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'Celebrity Autobiography,' Playing With The Truth
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'Celebrity Autobiography,' Playing With The Truth

Pop Culture


This is All Things Considered from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Robert Siegel. Now that the election is over, Americans can return to one of our great obsessions, picking over the minutia of celebrities' lives, if indeed anyone ever stopped doing that. Every Monday night at a small cabaret that is packed on Manhattan's Upper West Side, real celebrities put on a show called "Celebrity Autobiography: In Their Own Words." Jeff Lunden took in one of the shows.

JEFF LUNDEN: The idea is simplicity itself. Have a really good comic actor read from a celebrity autobiography for fun and laughs, like Kristen Johnston of "Third Rock From the Sun."

(Soundbite of cabaret show "Celebrity Autobiography: In Their Own Words")

(Soundbite of applause)

Ms. KRISTEN JOHNSTON (Actress): Hello everyone. I will be reading from Mr. T.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. JOHNSTON: "The Man With The Gold: An Autobiography by Mr. T."

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. JOHNSTON: Here is the unadulterated truth, told, written and spoken in such terms that even a fool can understand what I'm talking about.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LUNDEN: "Celebrity Autobiography" is the brainchild of comedy writer and actor Eugene Pack, who's something of a connoisseur of these often remaindered books. He thought the grandiosity and banality of some of them would make for a comic evening. So he invited some friends to try it out in Los Angeles.

Mr. EUGENE PACK (Comedy Writer; Actor): Instantly it seemed to work onstage, bringing these words to life, these oddball passages. And it's just taken off and really caught on with audiences.

LUNDEN: After a long run in L.A., Pack brought the show to New York where a rotating cast of actors - ranging from Matthew Broderick to Andrea Martin to Paul Rudd - take the stage to deliver excerpts from books by pop icons, large and small. "Saturday Night Live's" Will Forte says he tries to show up whenever he has a free Monday evening.

Mr. WILL FORTE (Actor; Writer; Comedian): It's such a fun show to do because you don't have to memorize anything. You're up there for a pretty short amount of time. And then you just get to enjoy all these other great people. It's always a really fun collection of people.

(Soundbite of cabaret show "Celebrity Autobiography: In Their Own Words")

Mr. FORTE: "The Dirt" by Motley Crue.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FORTE: And this section was written by Tommy Lee.

Mr. FORTE: (Reading) The chick was Heather Locklear and the guy who introduced us was my accountant, Chuck Shapiro.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FORTE: (Reading) He knew Heather because his brother was her dentist.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LUNDEN: It's the meticulous recounting of details that most of us ignore in our own lives that make for some of the funniest moments in the show. Former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Rachel Dratch is a frequent performer. One of her favorite passages comes from "Good Morning, I'm Joan Lunden."

Ms. RACHEL DRATCH (Actress; Comedian): I kind of figure that, like, maybe somebody told her to just write down every single thing that happens to her in the morning. Don't leave anything out. So she, you know, bothers to tell you that she tears a little semicircle in the lid of her coffee cup to keep from spilling it on herself.

(Soundbite of cabaret show "Celebrity Autobiography: In Their Own Words")

Ms. RACHEL DRATCH: (Reading) I always lay out the clothes I'm going to wear into the studio the night before. These are casual clothes, not those I'll wear on the air. I stack them in the order that I put them on.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DRATCH: (Reading) That is panties on top; then bra, skirt, or pants; some kind of casual shirt or sweater; socks and shoes. Outside, the limousine is waiting.

LUNDEN: While they mine the stories of celebrities for laughs, Eugene Pack and Will Forte insist...

Mr. FORTE: It's all done with love though.

Mr. PACK: It all - yeah. The whole thing is done with affection and just fun and love. It's not - none of it is meant to be negative or mean. And that's why people have a great time. It's just fun.

LUNDEN: Still, after performing for several months in "Celebrity Autobiography," Will Forte and Rachel Dratch say they are not tempted to write their own.

Ms. DRATCH: I don't know that I felt the need to do an autobiography.

Mr. FORTE: I prefer reading people's autobiographies to writing my own.

Ms. DRATCH: That's good.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FORTE: Much, much less work.

LUNDEN: "Celebrity Autobiography: In Their Own Words" is playing an open-ended run at the Triad Theater in Manhattan on Monday evenings. For NPR News, I'm Jeff Lunden in New York.

SIEGEL: And you can hear more performances from "Celebrity Autobiography: In Their Own Words" at

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