Celebrity Autobiography Is Hysterical -- and Neglected -- at Mesa Arts Center

All living beings deserve respect. On the other hand, if you're famous and take advantage of it to have a ridiculously bad book published, put on your big-girl panties, because people will make fun of your book and you don't need to take it personally.

That's what happens during Celebrity Autobiography, an elegantly simple touring show that consists of a handful of talented, good-hearted actorly comedians and comedianly actors reading excerpts from the hilariously clueless memoirs of much more famous people. I was weeping and couldn't breathe.

It's damn funny.

As the saying goes, you can't make this stuff up. And no one had to -- icons such as Zsa Zsa Gabor, Ivana Trump, Sylvester Stallone, David Hasselhoff, and Mr. T have willingly poured their hearts out in volumes that would probably be a pain in the ass to sit and read but are oh, so much fun to listen to when interpreted by someone who knows how to set up a joke, even an unintentional one.

There's also a group reading from Britney Spears' Crossroads Diary and very special "he said, she said, she said" selections from such perfectly understandable author groupings as Debbie Reynolds-Eddie Fisher-Elizabeth Taylor and Loni Anderson-Burt Reynolds-Burt Reynolds' personal assistant. We learn that celebrities have hopes, fears, dreams, heartache, and all the experiences everyone else has, sometimes combined with the fatal flaw of being easily convinced that they have anything interesting to say.

Did you know Suzanne Somers has published a book of poetry called Touch Me? Of everything included in the Celebrity Autobiography performance I saw (each one's a little different), Somers' poetry was the weirdest. It wasn't the worst-written of the selections, and it wasn't the funniest. It was not unlike the delicately angsty musings of any number of dull wanna-be poets, but I couldn't help feeling Somers wasn't actually trying not to be silly, sometimes, and if that's the case, big props to her courage and sense of humor.

How famous is the cast? Well, that varies, depending who's available. Laraine Newman ("the sexy one" from the very first Saturday Night Live ensemble) is the headliner of the Mesa Arts Center stop on the tour. This weekend, you'll also get Bruce Vilanch, Annie Golden, Michael Fuller, Tony Bingham, and Lucy DeVito, who is, yes, Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman's absolutely freaking adorable daughter. (Full disclosure: One of the comedians I saw in the show is Paul Rogan, who's married to an old friend of mine. He isn't scheduled to appear in this weekend's upcoming Mesa performances.) But it's how much fun the performers are having and sharing with you that's the important part.

It seems to me that prospective Valley audiences haven't known what to make of this show. Not a lot of people have heard of it. Some performances were canceled, and some houses have been small. So go enjoy it now, before our stages get all Christmasy, and you'll be able to spread word of mouth if and when it comes through again.

Celebrity Autobiography continues through Saturday, November 20, in the Nesbitt/Elliott Playhouse at Mesa Arts Center, One East Main Street. For tickets, $35, call 480-644-6500 or click here.

Oh, and if you somehow just can't wait for holiday programming to begin, hustle over to Soul Invictus for the final weekend (November 19 and 20) of Th [sic] Sense's Second Annual Holiday Show: a whole bunch of precision offensive sketch comedy, this time with tinsel! I know I wish I could be there.

Stinky Venue Update: The odor I found so sickening at ASU Tempe's Galvin Playhouse came from herbal cigarettes that the actors smoked onstage during Big Love, according to an e-mail to New Times from Laurie Valenti, media and public relations specialist for the School of Theatre and Film. No one else in the building reported being bothered by them, but the SoTF's technical director, faculty member Ron Thacker, told Valenti that the odor of the brand (not Honeyrose, she wrote) is known in the industry to be perceived as "obnoxious and disgusting" by some people.

Crip Tip of the Week: POOL, a relatively new community resource/retail space in an old department store at 1240 East Main Street in Mesa, sometimes presents plays (most recently by Desert Rose Theatre) in its Living Room area. Disabled parking's at the front entrance, and the stage is all the way back at the right, so if you tire easily, I suggest arriving a little early and heading back on your left side (the west side) of the building, where you might find a drink, snack, and/or a place to sit on your way back.

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Julie has written for the Night & Day events calendar section since 2005. As a student at Arizona State, she received the Glendon and Kathryn Swarthout Creative Writing Award and the Theatre Medallion of Merit.
Contact: Julie Peterson