Episode #128 — Writer Bruce Vilanch
Well, Valentine’s Day is over and if you’re anything like us, you’re heading to the discount aisle at Target to score on old Valentine’s candy. And if anyone at the checkout gives us the side eye because they doubt we’re buying that giant sack of Sour Patch Kids for the 50 children waiting for us at our respective homes, who cares?! Also, please remind us to schedule surgery for hard palate reconstruction in about six weeks.
Now that our teeth have dissolved (in honor of George Washington — Happy Presidents Day), it’s time to move on to the next big thing on the winter calendar: awards season. Sure, it’s a little different this year. And it’s quite possible that most of us haven’t even heard of, or seen, some of the nominated movies. But we’ve definitely watched television. And listened to lots of podcasts. Can podcasts be up for awards? Well, if you’re asking, that probably means you didn’t nominate us for anything. There goes our chances of winning a Castie this year. Damn — the trophy is a sculpture depicting a bunch of friends declaring, “Of course we’ve listened to your podcast! Don’t be paranoid!” But in the off chance we still might win something, Heidi has been prepping by going overboard with Peloton (hoping to have a class with an incognito Joe Biden), drinking bone broth, and organizing the dresses in her massive closet by award category. Luke cleaned his glasses.
Now, what makes an award show memorable is good writing. And no one embodies that kind of writing better than our guest for this week’s episode, Bruce Vilanch — the EGOT of award show writing. (Yes, he’s written for the Emmys, Grammys, Oscars, and Tonys. Take that, Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards!) But just because he is a comic genius, we are in no way intimidated to write a clever blog entry about his episode. Sure, Bruce has spent decades writing award-winning material. He’s written for Bette Midler, Whoopi Goldberg, and Billy Crystal, among a huge list of other well-known talents. And Bruce’s t-shirt collection is probably more famous than most C-list celebrities. But that’s no reason to be nervous that our writing is being judged…
A six-time Emmy winner, Bruce has spent years in our livings rooms through his television writing. He also appeared for several years on Hollywood Squares (“I’ll take Bruce Vilanch to block”), also writing for the show. Bruce shared with us the strategy behind the celebrity placement in all of those squares. Tune in to find out if he ever made it to the center square and who he always sat next to.
Bruce was the head writer for the Oscars for over a decade, being a co-writer for many years before that. He talked about what it was like to write for awards shows, including the famous show where Jack Palance did push-ups on stage. He also gave us an insider’s perspective about what it’s like to write for celebrities who have a stage persona versus those who are actors. In other words, writing for Bette Midler and Michelle Pfeiffer is a completely different exercise. But we’ll let him explain why!
Bruce has a lot of great stories to tell, and a lot of fascinating insights into the world of television. He spoke with us about how he worked around television censors, how prepared the actors really needed to be for Circus of the Stars, and what the status of his t-shirt collection is. He also shared what it was like to star in the musical production of Hairspray, both on tour and on Broadway.
Bruce is currently working on his memoirs, and while we are fans of memoirs in general, we cannot wait for his in particular. The stories! The friendships! The scoop on Donny and Marie! But we’ll try to be patient. If you need more Bruce in the meantime, may we suggest venturing back to episode #120, where we chat with him about his experiences with the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special. Not everyone thinks that holiday program was as special as we do, but they’re wrong. Bea Arthur runs the Mos Eisley cantina and sings a song to kick everyone out at closing time! And that’s just a fraction of the show. NOTHING could be finer!
You can find Bruce on Facebook. But honestly, you can find him everywhere. We suggest you enter his name in a YouTube search, then just sit back and enjoy. While you do that, we’re going to work on our acceptance speeches — just in case we win an award for Highest Volume of Interviews About Nudity-Adjacent Jobs or Most References to Mothers and Pets. Thank you so much! We’re worked so hard and this award should really be shared with everyone who works on the show with us. But they’re not on-air talent, so who really cares?