Among the many lessons you'll learn when attending "Celebrity Autobiography: The Next Chapter": Joining the "mile-high" club is a lot more physically demanding, and considerably less erotic, than it looks. Italian really is the language of love -- at least for one of the world's biggest pop superstars.
And finally, don't ever, ever f**k with America's sweetheart.
Ironically, a bevy of America's sweethearts both past and present are among the many celebrities given a humorous roast in "Celebrity Autobiography," the laugh-out-loud, endearingly kitschy show currently playing at New York's Triad Theatre. A unique comedy stand-up/cabaret/one-act theatrical hybrid, the show features a talented rotating cast (many of them well-known stars or media personalities in their own right) reading verbatim, usually with a wink and a nudge, from a vast array of celebrity memoirs. The self-indulgent, often eye-rollingly smug musings of a number of Hollywood and MTV A-listers, from Justin Bieber to Suzanne Somers to Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, lend the show its crispy comedic edge.
The show is a mix of monologues using straightforward passages read aloud from a given book and what creator Eugene Pack likes to call "mash-ups": different celebs' accounts on a similar theme (for example, celebrity diets) or a specific incident (a clever segment that weaves together varying accounts of the Elizabeth Taylor/Eddie Fisher/Debbie Reynolds love triangle is one of show's highlights). Yet Pack insists the show is meant purely for humor rather than to be mean-spirited toward the material's A-list, and often legendary, authors.
"When you listen to these passages, it's funny to discover what people are willing to reveal, how they reveal it and how seriously they take it," Pack, who says he developed the idea for the show after reading excerpts of Vanna White's autobiography, told The Huffington Post. "We don't ever want the show to be perceived as being skewering of celebrities. A lot of the performers in the show are actually admirers and, in some cases, close friends of those who wrote the books. If anything, we're making fun of memoirs in their own right and why we, as an audience, are fascinated by these details."
Once Pack had firmed up the idea for "Celebrity Autobiography," he and co-producer Dayle Reyfel began scouting out material for the show via used book shops as well as the hottest new releases on the celebrity memoir market. The pair continue to refresh the evening's program with fresh passages; over 300 biographies have been covered in the show to date.
"You usually can skim through the book and see if the tone is right for the show," noted Reyfel, who also performs regularly. "Burt Reynolds has so much great material in his book; some books really are golden from beginning to end."
No doubt the success of "Celebrity Autobiography" also rests on the shoulders of its many performers. The Oct. 10 line-up featured Tony Danza, "Saturday Night Live" alum Rachel Dratch and Sherri Shepherd of "The View" (who revealed a surprisingly natural talented for mimicking celebrities' accents) but Kristen Wiig, Ryan Reynolds, Justin Long and even "Brady Bunch" matriarch Florence Henderson are among those who've also dropped in for a performance.
"It's a wonderful surprise for the audience," said "Saturday Night Live" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" scribe Alan Zweibel, a regular performer in the show who lends a particularly dry wit to most of his readings. After recalling one night when he was required to physically lick Henderson during the show, Zweibel noted that, in many cases, the unintended joke is actually on the audience rather than the authors: "What's pervasive is the absolute, unmitigated ego of these celebrities who think that we care about these minute details of their lives. At the same time, everybody's got a story, and there is always someone out there who is buying these things."
Reyfel says she and Pack also maintain a running "wish list" of performers they hope to eventually feature in the show, including Ricky Gervais and Bette Midler. And to those who feel "Celebrity Autobiography" is too harsh on their idols, Pack is quick to point out that celebrities themselves have, in some cases, even suggested their memoirs for use in the show. "Brooke Shields wants us to read from her book," noted Pack. "Everyone usually seems game to jump in and really go for it."
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