacher and author Marian Seldes very well, but seeing her always thrilled me. She was naturally, helplessly theatrical, and every greeting was an event. “Darling!” she’d exclaim, and sometimes this word may have been a cover for the fact that she wasn’t quite sure of my name. But her delight and graciousness were always genuine, and moving, because she hailed from a land all her own, where talent, discipline, style and compassion flourished. Marian’s death has just been announced, at 86. Among my memories:

While there was something gloriously regal about Marian, as an artist, she relished a challenge. I attended a reading of a one-act by the great Harry Kondoleon, where Marian was playing the flamboyant, dedicated leader of an artists’ colony. Marian was wearing a crocheted poncho, and at one point her character recited a performance piece which began, “I am a roast chicken!”

I was in rehearsal with a play up at Williamstown. Marian was rehearsing another play, accompanied by her beloved husband, Garson Kanin, who was quite frail and well into his eighties. I was staying at the Williams Inn, and one morning as I left my room, the door across the hall opened and Marian appeared. She staggered backwards, as if in pleasureable shock. In her sublime, husky, perfectly articulated gush of a voice, she said, “Paul! I didn’t realize! Why, Garson and I are staying directly across the hall from you!” Then she lowered her voice and said, quite seriously, “I hope we haven’t kept you up.”

A dear friend was playing the lead  in yet another play that season at Williamstown. After a performance, Marian swept into the green room, and took this actress’s face in her hands. “Oh my darling,” said Marian. “You were superb. I am going to tell you my most favorite moment of your entire performance.” “Yes, Marian?” said the actress. “Right after you close,” said Marian, and she swept out.

I saw Marian onstage in many shows, but I particularly treasure her work as a society hostess who only appears in the final act of Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker. I have no idea how Marian accomplished her alchemy, but  she seemed completely insane, and every word she said was blissfully hilarious.

Marian Seldes, onstage and off, was theater at its finest.

October 6, 2014


I’ve always loved Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, when he appears on Conan O’Brien. Here’s some of his finest work, from Times Square. You will never think of Minnie Mouse the same way, ever again.

October 5, 2014

That’s Not Funny!

comedyIt’s often been said that an early casualty of any political movement, including any equal rights movement, is a sense of humor. Here are some possible reasons why laughter can make zealots so nervous:

1. It’s understandable. When a group of people has been marginalized and oppressed, that group can get very tired of being used as a punchline.

2. Comedy can depend on nuance, contradiction and anarchy. Political movements, even the anarchists, can’t afford any of these things.

3. People attracted to any doctrinaire political movement, on the right or the left, often didn’t have much of a sense of humor to begin with.

4. Political movements, even the ones I agree with, are about blustering certainty. Comedy is about questioning that certainty.

5. Power means controlling acceptable language, whether it’s the use of the words American, trans, Ms., husband, victim, Christian, patriot or bigot. Powerful people, on any side of an equation, are almost never funny. By which I mean, deliberately funny.

6. Only Kings and Queens can afford to have court jesters, because Kings and Queens never have to run for re-election.

7. Politicians often like to “open with a joke”, to set the crowd at ease. These carefully scripted jokes may accomplish that goal, but they’re never actually funny.

8. Politicians and comedians, even the most outrageous comedians, want to be admired and liked (the more extreme comics want to be worshipped for being extreme.) Both groups try to accomplish this goal by pretending to tell the truth. Here’s the difference: politicians are terrified of being laughed at, while comedians crave exactly that response, which somehow seems healthier.


October 4, 2014

Theater Talk

Theater-201100280862I love theater people beyond words. The ability to write the sentence you’ve just read is what makes me a theater person, because it’s both absolutely true and completely over the top. The following guide is not intended in any way as a criticism, but as a celebration:

1. When a theater person sees another theater person, the first thing they will say, even before they say hello, is “Oh my God, you were brilliant!”

Translation: I didn’t actually see whatever show you’re involved with, so don’t question me too closely.

2. When a theater person says, “You are such  a genius, and everyone knows it!”

Translation: Your last or current show was a huge bomb, but IT DOES NOT MATTER.

3. When a theater person says, “I loved your show so much, and I have told literally everyone one I know, and even strangers on the street, that they must go see it!”

Translation: I’ve just finished dishing your show on the phone with a friend, and now I feel guilty. God made me run into you as a punishment.

4. “I was dying to see your show, but every time I tried to get a ticket, it was sold out!”

Translation: Because my last show was a bomb, the success of your current show has made me feel like a total loser, so I didn’t even try to see it. Plus, I’ve heard that it’s been way over-hyped.

5. “It wasn’t just a play, it was an experience.”

Translation: I fell asleep, so please don’t ask me what I thought of the ending.

6. “So what’s next for you?”

Translation: I know that you have a show on right now, but for the life of me, I can’t remember the name of it.

7. “Isn’t it fantastic that so-and-so’s new show is such a huge hit?”

Translation: How did that happen?

8. “I love everything you do!”

Translation: I can’t remember, are you an actor or a director or a writer or what?


October 3, 2014

Nice Ideas

My mother taught me many important things, including the value of nurturing cherished fantasies which should remain fantasies. Among my Mom’s top three daydreams were the following:

1. Opening a bookstore. My mother had no interest in the actual nuts-and-bolts business of running a store, but she loved to read, and she’d always admired Sylvia Beach, the woman who ran Shakespeare & Company, a legendary bookshop in Paris, which had first published James Joyce’s Ulysses.


2. Opening a yarn shop with her best friend Ann.  My mother’s sisters were avid knitters, and so every few years my Mom would buy a lot of pretty yarn and attempt something. If I remember correctly, it took her about five years to finish a somewhat ungainly sweater for my Dad, and even then, she’d had to rely on her sisters to attach the sleeves. My mother secretly hated knitting, which she felt guilty about. What she really wanted to do was to hang out with Ann and look at pictures of beautiful Irish sweaters in catalogues.


3. Living in a lighthouse or on a houseboat. Both of these ideas struck my Mom as romantic and somehow literary. But she also knew that living in a lighthouse would be cramped, chilly and lonely, and that living on a houseboat would be damp, smelly and might require dramamine. What my Mom really liked to do was to read novels about people who lived in eccentric homes, and to visit the gift shops attached to restored New England lighthouses.



October 2, 2014

Libby Gelman-Waxner: You Go, Gone Girl

gone-girl-movie-2014A few years back, as I was  devouring the sensational bestselling novel Gone Girl, I’d look up at my husband Josh and think, I love him and I’m so glad I married him and he must be punished. Later, when Josh was reading the book, I would catch him looking at me the same way. It’s an amazing read, because the brilliant author, Gillian Flynn, pretty much makes the case that human beings are terrible creatures, and that marriage only makes them worse.

The new movie based on the book is also terrific – it’s like watching a wonderfully attractive young couple having an all-out  brawl in a Restoration Hardware showroom. Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike play the couple, and they’re both sort-of writers, exiled to a big gorgeous house in Missouri, and the movie asks the question: would you sell your soul for a really great kitchen? Ben is a handsome, aging lout, who wears button-downs over his frat-boy t-shirts. In the book, if I remember correctly, the character describes himself as being the kind of guy you want to punch in the face, and that’s why Ben is so perfect – he’s a puppydog sleazebag. Rosamund is a stunning, seductive sociopath wearing very expensive panties, and I know just what you’re wondering: did Rosamund follow me around, for research.

The book includes so many wild plot twists that it could have been retitled Spoiler Alert, and the movie follows suit. Even though I always knew what was coming, I still had a blast; plus, I could enjoy the smug tingle of dissecting the movie vs. the book as I was watching it. The movie is also incredibly well cast, with all sorts of delicious actors, like Tyler Perry and Neal Patrick Harris, popping up in surprising roles. Gone Girl was directed by David Fincher, who’s made heavenly movies  like Fight Club and The Social Network; he’s a born movie director, as if he wouldn’t leave the womb until the lighting was perfect.

After we saw Gone Girl, I asked Josh if he ever wanted to murder me, and he replied, “You mean, during the movie, when you wouldn’t stop elbowing me and whispering, ‘Oh, oh, oh, do you remember this part from the book?'” Then he asked if I ever wanted to kill him, in an especially diabolical manner, and I just smiled and said, “Of course not, darling. And we need to buy new steak knives. Big ones.” I feel that a successful marriage is just like a great Hollywood thriller, because they both depend on lies, editing and careful camera angles during sex. Gone Girl should be a downer, but it’s a fabulous aphrodisiac, because there’s nothing that can jumpstart a humdrum relationship like some shattered glass and a secret diary. Gone Girl proves that the three most romantic words in the English language aren’t “I love you”, but “Watch your back”, if you ask me.