Get Bruce (1999) - full transcript

Affectionate tribute to Bruce Vilanch (1948- ), who writes material for celebrities who make public appearances, from Oscar hosts and award recipients to Presidents. We meet his mom and see photos of his childhood; in Chicago, he writes for the Tribune and then heads West. Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, and Bette Midler talk with him and to the camera about working with Bruce, and we also watch Bruce help others prepare for Liz Taylor's 60th, Bill Clinton's 50th, and an AIDS awards banquet where the hirsute, rotund Vilanch lets his emotions show.


You got that funny Bruce vilanch
writing some of the stuff
for everyone.

- He is...
- he's the funniest guy. Every
time you see an awards show,

no matter which one, the oscars,
the Tonys, the emmys... yes.

- He's the guy who's responsible
for nearly all the material.
- Yeah, man.

He's the guy you call
if you want something funny.
I love him very much.

For years, I never
said a word that Bruce
didn't charge me for.

[ Audience laughing ]In fact, Bruce was the first man
to put something in my mouth...

That actually
made US bothmoney !

This man cracks my ass
with laughter.

Now, you can take that
any way you want.
[ Laughs ]

I mean, he's given more
great lines to celebrities
than a Hollywood coke dealer !

But I wanna tell you,
it's great to be back.

And there are stars
all over this town,
and probably out of it too,

at this very moment,
who are clinging
to their cellulars,

hoping that Bruce will call
with that priceless quip.

[ Audience laughing ]

Hi, Bruce. This is Ann-Margret.

And I'm doing this little... thing, and I need a few lines.

[ Male chorus ] ♪ doo, doo, doo doom-ba-doom ♪

[ Ann-Margret ] ♪ what do you do when you need a good line ♪

♪ you're under the gun and you want to shine ♪

♪ you're afraid that your act will fall flat ♪

♪ unless somebody gives it some juice ♪

[ Chorus ] ♪ ooh, gives it some juice ♪ what do you do

[ chorus ] ♪ what ♪ you get Bruce

[ chorus ] ♪ get Bruce go get some Bruce, yeah ♪

[ Beeping ][ Woman's voice ]
you have 12...

Unplayed messages in your mailbox.

[ Ann-Margret ] ♪ Bruce has got his own mystique ♪

Ah ! ♪ muppet hair and t-shirt chic ♪

Something from over here. ♪ Dorothy Parker's optic clone ♪

♪ talullah with testosterone ♪

Truer words
were never spoken.

- ♪ Bruce, Bruce-y, Bruce-y
buddy, Bruce-y baby ♪
- how are you doin' ?

♪ Bruce, Bruce Bruce-y buddy, Bruce-y baby ♪

♪ What do you do [ Chorus ] ♪ oh, tell US, what do you do

♪ when you need a good line

[ chorus ] ♪ when you need a good line

♪ when you're under the gun [ Chattering ]

[ Chorus ] ♪ when you're under the gun

- aah !
- ♪ and you want to shine

[ chorus ] ♪ a-and you want to shine

♪ maybe before I vamoose

♪ better listen good to your chanteuse ♪

[ Chorus ] ♪ to your chanteuse ♪ don't be obtuse

[ chorus ] ♪ don't be obtuse

♪ get Bruce Bruce vilanch
is ready.

[ Woman ] You're now part of a documentary on Bruce's life.

Which one ? ♪ get Bruce

I'm starting to get
all kind of nervous now.
Wait a minute.

Who, you ?
I can't believe that.

Like you've never
seen me nervous.[ Laughing ]

Can you open up your jacket
so we can see the scream?

Certainly.
It's actually a recent portrait
of macaulay culkin.

[ Ann-Margret ] ♪ bye-bye, Bruce-y ♪

Bruce, as far as I know,
Bruce has literally
been involved...

With every event,
every charitable event...

And every awards show that
I've ever been involved in.

I didn't know
that you were allowed
to do one without him.

It's sort of like cameras.
You need vilanch...

And cameras and
some guy holding a Mike.

Now, we're going
to go find roseanne.

She's lurking in one
of these dressing rooms,
coiled, waiting.

I started in this business
in 1976 or 1977.

Now we're going
further down the hall,
to where the comedy is.

- He was writing
all the shows then.
- Robert plant or Maggie Smith ?

- You tell me.
- Twenty years later, he's still
writing all the shows.

Down the comedy corridor,
ashford and Simpson, not funny.

Michael Douglas...
cute with Kathleen Turner.

The ritchie strings.
Dennis rodman,
as funny as they get.

Then, jenifer Lewis,
the funniest of them all.

Have you seen roseanne ? Who is it ?
Is that Bruce ?

Is that Bruce ? I'll take two jenifer lewises.

Come on in here, baby.
[ Laughing ]

I caught you
at a serious time,
did I ?

I'm going to say everything
you told me to say tonight.Good.

I'm gonna change it
around a little bit
'cause I'll be nervous.

With each of these people,
it's kind of like,

how do you build a costume
for somebody ?

Everybody has
different measurements.

Everybody has
a different thing
that they look good in,

a different color
that they look good in,

and so writing for them is pretty much the same way.

You have to take their attitude and find words that suit their attitude.

The other part of it,
of course, is...

Identifying who they are,

knowing who they are
and being able
to write to that person.

Yeah, he's very good.
He has a great sense...

Of who people are, what their images are in the public.

And he can give you something that will be...

Absolutely spot-on for you.

I worry about what computers
are doing to US as a nation.

I fear they are putting
a serious, serious crimp
in our sexual habits.

I imagine an entire nation
of people typing with one hand.

[ Audience laughing, applauding ]

And not only is it obscene,

it's hard to read !

I mean,
"fick me, fick me" ?

The stand-up comics and singers
who have to get up...

Onstage every night
and project a persona...

Are more comfortable
on these shows because...

They know who they are
when they're not in character.

They have their stage character.

I'm here tonight
to talk about Barbie,

because Janet Reno is busy. [ Laughing ]

Roseanne has
a wonderful sense of anger...

And gum-chewing dismissal
of the world.

I have always felt that
Barbie should reflect...

More of what is really
going on with women.

And I have vowed that I would
not rest until they market...

"Trailer court Barbie," [ Laughing ]

And, of course,
"eating disorder Barbie."

Paul Reiser's attitude is,
uh, kind of wry observation,

like, "did you ever notice that... isn't it strange that..."

I'm just in television.
I don't know
much about politics.

I don't know if
it takes a village
to raise a child,

uh, but I do know
it takes a village
to get cable.

That's true. [ Laughing ]

I know that. [ Applauding ]

They will not come out
for just your house.
I can tell you that.

With whoopi, of course,
you can play the race card.

You can always do things
from the perspective
of a black woman.

And there are so few black women in these exalted positions,

that whoopi can always
comment on the fact...

That she is
in this exalted position.

The most significant thing
for methat happened
in Washington this year...

Was when Madeleine albright
discovered she was Jewish.

I know how she feels.

But even bigger than that,
what she doesn't know is
she's my cousin.

We go back too far, man.
We go back to Mr. Kelly's
in Chicago.

I was headlining there.
And, uh, Bruce came in.

He used to sit on
the bar stool and heckle me.

I said, "who is that dude
with the big facial hair
and the strange t-shirts ?"

Always with the strange
t-shirt, but I got
a kick out of the dude.

We wanted to do a character
piece with her, because
there's no Lily character.

And she's got a roster
of fabulous people she can be.

[ Man ] From the heart of the Las Vegas strip,

the swinging star who put the "man" in "romance,"

Tommy velour !

♪♪ [ Piano ]

There's always been
a dude between US, Elizabeth.

You're a dude magnet.

We're helpless !
Cha-kunk, cha-kunk,
guh-guh cha-kunk.

The hardest ones are actors, who are famous for acting...

And not famous for their own persona.

Kathy bates,
who is on the show
tonight, um...

who's wonderful,
but there is no...

you know, you've never seen
Kathy bates in concert.

Sigourney Weaver, who's a lovely woman,

but you don't know what to expect when she comes out.

Good evening, everybody.
I'd just like to say...

A special hello
to all the theater owners.

I'm from New York,
so I don't suck up, but...

I do have three films
coming out this year,

and I wanted to say that
I worship the candy-coated
ground that you walk on.

It's a very interesting,
intricate relationship
between a comedy writer...

And a person
who's scared to death
they won't be funny.

What card am I going
to put that on ?where's your number one ?

I don't know.
It's over here.

Geez-o. Wait a minute.
Wait a minute.

Added to that is the pressure
that most of these people
are movie stars.

Most of them are used
to working like this:

With a crew and a camera,
and if it doesn't work,

they'll do it
two or three times,
or 200 or 300 times.

Do it right,
you ditz...you ditzy blond.

You ditzy...you're the ditzy blond.
I'm the together brunette.

Show me your entrance.My... my entrance.
My entrance.

Okay ? Yes.

Hi !
Do you like the dress ?

- [ Cheering ]
- Oh, thank you.

I borrowed it
from rupaul.

[ Bruce laughing ]Thank you and welcome...

To...
The commitment to life.

"For the past nine years,"
and then we go
into serious stuff.

Now my serious
benefit mode.

Yes. Now,
changing on a dime...

Now, my serious benefit mode. I do like that.My serious benefit mode.

And now, for my
serious benefit mode...

I don't like getting up
and talking as myself at all.

I'm not good at that. So, it's nice to have Bruce's words.

He can also make it personal for you, so the words come out naturally.

Excuse me, but really meeting you, Elizabeth,

was like meeting royalty.

I was a nervous wreck
because I was wondering how...

The movies' greatest sex symbol...

Would get along
with an itty-bitty,
small screen... goddess.

No matter what's going on,
whether on the stage,
or in the truck...

Or in the lobby, Bruce is right there.

[ Steven seagal ]
Are you rewriting ?
'Cause I should get in on that.

Yeah.asshole writer that I am.

Oh, I'm in that guild.Yeah, I'm in that
fuckin' guild too.

Asshole writers of america.The cocksucker
assholes of america.

[ Salma Hayek ] I'm not.
I need you guys here.Don't forget the cocksucker.

Would iforget
the cocksucker part ?
Surely you've heard.

[ Laughs ]

[ Hayek ] So, what are
you going to give me ?here's what I recommend.

[ Mumbling ]

Is oscars,
this occasion...
too eloquent, or...

no, it's appropriate.
It is.It's very, very tantric.

It's very Buddhist.Is it ?

It's all polishing,
I would imagine
is what they're doing.

Should we get somebody here
to write out this, or...yes, yeah.

Actually, everything
gets revised 4,000 times.

There's no writing.
There's only rewriting.

Dora, vice president,
script changes.Hi.

[ Hayek ] Good luck.Okay, so, dora, my dear,
what I'm gonna do here...

Is I'm gonna say...
I guess maybe you want to...

this is the packet
of script revisions for today.
You'll see it's lavender.

Here are yesterday's,
the yellow script revisions.

Then there were
the pink script revisions
the day before.

I've gone on shows where
we've gone all the way
to goldenrod.

Uh, goldenrod and salmon
are the bottom of the barrel.

Okay, and announce, music.Fifty seconds.

[ Man ] Tonight, from the entertainment capital of the world,

whoopi goldberg.

I'll never forget
the first time
I saw Elizabeth.

It was at a cocktail party,
and she said,

"girl, you are sitting
on a diamond mine."

I was so flattered,
till I realized I was
sitting on her purse.

The kind of stuff
that I frequently write...

Is very, very site-specific.

[ Whoopi ] But, Elizabeth, you keep on partyin', honey,

and seeing as
you have done so much for me
and so many other people...

many of them are
in the audience tonight...

I have something
really special for you.

You've made it
to the big 6-5,

and I want to do this
from my heart.

I'd like to present you
with a little something no one
else would dareto give you:

Your first
social security check.

Now listen, girl, don't you go spending it in all one place.

Unless, of course,
it's Harry Winston.

Happy birthday,
Elizabeth Taylor.
May you have many, many more.

What I do is topical, is of the moment.

It's tied in
to what's happening at...
it doesn't have a shelf life.

Sorry I'm squinting.
I left my good glasses
at a restaurant in brentwood.

[ Laughing ]

And I called to see
if they had them, and they said,

"yes, but you'll have
to come get them yourself."

[ Audience laughing, applauding ]

I subscribe to
64 newspapers and magazines.

Sources everywhere.

It's all raw material
for the kind of stuff I write.
It's what's happening every day.

I brought something
which I'd like to share
with all of you.

"Who's gay, who's not."

This is the real
knotts landingreunion.

Here's news.
"Titanic sinks."

How old is
this tabloid ?

This isn't exactly
how Noel coward came up
with his material.

But then again,
he never had to do
a benefit in Santa fe.

I have
the Santa fe new Mexican,
our local paper.

Was this
the old Mexican one ?

Is anything happening
we can make fun of ?

The local section
might yield something.

"Gas line leak
forces evacuation."

Well, now. There it is.

I don't know if it's big enough.
Now I have to find out
if this is a biggas leak.

If the entire town was
incapacitated by a gas leak,

then there's
a fart joke somewhere.

Then you find out
who the fattest
public personality is,

and you say, well,
"he had a gas leak."

- [ Phone ringing ]
- Hello ? Is there a famous
fat person who lives here ?

I understand the mayor
is hysterical. Is this true ?

Uh, what's the mayor's name ?

Debbie... jaramillo ?

While you've been sitting here,
the entire downtown district
was evacuated.

[ Audience laughing ]Because Debbie jaramillo
had a gas leak.

[ Laughing increases ]

The first time I ever saw Bruce, I just sort of went,

"wow !"

Wow, there was someone who
was as unusual-looking...

As people kept
telling me I was.

You were so adorable.
You really were cute
as a child.

Look at this.
Is that not adorable ?i don't know who that is.

That's retouched.

That's retouched.Every bar mitzvah photo
is retouched.

No Jewish kid
is cute at 13.

I was born in New York City during the worst blizzard...

In the history of New York City.

It was
the most difficult labor...

That anyone
ever went through,
when Bruce was born.

You know, of course,
he's adopted.

But, be that as it may...

I was adopted
when I was four days old
and taken home to New Jersey,

which was probably the first slight that I had to suffer in my life.

I had to leave New York and
go to Jersey at a tender age.

The only thing that he had
to condemn me for,
in all my mothering,

was the fact that
I cut his hair too short.

Now, I ask you:
Is that so vital ?that's the only thing.

My family... we're
all very similar, and we're
none of US related by blood.

Everybody is somebody else's
stepmother and second wife
and adopted child.

The fact is, he is more
like me than any child
that was ever naturally born.

We're all like
some sort of malamutes that
were raised in the same igloo.

We look alike. We talk alike. We think alike. It's, uh...

it's an argument against
the idea that there's a gene.

My father was a doctor.

He was. He used
to love to gamble
like so many doctors.

"It's life and death every day."
Well, he was an optometrist,
but still...

and my mother was
a singer/dancer
Broadway musical type.

I used to be in a lot
of the shows for charity.

Her passion was to be
a part of the theater.

I felt I did a pretty good job,
but nothing compared
to the job that Bruce did...

When he came home
and imitated me imitating them.

- It was a show in itself.
- She was the very
flamboyant one.

She thought it was great that I wanted to be in show business.

My father wasn't so thrilled
with that, but he did have
a soft spot for it,

because he took me
to see all these shows.

The first show I saw was Carol Channing's big flop,

a musical calledthe vamp.

It was really just awful.

Whenever I mention it,
I get a doll from her...
of me with a pin in it.

[ Imitating Carol Channing ]
She says, "will you stop
telling them about the vamp ?

I've spent 30 years
burying that Turkey."

But it was the thing that got me going.

Everybody was pink and spangly, and the lights changed,

and the sets flew in, and everybody moved and finished every number...

Like that...
and I thought, "that's the way
the world should be."

There was never any question
in my mind, ever,

that Bruce would be anything
but something in the theater.

I think I just
felt different, other than,
aside from, the rest.

Most of the time, you see
heavy people and you think,
"oh, they eat anything."

Bruce was a very fussy eater.

He really was.
As a result, I was very
conscious of what I prepared,

but unfortunately,
in those days we didn't know
about the level of fat...

And the level of this and that,
and so we cooked, you know,
from our hearts.

As a result,
well, you know Bruce is...

and so, in order to compensate, he decided to be the class clown.

I could defuse
a potentially violent situation
by making a joke...

Or making a face or making
the ever-popular fart noise.

That always disarmed them.

That's all sort of
adult lingo, you know,
"defusing a situation."

We didn't know that's
what we were doing.

If you got a minute to run,
you know, you ran !

I think every person
who makes people laugh
would prefer...

To just beat
the crap out of people
if they could.

But lacking that ability,
they say, "why don't
we make them laugh ?"

If I could trade it
all in for a very smooth
karate routine, I would.

I remember being miserable
a lot when I was a kid...

Because I was fat
and I was not athletic.

Actually, I was very athletic
through the first three years
of high school.

Because that was one way
I overcame feeling kind of...
being small.

And I was a wrestler.

Well, I was a homosexual,
and they wouldn't
let me wrestle.

Really ? [ Bruce ] They suspected.

They suspected.
That could be the start.

[ Imitating wrestling referee ]
You won ! It's over.

Bruce, get off him !
It's over !
You've pinned him.

[ Bruce ] You've pinned him !let go of him !
Don't...

[ Bruce laughing ]The towel !
Give me the towel !

Somebody get some cold water ! Someone get them a room !

When I got to high school,
then I kind of blossomed
because I was acting.

I was in every school play,
and I was very popular
for being in those things,

and that extended to college.

When I got to Ohio state, I majored in theater and journalism.

I started writing for
the college paper, and
I began writing about movies.

And this was the time
of the student revolution.

Strike to prove
you're alive ![ Crowd ] strike !

And the studios kept reading
what the student critics
were writing.

I would get studio heads
calling me up, saying,

"we think you have the key
to the new direction.

"Fly out here and tell US
what you think of...

- Strike ! Strike !
- "The strawberry statement...

Andeasy rider
and things like that."

So I would sit in a room full of people wearing beads...

And Paisley shirts,
with a bunch of
studio executives...

Wearing beads
and Paisley shirts.

They were all 30 years
older than we were.

We were all
smoking dope together,
pontificating about the movies.

I thought,
"I think this is a business
I really want to be in."

So I started writing about show business,

and I got a job on thechicago tribune out of college.

The Chicago tribune
was the paper...

That had the notorious
lead paragraph:

"U.s. Marines beat off
5,000 Vietcong today...

[ Audience laughing ]

In hand-to-hand combat." [ Laughing increases ]

I went there,
and I was a movie critic,
television critic...

eventually, I was writing
a column about the people I met.

One of the people I met
while I was in Chicago
was Bette midler.

I was working at Mr. Kelly,
which was a great nightclub.

Bruce and I
first met in Chicago...

at the playboy club
in Chicago.

And Bruce was
kind of lurking around,

and eventually I guess
he got up the courage
to come and meet me.

We shared a fondness for green
goddess salad dressing. We used
to take it home by the bottle.

He came back a few times,
and that's the first time
that I met Bruce, was...

I try to meet everybody
who gives me a good review...

And, um...
and buy them gifts.

And that was the first time
I met Bruce, so I'm guessing...

It's about...
[ Inhales ]
24 years ago.

The Chicago triboffered him
a position with a byline...

And a column, etcetera,

to interview celebrities.

And so, that's what he did
for quite a long time.

And he was very good at it,
and he liked the work,

but it was going
no place fast.

So, eventually he decided
he would come west.

Which is interesting,
because he could have gone east.
He could have gone to New York.

Being in the middle
of Chicago, you can go
either east or west,

but he decided to go
to L.A., and I remember
thinking at the time,

"what's he gonna
go therefor ?"

Bruce was the head writer for the Brady bunch variety hour.

[ Audience snickering ]And I, you know,
I had come out here...

With high, high aspirations.

I thought, "I'm going to conquer
the art world of television."
What did I know ?

[ Chuckling ]
He was pretty racy
for US, actually.

The same people who managed
Florence managed the osmonds.

They said, "we'd like you to do
Donny and Marie," and I said,

"Donny and Marie.
Hello, bottom."

I had to make the osmonds hip. [ Bette ] Are you hip ?

Well, I was when
I started with you.Oh, my god.

I managed to damp that down
with years of Donny and Marie.Oh, well.

They brought Donny in
and said, "this is Bruce.
He'll be writing the show."

And Donny looked at me.

And he said,

"you look just like
a muppet."

[ Audience laughing ]

I said, "it's true.
Jim henson had his fist
up my ass not ten minutes ago."

And he backed out
of the room.

Bruce vilanch has made
a lot of money...

Trying to make people hip.
[ Chuckles ]

He's had a lot of successes,
but I'd love to know
about his failures.

I think I could
name a couple.

Bruce, I've just got to say
I'm waiting for the day...

That you'll write me
a monologue to do
in blackface with whoopi.

Actress whoopi goldberg
has rushed to the defense
of boyfriend Ted Danson.

Danson wore blackface, used racial epithets...

And made jokes about his sex life with goldberg at a roast honoring her.

That Mr. Danson came
in blackface was my idea.

During the course
of the year, there's been
a lot written in the tabloids...

About Ted and I.

The notes and letters we get
from people often start,
"dear nigger lover..."

so, we thought,
why not just take it
to the very extreme,

bust it wide open,
make all of the jokes...

And see if anybody
was gonna top them.

I've been to
other friars' roasts,

and I think this one
went a bit over the line.

I'm not actually shielding
Bruce with the friars club,

because Bruce did
what I asked him to do,

which was to help me
punch up material
that I put together.

I put the material
together because it was
a friars club roast.

I think that as we march into the politically-correct millennium,

it's getting harder
to distinguish what's
genuinely funny anymore.

The things that we-we...

used were
the basest, lowest,

funniest, uh...

crassest things
we could think of.

Lots of things strike US
individually as amusing,
and then we discover...

much to our dismay
as they flame out...

that the audience doesn't
see it the way we see it.

It pissed
a lot of people off,
and that's too bad.

It's like watching a plane
take off with your family on it,
and it just blows up.

I put it together. I did it.
I take responsibility for it.

And if they didn't
like it, fuck 'em.

Much of what we do
is like a free fall
kind of an adventure.

If it's done right,
you're right on the edge.
You're working without a net.

To do that,
you have to have people
around you who you trust.

That's why Bette goes
to Bruce, and that's why
Lily and whoopi...

they will all go
to Bruce vilanch.
They all say, "get vilanch."

Part of the way that people
view me is because of how
Bruce has written for me.

And I'm very
grateful for that,
'cause it makes me...

Actually look
much smarter than I am.

Basically, I'll find out what I'm supposed to do and where I'm supposed to be,

and I'll call Bruce and say,
"I'm doing this thing,

where people are
going to want me to,
you know, verbalize."

So he'll come up
with a concept,
and then send me.

He'll send it, and then
I'll go through it and say,

"can we do this and this ?"

It's a telephone collaboration.

I'm never in one place,
and Bruce is always gone.

He's never
in the same place either.

Clinton. Clinton.
I wonder which
Clinton that is.

Hello, dear.Hello.

You know, billhas asked me
to do his 50th birthday.
You know that.

- Ah, the big radio city bash.
- The radio city big bash.

♪♪ [ "For he's a jolly good fellow" ]

With many, many interesting people on the bill,

what shall I do...
what shall I do ?

I've worked up a couple
of things. A little something.
Hold on, accessing.

Please hold.
Still checking. Okay.

First, I think you should
come out and say,

"good evening,
I'm Colin Powell."

Anyway, it's really good
to be here, truly. 'Cause
some of US are from Hollywood.

Yes, where they think
Rwanda is the name
of a talk show host.

L.A., baby. If you can't
be a star, at least
you can be a star witness.

Anyway...

in addition to
the presidential tributes,
whoopi and I have done...

Two academy award shows.

The first thing that happens when you get a big show like the academy awards...

and I've done
the last eight of them...

is you have to figure out who is gonna do what on the show,

what elements are
going to be different,
who's going to present what,

what production numbers
are going to be done...

And what the role
of the host is gonna be.

Sometimes the host,
if it's Billy crystal,
will come out and do a number.

♪♪ [ Orchestra ]

If it's David letterman,
he's going to bring
a spinning dog or something.

We had to figure out
what whoopi was going to do.

Once we figured out
what whoopi was going to do...

she was going
to do a very strong,
fast monologue up front,

and then just
keep coming back...

And bumping along
as the show went on.

She wasn't going to do
any production numbers,

and she wasn't going
to do any other stuff.

Then it was about
writing them. So that's
when I had to sit down...

And actually come up with
what she was going to say.

All right !
No, I don't think it's
a good idea to end it like that.

That should be your last word
on the academy awards ?
Probably not.

Now I've written all
this stuff, and it goes
to everybody for approval.

It goes to the host. It goes to, in some cases, the host's hairdresser,

the host's holistic pet psychiatrist, the host's spouse of the moment.

The host's mealymouthed little assistant, who faxes it back to me with his own notes.

It goes to the producers. It goes to the network. It goes to the academy...

- everybody has something
to say about it.
- I'm Susan futterman.

I'm director of
broadcast standards for abc.

I'm a censor.

Welcome to Oscar 66.

So, they went and gave me
a live microphone
for three hours !

Each venue has the right kind
of humor for it.

And, well,
certainly whoopi knows...

Every dirty joke
known to mankind,
as far as I'm concerned.

The first time
I did the oscars,

there was a lot
of ridiculous questioning
in the press.

There haven't been this many
showbiz executives so nervous,

sweating over one woman,
since Heidi fleiss, honey. [ Audience laughing ]

From the first line,
everyone went wild.

I said, "I am up the creek
without a paddle on this show."

There seemed to be
this big old question
as to whether...

I was gonna, like,
drop my pants
and show my nipples,

and then tie 'em
into knots or something.

It was just so much bullshit
you couldn't imagine.

As I said, I recently
had whoopi on at midnight,

and, yes, she got bleeped.

These were people who wanted
crude stuff and didn't know
how to ask for it, see ?

That was the key.
That's what I figured out.

They wanted me to do stuff
so they could beep it,

to make it a big deal
so people would call up and say,

"whoopi just said the 'f' word.
Tune in."

There are many that we say
to ourselves in the wings,

that we laugh at
that we would never
actually do on the air,

because they're just wrong,

just of the moment...
they're cruel, they're vicious.

We're people under pressure.
We say things we would regret
if the public knew them.

The academy awards, the longest,
most suspenseful night...

In show business
since Lisa Marie...

Waited for Michael Jackson
to come out of the bathroom.

- We were going to do it.
- We were gonna do it.

But they thought it was
a little close to the bone.

Yeah, really.
Which bone ?

Things happen that change
what's going to occur
on the show itself.

That's when I'm standing
in the wings like a lamprey...

On the host...
I'm like an appendage,

watching the show as it unfolds, and adjusting.

She did, uh,
"the colors of my wind,"
which is still a hotly-debated...

to do a fart joke on the oscars,
this is a rare occurrence.

The worst, the worst.

I think Vanessa Williams
had just done this song,

"the color of the wind,"

and it was just
too much for me.

The song was
too much for me,
and I was overcome...

With my own...
Ridiculousness.

Beautiful song.
Question I really
want to answer:

What color ismy wind ? [ Audience laughing ]

I didn't think
she was going to say it,
and she did,

but that's what
makes whoopi whoopi.

When you hire her
to do the academy awards,

you know there's going
to be a moment like that,
where she goes off the graph.

That's the whole idea.
If you didn't want
that to happen,

you'd hire
kathie Lee gifford.

Billy is the old school. We meet 10:00 in the morning in the office.

There's bagels.
There's coffee...

it begins like this.
We come in, we sit down.

And go, "so what do ya got ?"an attractive assistant
places this before US.

And there's,
"what are we gonna do ?

How is this gonna be funny ?
I had an idea for
this joke, that joke."

And we sit
and we actually write jokes.

Yes, Carrie Fisher's
writing this year.Right.

We'll do all
of these big jokes.Everything comes in.

I'm Pete the dog from our gang.
[ Panting ]

Bette midler is
with US this evening,
ladies and gentlemen.

You like the new ring ?[ Laughing ]

A little fruity.Never carry cash.
Don't leave home without this.

Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the academy, Karl Malden.

And then there's something like this...that's how we open the show.

And then I'll pick this up
and do a Milton berle joke.

We have a very good, fun
relationship with each other,
and we can spar.

It's better to be in the room
than it is to get a fax.

And his faxes are great.

Apparently, a lot of people
tell me he's a great faxer.

I like being in a room
with him, because
good things always happen.

That's why,
you know, every year,

my first call is to Bruce.

Once I know that he's there, we're like a baseball team.

We're strong up the middle.

When we do the oscars,
we can't do anything until
the nominations are announced,

which are six weeks
before the oscars,

because then we'll know
who is going to, uh,

be offended,
who will show up,

who will exercise
a ritual taking-of-umbrage.Right.

Then we see what we've got
in front of US, what movies
we can make fun of.

We made fun of
all of them at once,
in one film piece.

I said, why don't we do a funny thing happened on the way to the theater...

By using these movies,
and I could somehow be
morphed into these movies ?

[ Bruce ] We took the biggest picture of last year and used it as the way in,

because that was the one movie we figured everybody would've seen.

[ Audience laughing ]

And then, when we were doing
the Jerry maguirething...

speaking of
a spontaneous moment...

he was not wearing a shirt,
with all these gold chains.Which was youridea.

Yeah, and he said...
I've been longing to see him
without a shirt since 1973.

We're just about
to shoot the thing,
and he said,

"I really feel
strange about not
wearing a shirt.

I feel so naked."
I said, "say that.
Use it."

I will do the show,
but I got some demands.
I want a shirt.

- 'Cause these chains
are freezing.
- Fine.

- I want pauly shore to win
the thalberg award.
- Fine !

I want you to explain to me
the plot of mission impossible.

- Fine !
- I want you to kick
the wall three times.

-Fine ! Fine !
-Kick it ! Kick it ! Kick it !

- Fine !
- Ow ! Jerry, that's what
I dig about you, man !

And Bruce and the other guys
would throw out things.

It started to write itself and...too much ?

Everybody would submit Jo...
this is one day's
worth of meetings.

These are all the jokes that
the guys would come up with.

And I went through...
I must have done 30 minutes
of different things.

- We did a million
different lines.
- It was great Jewish whining.

- All the way through.
- I took the stage
without taking the stage.

Yeah. Exactly.Without being on.
I-It's...

we should talk
about the entrances.The entrances, uh,

started with, uh,
coming out on a horse.

And it was such a big year
for dances with wolves,
we knew it was gonna sweep.

We said,
"wouldn't it be funny
if he came out on a horse ?"

And that was
the beginning.

Then if you have a horse
at the academy awards,
you have to have a valet Parker.

- Then you have
to have the alarm click.
- [ Alarm chirping ]

I knew, at that show
that night, how I was gonna
come out the next year.

Silence of the lambshad
come out already, and it was
eligible for the next year.

And it was already...
you could see it was
gonna be something.

I knew a year ahead of time I was gonna come out with a mask.

[ Car alarm chirping ] [ Audience laughing ]

Actually, one of
the entrances we were gonna
do was the crying game.

That they wouldn't let US do.
Wasn't it that year ?

We thought you would
come out in drag. And it...

and have an Oscar hanging
between your legs.That was your idea.

The reason I didn't
come out in drag was...

Everyone thought
I was going to.Yeah.

And that was
the heavy betting.Yeah.

We get very prepared.
We create...
I'm very worried that...

I know the first
eight minutes is fine,
once we get that.

It's the rest of the show
that's up for grabs.

And that's three-and-a-half,
four hours.

We make a playbook,
not unlike a football team,

with options of different
jokes for who wins,
and who might win...

And who's sitting in the audience.

During the course of the show,
Bruce and I are in the wings.

We go over
very carefully who's won.

We have communication
to the writers on
the other side of the stage.

And we have options.
I'll look at Bruce invariably,

and that's the last voice
I'll listen to before...

I make up something myself,
or go, "what do you think ?"

I think the best example was
the night that Jack palance won
and did the push-ups.

Bruce and I and Robert wall, at the time, we went, "let's run this."

When I said,
"Jack's on the stairmaster.
We'll keep you posted..."

when I said,
"we'll keep you posted,"

I think all of US knew that
we had the runner for the night.

We go to commercial. You got
a minute-and-a-half, two minutes
to come up with a beauty.

I said to Bruce,
as I'm walking to the podium,
I turned to him and said...

Jack palance just bungee-jumped
off the Hollywood sign.

[ Laughing ]

He goes, "say it."
And I did.

That's the kind of relationship
we have during the show.

A billion people
are watching US tonight,

except for Linda Tripp,
who's taping it.

There's a couple of jokes
that I have shied away from
for a few reasons.

Some because I think
they're a little too hard
on somebody personally.

It might embarrass them,

and it was too personal
and not quite right.

Uh, this year,
I came real close...

To saying this joke...

and it was to be
my closing joke...

"well, I'm off to
the governor's ball.

"It's the seventh time...

"That I've been to
the governor's ball.

As a matter of fact,
I've seen more of the governor's
balls than Paula Jones."

It was a really good joke,
and I decided not to do it,

'cause I didn't want
that phone call the next day
from the president.

The other joke I didn't do...
I got that joke right,
didn't I, Bruce ?

[ Chuckling ]It's a good joke.
Umm...

the other joke I didn't do...
"one of you will go home and
find an Oscar on your mantle,

and one of you will go home
and find Robert downey Jr.
asleep on your couch."

I didn't want to do the joke...
people are laughing...

he had a personal problem,
and I didn't feel
I wanted to hit him on it,

though I did like the joke.

We haven't talked
about the medley,
because the medley...

it's a response to those
big, awful opening
production numbers...

which I have also
been involved in...
that they would do.

It was following
the snow white number, which
I was peripherally involved in,

although I have
a shirt that says,
"everything but snow white."

That was not my number. [ Billy laughing ]

All those "special material"
numbers, you know ?

- ♪ It's Oscar night
- ♪ Oscar, Oscar
who will win ♪

♪ who could ask
for anything more ♪
he's won variety emmys.

They are variety performances.
Nobody else does that.

Nobody else comes out,
sings, dances, does jokes.
He's the only one.

Hope never did that.
Carson never did that.

They were great,
but they didn't do that.

So I just thought...
I'm working up in case
next year he does it.

Bruce and Marc
are, uh, great...

At writing
rhyming lyrics to things.

It's very hard to do this.
It's very hard.

Hello, I'm Marc shaiman,
composer, arranger.

Have been working
with Bruce for 20 years now.

Been a lot
of collaborators every year.
We seem to be the mainstays.

The toughest one we had...
[ Clears throat ]
Was for j.F.K.

That was a hard one.
That was the toughest one
to get a song.

How do you do this ?
We had a bunch of versions.

The first one, which I loved,
was from Fiddler on the roof,

which was,
"a gunman on the knoll.
Sounds crazy, no ?"

But in Oliver stone's j.F.K.,
he would say that
we're allsuspects.

There was...
♪ suspicion
♪ suspicion
that was it.

- We liked that a lot.
- I remember we were trying
"trouble."

That one I'll never forget,
because we wrote it:

♪ With a capital "j"
and it rhymes with "k"
with an "f" in between ♪

We really got trouble.
And "trouble" is from
the music man...

Written by Meredith Wilson,
and all his stuff is controlled
by the widow Wilson.

We had to actually audition
the song for her.

Here are three Jews in a room.
Marc's at the piano. Billy
is dancing around the room,

and I am doing backup vocals
into a speakerphone.

♪ With a capital "d"
and that rhymes... ♪
oh, god.

♪ Shot in the head
da-duh-duh duh-dah
and Oliver stone ♪

"What do you think,
Mrs. Wilson ?"

[ Imitates phone off hook ]
You've got trouble, boys.
My lawyers will call you.

- Whoo !
- And, uh, okay. Where are we ?

[ Bruce ]
The crying game ?yeah. It was to, uh...

♪ you see a pair
of dancing eyes ♪

[ Together ]
♪ your hand keeps creeping
up her thighs ♪

♪ you hurry to the spot
it's just a dot on this dame ♪

♪♪ [ orchestra ]

♪ Those eyes, those thighs
surprise ♪

♪ it's the cryin' game♪

♪ it's the cryin' game♪♪

♪♪ [ piano ]

I didn't order that.Yeah, right.

I hope you're rolling this,
'cause this is the stuff...

That's actually
sometimes better
than what we've done.

There's only a few people
in the world I stand in awe of.

And you're one of them.Thank you.

It's not the shirt.
It's not the t-shirt.
It's not the glasses.

It's your mind.
You give great mind.

[ Whispering ]
One of the funniest
motherfuckers on the planet.

Seriously.
Can you say motherfucker ?
Well, too late.

Can we say it in the Greek
sense, like, "oh, oedipus,
you old motherfucker" ?

Oeddy ! Come over here
and talk to mama.

[ Bruce ] I used to have eyes for mama. But then, I used to have eyes.

But then again,
it's a long way home.

Tell me, Athens
is a rough room, isn't it ?

So what, uh, mothers...
don't love 'em too much.
Good night, everybody.

Or isit night ? Tip your philosophers.

Tip your philosophers...
hi, my name is demosthenes.
Welcome again to club Athens.

You don't write forrobin.
You write atrobin.

- You throw the material
into the cage.
- [ Roars ]

- And you see what happens.
- Oh, good ! Mm, ahh !

Right, give me
a wig and I'll march.
Yes, good, good !

Ahh, friend, friend.
Friend feeling good.

Quest for fire
opera gloves.
Good friend !

We were talking
about childhood. [ Laughs ] We were talking about pain.

- Pain. Pain ?
- Robin's a sponge.
He absorbs a lot of stuff.

Often what we will do
is just sit in the room
and talk to each other...

And record it, or, uh, have
somebody taking things down.

He'll have a conversation
and perform in the conversation
and glean material from that.

The theory is that,
when you're a kid... pain is comedy.

Exactly right.I mean, I was
an only child,

but I used to joke
about it, because...

Actually, my childhood
was pretty great.

I was 16 before
I went to Europe.

Didn't actually get
the car until I was 17 !
Oh, life's a bitch.

Or he'll take a page
and he will just use it
as a starting point.

We lived away
from everybody, because
my father was working for Ford.

We lived on this big farm,
but it was more
than just a farm.

It was actually
an old estate
that he was renting.

This mansion.
It was haunted,
according to the black maid.

"There's haints upstairs."
You know, haints.

It's hainted !
I ain't goin' upstairs.

Haints. Vermin and haints.

"There's haints in here."
Years before the x files.

Lawd, don't go there !

That's what I'm waiting for
in the x files. Somebody who
just turns to the camera...

ah, lawd, help me now !
Feets, don't fail me now !

Aww, did you see the man
with the twee heads ?

Aah ! Dogie, get out
of here now ! Whoa !

It's kind of like
a musician composing,

and he composes with comedy
as he's actually working.

Oh, the man came in.
He had a big-ass head !

A big-ass head ! [ Bruce ] Holding a hose !

Holding a hose,
and the hole came out
of his head,

and they fired him,
flew out the window !

[ Imitating Rochester ]
Help, Mr. Benny !
Can't believe the man.

Jack Benny in the act.
[ Imitating Jack Benny ]
Well, Rochester...

it's the smoking man,
Rochester.

Tell agent Scully
we can't go there.

[ Imitating Rochester ]
Well, Mr. Benny...

that man has got
an ice pick he'll put
in the back of yo' head.

That's the only way
to kill him !

[ Imitating Jack Benny ]
Honestly, Rochester, we can't
keep finding these alien bodies.

They look like gumby.

When Robin does comic relief,
or when he's on the Oscar show,

or any of these things,
you'll always see him
in the clubs the week before.

Every night, going in,
maybe just doing five minutes...

just showing up, making
a lightning appearance...

because he wants
to test out one little hunk,
just to see how it works.

And from that,
he builds his mosaic.

[ Mexican accent ]
Aliens abducted me, man.

I'd fallen across the border.
All of a sudden I got
abducted by a truck.

They dropped me off here
right outside San Diego.
I was right there, man.

[ Bruce ] Right there !fuckin' "a."
They dropped me off.

I saw a blinding light,
and it was guys going,

[ imitating police officer ]
"Just step away from the car."

[ Mexican accent ]
I knew it. I was abducted !
They took me.

They took me away, man.

It wasn't like
a little e.T. Motherfucker
either, man.

Phone home ?
No, phone a lawyer !

Get me out, ese.
Don't leave me here.
Come on. Don't be that way.

All of a sudden,
they've got the aliens
with the long, gumby finger.

Why not have an alien
with some rhythm, you know ?
A vatoalien.

Comes off the ship going,
"what's up ?"

Talk to me. I want
to talk to El presidente.

What's up, Hillary ?
Talk with me.

[ Bruce speaking Spanish ]Yeah, don't be afraid.
Do the lambada.

I'm not gonna lambada.
I'm gonna lambada you.

What I'm going to do is...
I'm not gonna do no probes. No macarena.

I'm gonna give you
the deep probe.

And you gonna know about
alien love, you know.

- All comedy
coming from tragedy...
- aw, serious, yeah.

Deeply serious when I went
to that all-boys school
I told you about.

- That all-boys Jewish school.
- That's right.

That was very difficult
when they'd bring girls in
for a dance.

[ Imitating
Frankenstein's monster ]
Friend. Friend, hold me.

That's where
the dick jokes come from,
like, the three years of...

[ grunting like
Frankenstein's monster ]

I mean you no harm !

[ Normal voice ]
You feel like
Peter lorre in m.

[ Imitating Peter lorre ]
I don't want to hurt you.
I merely want to...

Hold close to you
and achieve some sort
of seminal flow.

Most of Robin's stuff happens
when he's on the stage, actually
working the material through.

[ Audience cheering ]Oh ! Oh ! Whoa !
[ Chuckles ]

I am glad to be here.

Now, look, can you tell
what religion I am ?

- [ Billy crystal chuckling ]
You're so nasty.
- It's a stimulus-response.

Pavlovian comedy.
Ding ! Oh, a joke.
Ding ! Cool.

So writing with him
is basically hanging on
as he goes through that process.

I also was
in the road company
of deliverance.

We had a thing...
♪ squeal like you know me
squeal like you need me ♪

We had a pool the last time,
how long it would be before
you got to a dick joke.

I lasted two minutes ?
6:07 ? 6:07, actually.

Whoopi and I have been
talking about this.A lot.

Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh.

Keep your hands above
your shoulders, pal.Okay.

We've decided we will make
a generous contribution...

If you don't touch...
uh-uh-uh-uh...
don't even go near it...

a million dollars if
you don't touch your...

Mr. Happy
the entire night.

So the rules are,
can't mention it,
can't touch it...

can't refer to it.But can i...
can't refer to it ?

Can I do this ? [ Audience laughing ]

I don't know. Someone said
I should have an operation
to have my hand removed.

- Yo, baby !
- Don't grab your dick
in front of the world.

The first time was
when you were on the oscars,
and the censor,

Mrs. Futterman...oh, yeah. Put me on
a five-second delay.

Because I said about
writer-producer-directors...

one of the few creatures
on the planet who can
blow smoke up his own ass.

[ Audience laughing ]

There's some occasions,
like the academy award,

where you have to have on
your miss manners etiquette.

Robin certainly proved that,
at times, he was untrustworthy.

There's still the moments
when you're onstage alone,
where it's just...

when it works, it's great,
but the mouse ears at
the academy awards,

that ranks
in one of the memories
of show business hell.

There's show business joy.
Then there's show business hell. I know.

[ Audience applauding ] Coming out in the mouse ears was like...

- [ beeps ]
- It seemed like a good idea.

It seemed like a great idea,
and the moment you walked out,
it was like, "uh-oh !"

Now you're gonna be boycotted
by the southern baptists.

- [ Growling ]
- Mickey is the devil !

[ Chuckling ]
That's so amazing.

It's beyond Ellen.
Don't you see ?
Three fingers !

There's a chain.
It's minnie. It's Daisy.
It's kathie Lee.

Kathie Lee !
They're all connected.
It's all part of a scheme.

Play aladdinbackwards
and it spells "de-la-Lee-ah."

What does it mean ?
I don't know !
But go with US on this.

- They won't watch
siskel and ebertanymore.
- Been together for years.

I've seen them. Mm.

For two grown men,
they go to the movies
together far too much.

Too often. And what does
"thumbs up" mean ? Thumbs up.

Two thumbs up Madonna.I saw that ! That ad,
"two thumbs up Madonna."

I know what they meant.
There it is.
I'm readin' into that.

"Thumbs up" is an international symbol. Oh, man.

You've seen
those academy awards.
They've been so...

you've seen great ones.
You've seen ones that tanked.

What if it was like
the old days, when they
did have an open bar ?

When they had those
great ones, you know...

that's why the golden globes
is pretty fun, because there...

like that one year
that depardieu won for, uh...

he won for green card.
He was just hammered.
He was, uh...

[ imitating depardieu ]
I love you all ! Jeffrey
Katzenberg, a big kiss for you !

Ah, I love you !
Come kiss me like a man.

Touch my nipples.
Don't be afraid of me !

Hold me. I want
to fuck every one of you.

Good night. I love you !
[ Screaming ]
Boom !

I'm not finished.
But ya are !

It's no secret that Bruce and I go back...

Many, many, many, many,
many, many, many, many years.

We first met at Mr. Kelly's
nightclub in Chicago.

Bruce was a young cub reporter
for the Chicago tribune.

I was a burgeoning superstar. [ Audience laughing ]

Bette came out from
the kitchen, which is how
you entered at the time,

and she was...

she was wearing a purple blouse...

That was tied about
the waist, Belafonte-fashion.

And she had no bra.

This was 1970. And she was wearing no bra,

which at the time was a political statement.

I said, in her case,
it was a terrorist act.

In the middle of this thing,
it became clear
that her left boob...

Was about to make
its Chicago stage debut.

It was sneaking out
of the thing, and so
in the middle of some number,

she just unbuttoned the blouse and flashed the audience !

The audience screamed and carried on,

and everybody in the room...

Heard laughter,

but I heard my muse.

[ Bette laughing wildly ]

[ Audience laughing ]

I said, anybody
who'll do that...

Is somebody
I want to live with
for the rest of my life.

Bruce... hitched himself
to my wagon.

It was a decision that forever changed...

The course of those
two young lives.

I took her out,
and I did a column on her.

I wrote about her.
I asked her all about herself.

When the column appeared,
she called me up and said,

"that was funny.
You write funny stuff."
And I said, "you're very funny.

You should really
talk more onstage."

And she said,
"you got any lines ?"

That is a phrase that has echoed
through the corridors of time.

I couldn't let the evening
go by without claiming
my addition to American culture.

I am the person who introduced
Bette midler to Sophie Tucker.

Bruce was an old fan
of Sophie Tucker,
and he-he...

he knew her material,
or material that was similar.

When I first started working with Bette, I showed her a lot of people.

I took her to see Frances Faye.
Rusty Warren was another one,

and I played her belle barth
and Pearl Williams,

and there were all these people who were so free onstage.

It was always like a party. I said, this is what your show should be like.

And, of course, that's exactly what she wanted.

[ Man ] Would an evening be complete without a visit from Sophie Tucker ?

[ Imitating Sophie Tucker ]
I will never forget it,
you know.

I was drunk the other night.
I woke up. There was
an elephant in my bed.

I said, "lord, have mercy.
I must have been tight
last night."

"Well," said the elephant...

the idea of a Randy old woman
telling sex jokes...

Is just so funny
in and of itself,

that it diffuses
any of the dirt
that might be there.

And so, it's just like...
it's a gem.

I was in bed last night
with my boyfriend Ernie.

And he said to me,
"soph,

you got no tits
and a tight box."

[ Audience laughing ]

I said to him, "Ernie,

get off my back."

I would say that
I don't shy away
from a bawdy joke.

Because I like 'em.
I think they're fun.
I think that's like life.

I'll never forget it.
My boyfriend Ernie
said to me, "soph,

if you could learn to cook,
we could fire the chef."

I said, "Ernie,
if you could learn to fuck,

we could
fire the chauffeur !"

♪♪ [ Orchestra ] [ Audience cheering ]

Some of the stuff comes to him
through other sources.

I really don't know where
some of the stuff comes from.
I don't even ask.

Redd foxx gave me
a whole bunch of jokes
that he said,

"I can't tell these.
These are too dirty for me."

Because redd foxx was dirty.
When he told a dirty joke,
it was, like, dirty,you know ?

But he gave it to US,
and I would turn it around
so soph would tell it,

and it was like it was clean.

I was in the woods last night
with my boyfriend Ernie.

I'll never forget it.
"I was in the woods
with my boyfriend Ernie.

"And he said, 'soph,
it certainly is dark in these
woods. I could use a light.'"

I said to him, "so do I, Ernie.
You have been munching grass
for the last ten minutes."

[ Audience laughing ]

With Bette,
her process is very painful.

She has to work herself
into kind of a frenzy,

and then it all sort of explodes out.

If you're cracking up from
having lack of shacking up,

if you're cracking up,
if you're cracking up,

why don't ya pack it up ?

She's really focused
on her work. I think
people who don't know her...

Look at her and they say,
"oh, she's so difficult,

because she keeps wanting
to do it over again."

She's not like that at all.
There are others who are.

Sometimes I nag him
for weeks before he finally
addresses the problem.

But he does, eventually.
It's like a last-minute thing.

Finally, you finally,
we finally got that gag right.

We finally got that joke right.
It's a lot of fun.

It is actually the most
creative thing that I do.
I really enjoy it.

We did a whole set
of things for Johnny Carson
on his last night.

Bruce was in on that.

♪♪ [ Piano ]

They think I don't have
it written. It is written.

♪ Dear Mr. Carson
I am writing this to you ♪

♪ and I hope that you will
read it, so you'll know ♪

♪ my heart goes pitter-patter
and I stutter and I stammer ♪

♪ every time I see you
on your TV show ♪

♪ I guess I'm just
another fan of yours ♪

♪ and I thought I'd write
and tell you so ♪

♪ oh, oh [ Audience laughing ]

[ Laughing increases ]

I thought that
was pretty sweet, guys.

Bruce and Marc shaiman
and I got together about
a week before that show,

and we started working
on what we would call,
"the spot."

We knew we wanted
to honor him, because
we all loved him so much,

and he was such a part
of our lives, and we wanted
to do something special.

♪ I watched your hair
turn slowly ♪

♪ from dark to white

♪ and when I can't sleep

♪ I count
your wives at night ♪

[ Audience laughing, applauding ]

We all threw out suggestions,
and once we decided on what
the songs were going to be,

we all sort of pitched in,
and, uh...

it worked.
It really did work.

It was a great...
a great evening.

♪ How I'll miss

♪ the social intercourse
so varied ♪

♪ now I have
to have it ♪

♪ with the guy
I married ♪

♪ you know I'd rather
watch you ♪♪

[ Audience cheering, applauding ]

So, let's talk about Bruce. Bruce and I...

Go way back,
uh, to the '40s.

Yeah, I think so, wasn't it ? It was during the war.It was during the war.

I'm friendly with
a lot of big stars.

They're wonderful individuals mano a mano,

but you don't get to be
the biggest star in the world...

By really caring a lot about
anything else but yourself...

And becoming
the biggest star in the world.

She's a little more
than empty-headed
with a fixed gaze...

I already
fuckin' did this part.

[ Audience laughing, cheering ]

I am so sorry.
I had a mood swing.
Excuse me.

You probably don't
get to be the president
of the United States...

Or any of those gigantic, preeminent positions in the world...

By really having much energy...

That isn't directed to that goal.Thank you.

I know a lot of very talented
actors and musicians...

Who aren't the biggest stars
in the world because...

They don't have that insane desire to center everything on creating themselves.

I don't think I have it. I think if I had it,

I might be a much bigger writer,
a more successful personality...

I might be a performer who just
goes out there and performs...

And doesn't hide
behind the typewriter...

I don't think I have
that insane need to be...
Playing the palace.

But that's because I have
written everybody else's act.

I will write, you know,
from "abba" to "zadora."

[ Audience laughing ]

Two acts you want
to be known for.

Engelbert hunk... humperdink.
I can't even say his name.

He's a perfectly nice guy,
but, um, he's a guy...

he's a singer who's deaf
in one ear and keeps telling the
orchestra he can't hear them.

I kept saying, "turn around !"
[ Laughs ]

"They're playin' fine.
Move upstage."
But that's his bad side.

I'm a huge
Barbra Streisand fan.

When she did
her Las Vegas concert
and decided to go on tour,

she wanted to revamp sections
of it and put more jokes in.

She called me and
asked me if I would do it.

Of course, I was
thrilled and flattered.

Then the offer came in,
and it was quite low,

and this for a tour where
she was charging $350 a ticket.

I thought the offer
was unbelievably low.

So I thought it was
like a negotiating ploy.

They said, "no, no.
It's take it or leave it."

So I called her and said,
"I don't mean to insult you,

but Jim Bailey offered me more
to do the drag version
of this act."

She laughed and said,
"what should I do ?"
I said, "sell a lamp."

Bruce doesn't get paid well ?

Are you doing a documentary,
or are these a pack of lies ?

Bruce gets paid very well.

The bigger the show,
the smaller the salary.

The academy awards,
everyone works for scale,

because it's the academy awards,
and it's the greatest show
on earth.

It's the biggest thing...

you'd think because
it's like the super bowl...

That you would get paid
like the super bowl, but no.

Bruce's contracts could
be referred to as a felony.

He gets paid a lot of money,
and guess what ?

You not only have to pay him,
you have to feed him.

If I were doing
what I did for money,
I would do something else.

I would probably make
more money... I would have
focused on screenplays,

which is, after all,
where the big bucks are.

You know he won an Emmy...

he won an Oscar for his Emmy...

yeah, it was an Oscar
that he won for the...

what'd he win ? He won an Emmy.
Right. Oh, my gosh.

When you're with
a celebrity like that,
one thing runs into the other.

I'm very sorry
I didn't have to sleep around
to win this award.

[ Applause ]

Ladies and gentlemen !

Direct...directly from...
[ Indistinct ]

♪♪ [ Piano continues ]

Bruce is a very
strange individual,

but he can do many things
on different levels
and all at the same time,

which can kind of
disturb normal people.

Uh, it even disturbed me.

Let's figure out
how I'm gonna get on.

That's what
we have to figure out.How you gonna get off ?

Yeah, really. I've been trying
to figure that out for years.

♪ My story is much too sad
to be told ♪

[ Mutters ]

♪ We're steppin' out
tonight in oxnard ♪

♪ no more of those
far-from-oxnard blues ♪

♪ but there's one thing
to warn you about ♪

♪ before you start
stepping out ♪

♪ once you step in oxnard

♪ you can't get it
off of your shoe ♪

♪ oh, oxnard
you better not step in it ♪

♪ oxnard, we can put
a little pep in it ♪

♪ oxnard, I can't get you
off of my shoe ♪♪

What's wrong with me ?you expect me
to answer that ?

One of the things I remember was
we were in the room working.

Bruce is typing away
on his little computer.

It's a portable computer
he takes everywhere with him.

He's chewing
on a straw, typing.

I said, "what are you typing ?"
he said, "I'll be there
in a minute."

He's typing away. He's looking
at the screen, and he's typing.

I said, "Bruce,
show me the computer."
He turns the computer around.

He was not only typing, but
he was looking at a porno flick
at the same time.

I said, "anybody that can do
all of that at the same time
and still write funny,

you're with me, kid."

I had once taken him to
a psychiatrist for evaluation.

She said, "all creative people...

Have certain idiosyncrasies."

I could, but I won't describe
his vast collection of t-shirts.

From the baywatchcollection.
Baby got back.

This is from
the Heidi fleiss collection.

You, of course,
know Heidi fleiss,
Charlie sheen's houseguest.

Can you lower it so
I can see queer a little ?

Open it up. Perfect.
That's beautiful.

Three walls out of four,
from floor to ceiling,
are loaded with t-shirts.

I think my personal
favorite is...

"You're standing on my penis."

Everyone will be in
a tuxedo, and he'll have
on a sequin dinner jacket...

And a big t-shirt that says,
you know, "Reagan sucks."

Something. I don't know.

He has certain
peculiarities, you know.

I don't want you
to think at this interview
that he's perfect.

Only I think he's perfect.

When I first met Bruce,
I'm tellin' you,
this guy was cranky.

He was tough to deal with. If you said to him, "Bruce, I don't like that gag,"

he would get really defensive.

He would just give you
all kinds of hard time.

I used to say, "I don't know
if I ought to call this guy.
He's draggin' me down."

But I worked with him and worked with him, and things changed for Bruce,

because I think the fact
that he was so loved...

he became eventually so loved.

He's always been
a pillar for the community,
for the gay community.

Always been
a wonderful role model.

And for Jews, really
more of an embarrassment,
I gotta say that.

Different communities,
different reactions.

He's not bitchy or campy...

I mean, he has those elements,
but he is...

and he's also
an incredibly generous
and sweet person as well.

Bruce vilanch does more
charities than anybody I know.

I think the most significant
contribution he makes
is that he brings humor.

He brings love.
He brings spirit to our shows.

We can't do
a show in Los Angeles
without Bruce vilanch.

No one can do a show without Bruce vilanch.

H-He lost so many friends.
He saw so many people
dying around him.

I said to him, "Bruce, y-y-you're not the same person.

Y-Y-You've changed."

He told me that that's
what had happened to him.

[ Clears throat ]

I always say this,
but it's true.

I find myself breaking down for
no reason, like an old buick.

[ Audience laughs, applauds ]

[ Applause continues ]

[ Clears throat ]
I guess it's because
I've just lost so many people,

and I start talking
about them...

I'm somebody
who uses humor to get through
the day and to get through life.

I'm using it to get
through this plague.

It's the only way we can keep living and realizing that there is something to keep living for.

So I grab at it, and
I'm lucky I have a knack for it,

because it served me very well
during the plague years.

And it's what I do.

If i... if I looked
like Elle MacPherson,
I would do something else.

And, in closing, I would like
to thank all of you...

if I can say it without
completely breaking down...

please forgive me
for this self-indulgence.

But it's rare that
I get to express myself.

I write comedy, you know.
I write jokes.

And people die every day.

And I'm there,
and I write jokes.

So it's very tough
sometimes...

To let it out.

It's embarrassing
to have a catharsis
in front of all of you,

but it never hurt
Judy garland, so...

[ audience laughing,
applauding ]

♪ If they asked me
I could write a book ♪

♪ about the way
you walk and whisper ♪

♪ and look

♪ I could write a preface

♪ on how we met

♪ so the world
would never ♪

♪ forget ♪

I love you, Bruce.

After he wrote for you, then he got a reputation...

that's your last line, Andy.
You know when to cut.

Okay. [ Laughing ]

Cut.

♪ Doo, doo, doo doom-ba-doom ♪

♪ what do you do when you need a good line ♪

♪ you're under the gun and you want to shine ♪

♪ you're afraid that your act will fall flat ♪

♪ unless somebody gives it some juice ♪

♪ ooh, gives it some juice

- ♪ what do you do - ♪ what

♪ you get Bruce

♪ get Bruce go get some Bruce, yeah ♪

[ Woman ] Vilanch. Bruce vilanch. All right, Bruce.

If you indulge, Bruce, in the sport of kings, what do you enjoy ?

Queens.

- Makes perfect sense to me.
- What a question.

♪ What do you do when the cameras are live ♪

♪ you wonder just how you're gonna survive ♪

♪ they call you the host with the most ♪

♪ but their laughter is hard to induce ♪

♪ ooh, hard to induce

-♪ what in the world do you do -♪ what

- ♪ you get Bruce - ♪ get Bruce send out for Bruce ♪

If you're not a character...
if you don't have some kind
of ridiculousness about you...

Really.that you don't take
too seriously...

you wind up republican.Yeah, true.

♪ When your patter's kind of paltry ♪

♪ and you need to goose it up

♪ everybody knows their buddy Bruce will spruce it up ♪

♪ if your chatter's kind of cheesy ♪

♪ and you crave something substanch ♪

♪ baby, get yourself to villa vilanch ♪

- I didn't get the name.
- To be truthful,
Tony Bennett couldn't make it.

♪ Oh, what do you do when the script is a bore ♪

♪ and scene after scene hits the cutting room floor ♪

♪ your producer won't answer your call ♪

♪ and your agent has got an excuse ♪

♪ to call you right back

♪ how in the world are you gonna get out of this mess ♪

- ♪ one guess - ♪ get Bruce

♪ get Bruce dig up some Bruce ♪

If you notice, he's
always chewing on a straw.

These are special comedy straws
he has manufactured.

There's comedy juice within
them, and he will eat it.

Bruce can really suck
the comedy out of anything,

and I don't mean that
in a dirty way.

I know what you're thinking,
but, oh, no.

♪ Bruce has got his own mystique ♪

♪ muppet hair and t-shirt chic ♪

- Don't fuck with me, fellas.
- Yeah !

♪ Dorothy Parker's optic clone ♪

- Whoo !
- ♪ talullah with testosterone

I'm asking Margaret for
fashion advice. I know this is
about Bruce, but what about me ?

♪ Bruce, Bruce-y, Bruce-y buddy, Bruce-y baby ♪

♪ Bruce, Bruce, Bruce-y, Bruce-y Bruce-y buddy, Bruce-y baby ♪

♪ Billy, whoopi Robin and Bette ♪

♪ they will be forever in his debt ♪

♪ the oscars, emmys, Tonys he gives 'em their punch ♪

♪ then there's Donny and Marie and the Brady bunch ♪

♪ roseanne and Michael feinstein he's been their
laugh advisor ♪

♪ he's worked with Nathan Lane and he's mad
about Paul Reiser ♪

♪ from abba to zadora he's had their attention ♪

♪ and a plethora of talent too numerous to mention ♪

-♪ what do you do -♪ oh, tell US, what do you do

♪ when you need a good line

♪ when you need a good line ♪

- ♪ you're under the gun - ♪ when you're under the gun

♪ and you want to shine

♪ a-and you want to shine

♪ maybe before I vamoose

♪ better listen good to your chanteuse ♪

♪ to your chanteuse

- ♪ don't be obtuse - ♪ don't be obtuse

- ♪ get Bruce - ♪ get Bruce, get Bruce

this is about you.
Finish it.Oh, sorry.

♪ Get Bruce, get Bruce

- can I just hug him ?
- ♪ get Bruce

- I think we've nailed it. Bye.
- ♪ get Bruce

I slept my way to the middle.
How did that happen ?

- That's showbiz.
- ♪ baby

- ♪ yeah, yeah - ♪ get Bruce, get Bruce

♪ get Bruce, get Bruce ♪

♪♪ [ humming ]

Of course,
his real name is al yeklic.
I don't know if you knew that.

[ Ann-Margret ] Bye-bye, Bruce-y.