Bruce!: My Adventures in the Skin Trade and Other Essays

Overview

August 2000

Hollywood Sayer

Bruce Vilanch is indisputably one of the most respected and connected comedy writers in Hollywood. Bette Midler claims that "for years I never said a word that Bruce didn't charge me for," while Robin Williams says that "this man cracks my ass -- with laughter." Millions of people have laughed for years at his parodies, jokes, and taunts, unaware of the comic source. The Oscars, ...

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Bruce Vilanch is indisputably one of the most respected and connected comedy writers in Hollywood. Bette Midler claims that "for years I never said a word that Bruce didn't charge ... me for," while Robin Williams says that "this man cracks my ass -- with laughter." Millions of people have laughed for years at his parodies, jokes, and taunts, unaware of the comic source. The Oscars, Tonys, Grammys, and Emmys are just a few of Vilanch's credits, in addition to his speeches and routines for the likes of celebrities Whoopi Goldberg, Lily Tomlin, Billy Crystal, Rosie O'Donnell, Paul Reiser, Kelsey Grammer, and David Hyde Pierce. Now, in Bruce!, Vilanch has assembled his funniest and most wicked essays, stories, and gags. Included are chapters titled "Sure Bette," "Swell Mel," and "Andy Williams and Me," along with observations and views on everything from Diana Ross and the Muppets to show tunes and Star Wars. Indeed, Bruce! shows how this regular "Hollywood Square" can be the "perp of some of the funniest, most famous, or notorious moments in recent showbiz history" Read more Show Less

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Overview

August 2000

Hollywood Sayer

Bruce Vilanch is indisputably one of the most respected and connected comedy writers in Hollywood. Bette Midler claims that "for years I never said a word that Bruce didn't charge me for," while Robin Williams says that "this man cracks my ass -- with laughter." Millions of people have laughed for years at his parodies, jokes, and taunts, unaware of the comic source. The Oscars, Tonys, Grammys, and Emmys are just a few of Vilanch's credits, in addition to his speeches and routines for the likes of celebrities Whoopi Goldberg, Lily Tomlin, Billy Crystal, Rosie O'Donnell, Paul Reiser, Kelsey Grammer, and David Hyde Pierce.

Now, in Bruce!, Vilanch has assembled his funniest and most wicked essays, stories, and gags. Included are chapters titled "Sure Bette," "Swell Mel," and "Andy Williams and Me," along with observations and views on everything from Diana Ross and the Muppets to show tunes and Star Wars. Indeed, Bruce! shows how this regular "Hollywood Square" can be the "perp of some of the funniest, most famous, or notorious moments in recent showbiz history" (Time).

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Bruce Vilanch, a fixture on Hollywood Squares, is the comedy writer behind many of Hollywood's funniest acts -- Bette Midler, Billy Crystal, and Paul Reiser are just a few of the comedians for whom he's written. Now you can have the best of Vilanch's monthly column for The Advocate in Bruce! My Adventures in the Skin Trade. From his hilarious explanation of the difference between camp and kitsch to his trip through San Francisco with Robin Williams, there is never a dull moment with Bruce!
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Joke-writer Vilanch is known as the man who made Bette Midler funny, who made Billy Crystal beloved as Academy Award emcee and who cracks wise with the best on Hollywood Squares. In this collection of 26 humorous essays--many of which have appeared in the Advocate--Vilanch takes aim at the Academy Awards, Donny and Marie Osmond and the Super Bowl. He is a crack shot with these easy targets--as a writer for an Osmond special, he considered it a "personal triumph" when he had Marie sing "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"--but too often the pieces resemble occasional journalism rather than anything substantial. An interview with Robin Williams while walking around the Castro, San Francisco's gay mecca, raises a few smiles that evaporate quickly. Vilanch is more interesting when he uses humor to address more serious issues: his meditation on why Lana Turner died the same day Hugh Grant was arrested for picking up a working girl is smart and savvy, and his remembrance of actress Elizabeth Montgomery's life and career is moving. His essays on the lack of gay representation in movies (which makes witty use of the Titanic) and the importance of gay pride are also intriguing. But Vilanch has trouble reconciling his funny and serious sides in print, and these pieces, while the most ambitious in the collection, show both his talents and his limitations. Agent, Dan Strone, William Morris Agency. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781585420469
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/1/2000
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.75 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Read an Excerpt




Chapter One

Confessions
of an
Oscar Writer


There is a small, devoted cadre of people who don't believe the Academy Awards show is written.

    I've met them. At none of the better houses, but they are out there. They believe everyone on the Oscars is spontaneously witty. Or stupefying dull. Whatever.

    "It's pretty much up to them, isn't it? I mean, nobody writes that stuff ... Someone does?"

    I once served on a blue-ribbon panel of TV writers, none of whom I had ever heard of, judging the Emmy entries in the variety-writing category. After the first hopeful—an award show—was screened, a hand went up.

    "What was the writing on that show?" a blue-ribbon panelist inquired. The winner that year was a stand-up comic's concert act.

    So this isn't a condition confined exclusively to civilians (people outside of show business—"nonpros," Variety calls them).

    People who actually make a living in the factory of illusion believe their fellow professionals step out onstage ready to greet the largest single audience of their careers with no script.

    The fact is that everything you hear on Monday's Oscar-cast has been written, rewritten, re-rewritten, fretted over, spelled out phonetically, garbled in a fax, left in a tuxedo jacket, cleared by an expensive legal team, delivered by bonded couriers with scripts handcuffed to their arms, smeared with aloe vera, chewed by the Abyssinian kitten, dropped in the pool, laughed at byvalet parkers, obliterated by canasta scores, shredded during a shrill custody battle outside Gymboree, and inadvertently tucked under the bottom of the Norwegian blue's cage.

    Part of this, of course, is because the Oscars is like the Super Bowl.

    People who never watch a football game dutifully drop what they're doing at least once a year to take in that big match. People who never go to the movies and people who never watch television (except maybe to watch football) tune in to the Academy Awards.

    If you're going to play in the Super Bowl, it's better to be on the winning team. So you'd better train.

    For actors who normally spend nine hours a day in a comfy Winnebago on a cell phone and another twenty minutes in front of a camera, the idea of performing live in front of a real audience is fiercely daunting. Especially when they have no character to play.

    Most acts never have had to establish a stage persona. They don't know who they are onstage when they're not playing somebody else. A few gifted actors—like Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, Bette Midler—are also solo performers, so they know who they are when they're alone onstage. Shirley MacLaine not only knows who she is; she knows who she was.

    But most of them have always depended on the character the writer has given them to play.

    And Oscar Night is no exception.

    The writers have to come up with something for them to play. Sometimes it's the dread Banter. The writers always try to avoid that, but frequently it's what the actors actually want. ("It'll humanize him;' one icy hunk's publicist insisted to me one year. Trust me, Adolph's Meat Tenderizer couldn't have humanized this guy.)

    More often than not, you go with informational stuff about the category. This gives the actor a reason to be there (other than his own fabulousness), plus it shuts up the whiny nerd at your party who always asks, "But what is Sound Effects Editing?" (This is also usually the guy who wins the pool because he guessed the tender Flemish picture about the leprous carp fisherman would win Best Foreign Language Film.)

    Now that the writers have figured out what the actor should say about Sound Effects Editing (who can hear over that category, anyway?), the material must go to the actor, the actor's agent, manager, publicist, holistic pet psychiatrist, feng shui master, ex-wife who always had good taste and the mealy-mouthed little assistant who has a degree in CompLit from Pepperdine and never has read anything quite so puerile.

    They fax their notes.

    "She doesn't want to be funny" is the note I've gotten from every single actress except Lucille Ball, whose great-grandchildren will live elegantly on what she made from never telling a writer she didn't want to be funny. After the material has been hashed and rehashed, the actor himself arrives for rehearsal and a little more hash-slinging.

    And then it's time for the show. And the meticulously polished material is performed, frequently with the following pearls of ad lib:


    a) "I told them that wouldn't work."

    b) "Could you move that card up, please?"

    c) "Gosh, I can't see a thing without my glasses."

    d) "I'm absolutely falling out of this dress."

    e) "Hello, Jack"


    And the Oscar goes to: "Don't blame me. I didn't write it."

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