The vacuous world of the celebrity autobiography is lovingly punctured in a new show featuring some of comedy’s best-loved actors.
There was a time when to publish an autobiography by the age of 30, a person would have had to make a major contribution to humanity such as discovering a continent or eradicating a major disease (preferably both). That time is not now. Today, bookshops are laden with memoirs by people whose achievements are hard to quantify; people such as Katie Price, aka Jordan, who has needed three – yes, three – volumes to do justice to her life so far as a former topless model.
We have only ourselves to blame. The celebrity autobiography is big business and they wouldn’t write them if we didn’t buy them, which is why quantity triumphs over quality. And that, for the man who had the inspired idea to turn these learned texts into a show, leads the way to comedy gold.
“You need the right person to read the right material, but it’s a simple concept,” says Eugene Pack, creator of Celebrity Autobiography. “You have someone like 15-year-old Miley Cyrus writing her memoirs. You think, ‘How can this be?’ You open up one of these books and,without even doing an imitation, read a section about what someone has in their refrigerator or what their morning routine is, when they make their bed and if they have pulpy orange juice. You just need an audience to be listening and it’s funny.”
For the past three years, Pack has been getting a cast of stand-up comedians together to read passages from these unintentionally hilarious books. In Edinburgh, the line-up will include George Wendt who played barfly Norm Peterson in Cheers; Michael Urie who played Marc St James in Ugly Betty; and Steve Schirripa who played Bobby Baccalieri in The Sopranos. Other performers will join them as well.
Favourite works include the memoirs of Sylvester Stallone, Tommy Lee, Britney Spears and Madonna. For the Edinburgh run, Pack and his co-creator Dayle Reyfel might slip in some choice celebrity writing from this side of the Atlantic. The key is to find writers who take themselves too seriously or whose accounts don’t tally with the accounts of the same events in rival autobiographies.
“For example, we’ll read from the memoir of Elizabeth Taylor and then we’ll intersperse Eddie Fisher and then Debbie Reynolds,” he says. “They all have their own memory of what happened. Then you have people like David Hasselhof, who are just living in their own reality. Hasselhof talks about playing Jekyll and Hyde, both parts, in a Broadway musical. He writes it seriously, we perform it seriously, but it proves to be funny when you put it in front of an audience.”
Udderbelly, 5-30 August, 7.25pm, From £12.50, Tel: 0844 545 8252