Like long-winded versions of the tabloids that line grocery store checkouts, celebrity memoirs are rife with trivial information. For Eugene Pack, those all-too-revealing autobiographies are the stuff of gut-busting comedy.
Pack, a writer, producer, actor and playwright, co-created Celebrity Autobiography with Dayle Reyfel. The live show puts stars’ books on trial in the most hilarious of ways: onstage and out loud. The rotating cast, which includes comedians and actors like Rachel Dratch (Saturday Night Live), Rosie Perez (Pineapple Express, Lipstick Jungle), Mario Cantone (Sex and the City) and Pack himself, reads straight from books penned by celebrities. From the Jonas Brothers to David Hasselhoff to Suzanne Somers, no star’s book is safe from Celebrity Autobiography.
One of Pack’s favorite acts in the show is a recent addition: excerpts from Tiger Woods’ book, How I Play Golf.
“That’s something that I read, and in [the book], he talks graphically about his golfing technique and every single sentence is pretty much a double entendre. It’s fascinating — you really can’t believe how these words resonate after what’s happened. It’s all about how he strokes his putter, and how he examines the area around the hole. It really is unbelievable,” he said.
Pack is so familiar with celebrity memoirs that he’s nailed down the typical formula, and why they’re such great fodder for the show.
“The problem with some of the people that write these books is that they have something dramatic sometimes that happens to them. I’ve looked at it as a science, where they put that in the prologue — this crazy, dramatic, ‘I’m teetering on the edge of a cliff’ or ‘I was given the role of a lifetime’ or ‘They threw me in jail for 30 minutes,'” he said.
“And then chapter one is ‘I was born in…’ And then as the chapters continue and continue, [the celebrity] run[s] out of thoughts. Toward the end of the book, they talk about how they get ready in the morning, what their favorite ice cream is or colors that they love,” he said. “Those are the parts that we love reading, because [of ] those details. You think, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe they wrote that. I can’t believe people care.’ We do, in a strange way.”
The show runs monthly in New York City, as well as in London and Los Angeles. This week, Celebrity Autobiography comes to Atlanta for the first time. Scott Adsit (30 Rock) and Luke Perry, among others, are slated for the debut performance.
“Luke Perry has never done it before. He’s always wanted to do it and somehow this worked, so that’s going to be really fun,” Pack said.
Scott Adsit said his favorite book to read at the show is by David Hasselhoff.
“He did Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical a few years ago … and he gave himself a good review,” Adsit laughed.
Adsit, a Celebrity Autobiography regular, said he’s looking forward to working with Perry — “He’s dreamy,” he said — and the rest of the seven-member cast, many of whom he hasn’t worked with yet.
Adsit is also in several other acts, including one Pack is partial to: the infamous Eddie Fisher, Elizabeth Taylor and Debbie Reynolds love triangle. Each star wrote a memoir that mentions the feud — and each of them told their own version of what happened.
“[It’s] one of my personal favorites, just because it’s such an epic, mind-blowing story,” Pack said. “Because it’s a story that happened in the ‘60s, but it’s kind of like the Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston story revisited.”
Pack said the show sometimes pits celebrities against each other by reading about one subject that’s in more than one book, like when Sylvester Stallone’s diet details and Tommy Lee’s sexual exploits are combined.
“It’s as if they’re both on stage with their respective memoirs doing the celebrity mash-up, back and forth,” he said. “Who’s more outrageous than the other one? The guy who’s talking about everything he has in his refrigerator and freezer or the guy who’s talking about how to turn on a woman in this graphic, graphic detail?”
Though the comedic show pokes fun at celebrities, Pack noted that Celebrity Autobiography points to a cultural commonplace that’s as interesting as it is laughable.
“The whole evening is not about making fun of that particular celebrity or anything mean-spirited. It’s more about … thinking how mind-blowing it is that everybody has a book. If you’re famous, then you can write a book. Whether it’s a memoir at any age, if you’re the Jonas Brothers, or you can write a book about health and fitness or self-help because people know who you are. It’s fascinating,” he said.