Celebrity Autobiography: One Man’s Memoir Is Another’s Comedy

Susan Lucci, Christie Brinkley and Eugene Pack perform "Celebrity Autobiography"
Susan Lucci, Christie Brinkley and Eugene Pack perform "Celebrity Autobiography"
Andrew Werner, Thomas Kochie, Joan Marcus

From Broadway to London’s West End to the Sydney Opera House to a year on hiatus, Drama Desk Award-winning Celebrity Autobiography is back and heading to the Southampton Arts Center. Take a peek inside the curious minds of the world’s biggest celebrities on Sunday, August 22 at 7:30 p.m.

For one night only, Southampton theatergoers will be treated to a unique outdoor performance put on by a veteran cast of Hamptonites and Long Island locals including Christie Brinkley, Matthew Broderick, Susan Lucci, Ralph Macchio and Alan Zweibel, as well as the show’s developer Dayle Reyfel and its creator, Emmy nominee Eugene Pack. The show’s basic concept is simple: Celebrities read excerpts from the memoirs of fellow celebs in a humorous way, but not just any excerpt will do. They need to be at least on par with the excerpt that started it all.

The concept was birthed many years ago when Pack stumbled across Vanna White’s memoir Vanna Speaks, and wondered, “What did she write in this giant book?” The chapter that immediately grabbed his attention was wholly written about how challenging it is to flip the panels on the Wheel of Fortune. This peculiar gripe gave him a brilliant idea: If this were read word for word in front of an audience, it would be hilarious. Audiences agreed. As he began to dive deeper into the well, he found material in celebrity advice books, fitness books, poetry and so on. “Sometimes they don’t really have editors, so the ‘editors’ just let them go on and write about what they keep in their refrigerator as an entire chapter,” he says, adding that Carrie Underwood’s editor let her skate by with a chapter about how much she loves buying healthy ramen noodles.

Expanding beyond monologue, he turned to the memoirs of famous ex-lovers who write contradicting, sometimes petty, accounts of the same stories, which he then splices together to create never-before-seen he-said-she-said dialogues. Seemingly unrelated celebrities have been paired up, as well, such as Justin Bieber and Kris Jenner, who both write in their respective memoirs that they can’t enjoy the “Mona Lisa” in peace, because they get swarmed by fans and paparazzi whenever they enter the Louvre Museum. “It’s funny and crazy, but at the same time fascinating,” Pack says of the bizarre coincidence.

Some might think that Pack and his team must have to read every celebrity autobiography that releases to continually find fresh material, but Pack explains the process is actually much easier if one knows where to look. “What’s funny is that you know who will provide interesting material. You don’t have to read every one,” he says. “Let’s say it’s a comedian with a funny, witty book, we obviously wouldn’t do that because it’s not the tone of the show. The tone is to take something serious—and when I say serious, I don’t mean dramatic or grave material—something that’s been written where the person takes themselves really seriously.”

With that in mind, the Hamptons show will debut an all-new excerpt from Matthew McConaughey’s Greenlights, which is sure to be a wild ride. In addition to new excerpts, the Hamptons cast will be reprising some of their most popular roles throughout their many shows. “The other component of this is to have these wonderful, talented artists interpreting these words and putting their own spin on it, because everybody interprets this material differently,” Pack explains. “When you have Ralph Macchio, it’s unexpected that he could pull off reading Arnold Schwarzenegger and he’s hilarious!”

Pack is quick to clarify, however, that the spirit of the show is not to impersonate celebrity memoirists, nor is it to shame or mock anyone. It’s all in good fun—so much so that some shows feature both a celebrity performing and another actor reading an excerpt from the first celeb’s memoir.

“What I enjoy most about performing in Celebrity Autobiography is the comedy,” television host, entrepreneur and soap opera icon Susan Lucci says. “AND, doing this live on stage—well, that’s the icing on the cake!”

“Audiences go crazy with laughter and have the best time. It’s something for everyone, and to me, performing in the show, putting it together, and connecting all these other great, talented people is such a joy,” Pack says. “The joy in watching the performers onstage enjoy each other and the love of performing and giving the audience a chance to laugh and have a great time, that’s really what this is all about.”

Hamptons Celebrity Autobiography cast member, supermodel and entrepreneur Christie Brinkley concurs that the cast is definitely a highlight of her experience with the show. “Celebrity Autobiography gives me an opportunity to work with a fun cast,” she says. “And our goal is to make people laugh! What’s better than that?”

While tickets to the Southampton Arts Center show on Sunday, August 22, will likely be sold out by press time, tickets are still available to the Friday, August 20, show at Triad Theatre on the Upper West Side. It stars Mario Cantone, Cecily Strong, Jackie Hoffman, Alan Zweibel and Lewis Black.

Visit celebrityautobiography.com for tickets and updates on upcoming shows.

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