Bruce Banter: Oscars writer to get up close and personal in New Hope

Bruce Banter: Oscars writer to get up close and personal in New Hope

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Bruce Vilanch is coming to New Hope to regale audiences with ribald sense of humor March 26 at the Rrazz Room in New Hope.


The Emmy award-winning actor and writer has seen and done a little bit of everything in the entertainment business from game shows (“Hollywood Squares”) to Broadway (“Hairspray”), so who knows what will happen when he takes over the stage?

Vilanch said the high expectations of his fans can be a bit daunting.

“I don’t think they’re expecting to see my notorious tap-dance solo or how I disappear the Great Wall of China,” he said. “I’m scared of what their expectations are. I get up and tell stories and maybe sing some funny songs but I’ve been at it long enough that I now concern myself with if I’m doing new material, stuff they haven’t heard before. And thanks to the worldwide Internet web everything you do has been published and broadcast somewhere. And the reason I know this is because people will shout out requests for stuff haven’t done in a long time, which they saw on YouTube. So there’s a trade-off I guess. The idea is you have to keep working. You just have to keep coming up with stuff. It’s very debilitating for someone as blonde as I am.”

Vilanch added that he doesn’t see the end of smart-phone documentary filmmaking from the audience ending anytime soon.

“I think it will keep going until people get bored with it, which will probably be never,” he said. “It’s a fact of life. There’s nothing you can do about it. On the other hand we have instant legacies. So there’s that. That’s the trade off. And there are also no more bar fights. Somebody says something at the bar and you say ‘that’s incorrect,’ and you whip out your phone and go to Google and prove them wrong. And that’s the end of the bar fight. People used to go to the mat over things and they don’t have to anymore. They can fact-check each other right there.”

With people still buzzing about this year’s Oscars, Vilanch is the perfect person, being a joke writer for the annual event since 2000, to dissect all the hype and controversy surrounding the awards show.

“I though [host] Chris [Rock] was sensational,” he said. “I thought he was terrific. They hired him before the whole controversy, which happened when the nominations came out, and he was the perfect guy to deal with it. He always projects the bigger picture. Yes, there is racism. Yes, there is need for more diversity and isn’t it pathetic that the issue that brings it to the fore is whether or not somebody got an Oscar nomination. ‘My husband did not get an award and I’m pissed off, so I’m going to become an activist about diversity.’ It’s crazy. I love that he took Jada [Pinkett] on. I also think that there was a calculated effort by the academy to keep hitting it with a funny stick, like ‘If we keep hitting it with a funny stick, maybe it will go away.’ They just kept firing on the subject until everybody was tired of it by the end of the evening. So I thought it was very calculated and I think it worked until next year when they again don’t nominate any black people.”

Vilanch added that even for seasoned performers and comedians accustomed to performing for large crowds, hosting a high-profile event like the Oscars is a tough gig to pull off.

“It is the hardest thing to do because it’s a unique situation,” he said. “You’re not only performing for an audience of people with studio lighting on them, and they know that they are being observed by hundreds of millions of people around the world, so they’re not going to be the most receptive audience. They are going to more aware of themselves than they are of you. And the make-up of that audience are people who are terribly invested in the Oscars and the industry. You’re playing to them and you’re playing to millions of people around the world who never go to movies, and for some reason they are watching this show because it’s an annual pageant that everybody participates in. You yeah, you have to recalibrate everything. If you are used to doing a talk show where you rule and the audience has already bought into you, it’s a totally different thing. It’s very tough.”  

That’s probably why having actors as hosts, like the year James Franco and Anne Hathaway hosted, are usually something of a dud.         

“That was impossible,” he said. “It was a terrible idea and it was terrible producing. And everybody drank the Kool-Aid. People said ‘They had wonderful chemistry’ and they had no chemistry. But it was a bad idea and everybody involved with it agrees now, in blessed hindsight. Even on the show itself it’s much easier to write for somebody who has a stage persona than it is for somebody who is an actor that inhabits another character.”

Always the busy writer, Vilanch is getting reading to bring his latest project to the stage later this year.

“I have written a musical, which we are going to do at the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut in August,” he said. “It’s a blatant attempt to fill the void left by the passing of ‘Mamma Mia.’ It’s an original book to all the music of Petula Clark plus a couple of other items from 1965. It’s called “The Sign of the Times,” which is one of Petula’s big hits. We’ve been work-shopping it in New York and now Goodspeed has picked it up so we are going to do a full production.”

Bruce Vilanch performs at the Rrazz Room, 7:30 p.m. March 26, 385 W. Bridge St., New Hope. For more information or tickets call 888-596-1027 or visit

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