The comedy stage show “Celebrity Autobiography,” performed on Saturday, Oct. 27 at the Staller Center for the Arts, was a smash hit, with excerpts read from celebrity memoirs that revealed how isolated and absorbed some celebrities become from their exposure to wealth and fame.
The show’s ensemble included New York stage actor and stand-up comedian Mario Cantone, FX’s “Feud: Bette and Joan”actress Jackie Hoffman, ABC’s “All My Children” actress Susan Lucci, creator of “Celebrity Autobiography” Eugene Pack and original “Saturday Night Live” writer Alan Zweibel.
Pack explained how “Celebrity Autobiography” was created through reading “Wheel of Fortune” Vanna White’s autobiography. He thought it would be funny to read aloud to an audience with his own interpretations.
“This is the only show you will ever see that was inspired by the book ‘Vanna Speaks’ by Vanna White,” Pack said. “Years ago, I came across the hardcover edition of her autobiography… and opened it up to a passage where she writes dramatically about how challenging it is to flip the panels on Wheel of Fortune. I thought ‘Wow, if you just simply read material like that out loud to an audience could this be ‘found’ humor?’ So, we presented that passage along with other unintentionally funny excerpts from various celeb memoirs… and this show was born.”
During the segment “Celebrity Matchup,” each celebrity performed excerpts from one or two celebrity autobiographies in concert like instruments in an orchestra. The audience was riddled with laughter from the dynamic performance of the actors, who performed so well together.
Zweibel and Hoffman read memoirs from“Justin Bieber: First Step 2 Forever: My Story” and “Kris Jenner and All Things Kardashian.” When reading excerpts from the memoirs, Zweibel and Hoffman would discuss the most out-of-this-world ideas of fame such as Bieber’s comment about being at a museum and people wanting to take a picture with him and not the Mona Lisa and Jenner’s statement of being a “momager,” not a manager, to her daughters. As Zweibel and Hoffman read, their expressions comically made fun of the ideals of these celebrities, eliciting bursts of laughter the entire time.
When Hoffman, Pack and Zweibel read excerpts about food and health from Sylvester Stallone, Oprah Winfrey and Barbara Streisand, their expressions made light of the excerpts read, such as Sylvester Stallone’s refrigerator list with particular amounts of certain food being stocked and planning meals but not actually cooking them themselves. The audience found it very enjoyable to listen to the insane things these celebrities wrote in their memoirs.
Cantone was also fun to watch with his use of accents and impressions when reading pieces from Kathleen Turner’s memoir “Send Yourself Roses: Thoughts on My Life, Love, and Leading Roles” and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Arnold’s Bodybuilding For Men.”
Susan Iehecka, an audience member and former assistant director at Stony Brook Medicine, commented on Cantone’s use of accents throughout the show.
“Mario was really good with the accents,” Cantone said. “He was very enjoyable to watch. Very funny!”
While the accents were a huge addition to Mario’s performance, others were surprised with how the celebrities portray themselves in their autobiographies. Terri Wallace, a former employee at Stony Brook University Hospital, commented on how revealing the show was about the celebrities they were impersonating.
“Some of the things he said was right,” Wallace said. “It is crazy! It was very enjoyable! It is very different from other shows we have seen.”
Lucci was also a joy to see in a comedic, rather than dramatic, performance. When reading Ivana Trump’s autobiography, “The Best is Yet to Come: Coping with Divorce and Enjoying Life Again,” she included an amazing accent that won the crowd and excerpts that discussed the life of having children and the matter of her liking certain pets except reptiles.
There is no end to the amount of celebrities that the “Celebrity Autobiography” show could reference. Pack commented on one particular celebrity he would love to work with in this spectacular comedic production.
“Steve Martin has seen the show many times… and we would like to now get him onstage to perform with us,” Pack said.