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Celebrity Autobiography

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Celebrity Autobiography is a gimmick but my god it’s a neat one. The premise is simple: good comedians read bad biographies by mediocre celebrities. It’s a wonder no one trumped creator Eugene Pack to it. That said, Tesco’s book aisle has never been riper for reading material.

‘We couldn’t make this stuff up,’ Pack stresses at the start, before Ugly Betty’s Michael Urie steps up to read the prologue from David Hasselhoff’s Don’t Hassel the Hoff. The title is enough to have us chuckling and as Urie pauses for effect, whetting his finger to turn the first page, we don’t stop.

The show’s success depends heavily on the talents of its rolling cast of comics and happily there is no weak link in tonight’s line-up. Pack and co-founder Dayle Reyfel brilliantly nail Tiger Woods and Diana Ross and the guest Brits – James Lance, Rufus Hound and Smack the Pony alumnae Sally Phillips and Doon Mackichan – don’t miss a beat either. Phillips' faux-innocence plays particularly well during an extract from Madonna’s Sex.

The most inspired moments come from mash-ups, as when Lance and Phillips read alternately from Peter Andre’s surprisingly heartfelt All About Us and Katie Price’s How I Stand Out. Pack and Urie’s joust as Sly Stallone and Tommy Lee is also priceless. I will never look at celery in the same way again.

Three years on Broadway and a sell-out Edinburgh run have proved this show can be a bestseller. My only quibble is the price – like most celebrity autobiographies, this one’s definitely due 25% off.

Please note: the following FOUR-STAR review originates from this production's previous run at the Underbelly's Pasture at the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe.

11-30 August, 19.25

A couple of chairs, a banner, some mics and the excruciating words that come back to haunt the perpetrators of the celebrity autobiography. That is the concept for Eugene Pack's show, which has had great success in the States. You also need some celebrities to read the other celebrities bits. Possibly not so much celebrities but skilled performers, who I imagine, must be queuing up for what is a fairly easy gig. No lines to learn or troublesome costume changes.

The night I watched the show (the line-up varies), there was George Wendt from Cheers, Ugly Betty' Michael Urie, who was having a ball, Claudia Shear (Dirty Blonde) and Dayle Reyfel. James Lance and  Tiffany Stevenson gave us two legendary showbiz couples, Burton and Taylor and Price and Andre.

Easy targets include The Hoff, Tiger Woods and Ivana Trump, on bringing up kids (think Joan Crawford here). The show is never going to change the world but it is very entertaining. Perhaps it could be a force for good, if it made future celebrity authors actually stop and think about what they writing.

- Keith Paterson


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