Celebrities are narcissistic, insecure people. But mostly they're dumber than a sack of hammers. And there's no better way to expose the bovine and vapid nature of some of the biggest stars than through their own words. That's what inspired writer/producer Eugene Pack to scour countless autobiographies and memoirs of the world's best-known movie, sports, rock, and television icons and present them to an audience through readings by some of the funniest people on the planet.
Created in Los Angeles, Celebrity Autobiography originally used the intimate setting of a local comedy dive and featured comics such as Saturday Night Live's Rachel Dratch and actors such as Sex and the City's Mario Cantone and Burn Notice's Sharon Gless reading verbatim selections from the memoirs of celebrities including Elizabeth Taylor, Burt Reynolds, Tiger Woods, and Justin Bieber. The passages are so cretinous and dense that much of it seems made up. But, as Pack ensures the audience at the beginning of the show, every single word is taken from the celebrities' books. The result is pure comic schadenfreude.
From Sylvester Stallone's book, which features a list of things in his fridge and tells us to talk to our muscles when we work out ("Grow!"), to Tommy Lee's invaluable advice about how to have sex while driving ("Be careful. There's no bigger bummer than crashing your car mid-fuck."), to Diana Ross's account of a Central Park performance interrupted by a rainstorm ("I was in a wet dream!"), Celebrity Autobiography's sharp wit and sidesplitting performances cut through our celeb-worship culture to reveal the two or three marbles rattling inside the heads of superstars.
Celebrity Autobiography: By Eugene Pack. Through May 15 at the Arsht Center's Carnival Studio Theater, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-949-6722; arshtcenter.org. Tickets cost $45.
Ivana Trump obtusely begins her autobiography, The Best Is Yet to Come, with this gem: "I wish we could sit down with a cup of tea so we can work out your problems."
Donald Trump's clueless ex-wife then dispenses guidance about raising children using tough love, such as taking them to ski slopes and forcing them down: "At the age of 2, I took each of them to the top of a hill and told them, 'Ski down!' They would wail, 'I don't like it!' 'Tough, honey,' I'd tell them. 'Get to the bottom of the mountain.'"
There's also David Hasselhoff's Making Waves, the Baywatch star's effort to be remembered for being more than a guy in a red Speedo running across the beach. In his bloated prologue, the Hoff recounts his personal triumph for his Broadway debut in Jekyll and Hyde, while sharing the anguish of hitting a high note so powerfully during one performance that he passed out onstage.
The magic of Celebrity Autobiography is sparked by the readers whom Pack has assembled for his show. Rachel Dratch kicked things off with a reading from the memoirs of Good Morning America's Joan Lunden, taking us through her insipid preshow rituals and the magic of television ("They run a microphone wire through the back of my shirt!"). Dratch's patented wry delivery sold us on the theme of the night: Celebrities, even the small ones, are self-important clods who feel the need to spew frivolous advice while giving us mere mortals a sneak peek at their holy lives.
Pack's brilliant, slow, double-entendre-soaked reading from Tiger Woods's bio brought down the house. In his tome, Tiger dispenses "golf" lessons as only Tiger can. "I would just get up there and bang the ball hard into the hole," read one of the lines, which sent a woman in the back of the audience into a crazed, high-pitched laugh attack. Pack smartly let her uncontrollable cackling continue for the whole minute it lasted, much to the delight of the rest of us.
Actor and comedian Craig Bierko was another outstanding reader, leading us through the mind of Burt Reynolds and his infamous marriage to Loni Anderson. Bierko's bombastic, Ron Burgundy-like delivery filled the room as he chewed his fake gum in famously Reynolds fashion while emitting all the bravado and self-assurance that made Burt the smack-broads-in-the-ass, old-school ladies' man he was. Bierko was equally hilarious reciting passages from Geraldo Rivera's Exposing Myself, including a mindless romp through the television personality's many near-sexual run-ins with Liza Minnelli.
Mario Cantone was a force throughout, reading Minnelli's lines from Rivera's book while perfectly impersonating her ditzy, vertigo-like guise. He also brought it strong with his reading from Justin Bieber's bio. But he saved his best for Tommy Lee's Tommyland, where the Mötley Crüe drummer compares a woman's clitoris to a gummy bear and reveals that the toughest part about having a three-way with two women is that "you only got one dick!"
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Sharon Gless was exceptional in her deadpan take on Ivana Trump's memoir, as well as her reading from the awesomely titled Elizabeth Taylor by Elizabeth Taylor.
The show's hysterical grand finale featured the entire cast reading a celebrity bio mashup of the Elizabeth Taylor (Gless), Eddie Fisher (Pack), and Richard Burton (Bierko) love triangle, as told through the respective celebrity's point of view, with Fisher's wife, Debbie Reynolds (Dayle Reyfel), weighing in.
As Three's Company star Suzanne Somers conveys to us in her memoir's inimitable poetry: "If anyone has any extra love/Even a heartbeat/Or a touch or two/I wish they wouldn't waste it on dogs."
Pack, Gless, and Reyfel will be joined by Bruce Vilanch, Cady Huffman, Paul Provenza, and Roger Bart for the May 12 through 15 performances.