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Showbiz Legend Bruce Vilanch’s Stand-up Stalls, but His Behind-The-Scenes Stories Soar

Iconic Celebrity Bruce Vilanch

When most people think of Bruce Vilanch, a few choice words come to mind: “fat,” “flamboyant,” and “hairy,” for example. What most people don’t realize, however, is just how much of a legend this man is. In his 62 years, he has written dozens of shows and worked with the biggest names in show business. The rich and humorous history of his life came to full fruition in his hour-long stand-up act on Friday, August 13th, at the 15th Annual North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival at The Carolina Theatre of Durham, NC.

Vilanch burst onto the stage in a characteristically clever t-shirt that sported the phrase “Pop a Smurf,” and showed one Smurf literally blowing the other’s brains out. He introduced himself by saying, “Good evening. I’m Elena Kagan. Don’t f–k with me now. I’m official.” Vilanch then professed his love for the city of Durham by referring to it as the “drug capital of the world.” After a few more quick jokes and a story about his stint on the rice diet, Vilanch began to tell stories from his vast time in Hollywood.

Most of his jokes fell a little flat — imagine the Jewish diet being described as “Pay me, I’ll lose the weight,” and a punch line in which Whitney Houston says “I no longer believe the children are our future,” and you’ll get the idea. But the behind-the-scenes stories that Vilanch told about Hollywood then and now were nothing less than fascinating. It is difficult to imagine any other person having seen or done so much. Vilanch discussed writing and working on “The Brady Bunch Hour,” “The Paul Lynde Halloween Special,” “The Star Wars Holiday Special,” and many other forgotten gems — and rhinestones — of years past. He also dished delightfully about working with Hollywood icons, including Dolly Parton, Betty White, and George Lucas and told some incredibly funny stories along the way.

Audience members learned that Ann B. Davis was a “Lesbian for Jesus”; that George Lucas was infatuated with vaginas; and that Bea Arthur once said, “I don’t think I’ve ever hit a man in the c–t before.” These surprising and often titillating stories made Vilanch’s time on stage worth watching; but, unfortunately, his statement, “I have no act,” was basically true. He meandered, discussing one slightly humorous event he’d witnessed or been a part of and then another. The audience seemed to be waiting for him to start telling real jokes, but that moment never came. The duration of the short act ended up feeling like a warm up.

Audience members who were particularly big fans of Vilanch or who were looking to be impressed by one amazing man’s career in Hollywood were overjoyed with the show, while those who expected an hour of straight laughter were left disappointed. Although Vilanch is a truly impressive man, his stand-up routine leaves much to be desired. There were a few giggles along the way, especially when Vilanch said things like “Most of the time when people come up to me, they think I’m [rotund documentary filmmaker] Michael Moore,” but mostly there was just a lot of listening. All in all, though, it was a pretty enjoyable and entertaining way to spend an hour.

SHOW: http://www.carolinatheatre.org/stage/bruce-vilanch. PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.carolinatheatre.org/. OTHER LINKS: Bruce Vilanch: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Vilanch (Wikipedia), http://www.jewishfederations.org/page.aspx?id=26920 (Jewish Federations of North America, Inc.), http://www.wegotbruce.com/ (fan site), http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=4613 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0897358/ (Internet Movie Database). The 15th Annual North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival: http://festivals.carolinatheatre.org/ncglff/ (official web page).

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