Guilty by reason of inanity
Granted, celebrities are prone to saying idiotic things, and we have no shortage of cultural outlets where their inanities can be loaded uploaded up for public consumption. Still, there's something special about celebrity twaddle from an autobiography; the pretension toward the literary – hey, it's in a book! – and the seal of authorization – it's the official life story, as the celeb presumably wants it told – ramp up the level of self-
importance and make any howlers five times as ludicrous and hilarious. That's something Eugene Pack understood when he had some comedian friends read excerpts from celeb memoirs aloud in a Los Angeles theatre 10 years ago. The response was so strong that he's been doing it ever since. Now, Celebrity Autobiography has become a cult hit in New York City, won a Drama Desk Award, and is touring the nation.
The setup's ridiculously simple: a mic, a book, a reader. A rotating cast of actors and comedians read bits straight – or as straight as they can – from the 300 or so autobiographies in Pack's catalog. The memoirists range from Ivana Trump and
Zsa Zsa Gabor to Burt Reynolds and Mr. T, with the occasional Rashomon-style segment comparing memories of the same event by different "authors," say, Eddie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, and Elizabeth Taylor or Loni Anderson, Burt Reynolds, and Burt's assistant. Who reads what is part of the fun. Pack and producer Dayle Reyfel are on hand to read at nearly every show, and the national tour includes regulars such as Annie Golden and Ugly Betty's Michael Urie, but Pack and Reyfel like to pull ringers from whatever city they're in, so look for Zach Theatre regulars Lauren Lane, Barbara Chisholm, and Martin Burke; improv star Tom Booker; Austin Cabaret Theatre's Stuart Moulton; and yours truly to join the fun.
Celebrity Autobiography runs Nov. 10-14, Wednesday-Thursday, 7:30pm; Friday, 7 & 10pm; Saturday, 4 & 8pm; and Sunday, 3 & 7pm, in the Rollins Studio Theatre at the Long Center, 701 W. Riverside. Note: Thursday's performance is in the Long Center's Kodosky Donor Lounge. For more information, call 474-5664 or visit www.thelongcenter.org.