Bruce Vilanch

Writer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

Tab

About
About this interview

In his three-hour Archive interview, Bruce Vilanch talks about growing up in N.J. and realizing early on in life that he could make people laugh. He discusses attending Ohio State University and majoring in journalism and theater. He details his long-term professional relationship with Bette Midler, who helped him start his writing career, and speaks of the many people and shows for which he's written over the years: Sonny and Cher, Paul Lynde, The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, Donny and Marie, The Star Wars Holiday Special, The Barry Manilow Special, The Dolly Parton Show, The Miss U.S.A Pageant, Burt Reynolds: Conversations with Hollywood, The Gala for the Presi dent (for Presidents Bush and Clinton),The Sesame Street All Star 25, Comic Relief, and his many appearances on The Hollywood Squares. He describes his long tenure as head writer of The Academy Awards, and outlines the particulars of writing for a live show, the challenges of remaining topical, and the art of selecting hosts. Vilanch explains the different kinds of writing needed for various awards shows, and recounts how he helped to set up the Screen Actors Guild Awards. He talks about the difference between writing for variety shows and for award shows, and describes how he tailors his writing for various show formats. He also speaks about being openly gay and how that has affected his career. Steven Wishnoff conducted the interview in North Hollywood, CA on June 22, 2011.

"When you perform, you get a real, physical adrenaline rush that's quite fabulous. You don't get that when you're writing. You can get into what I call the 'alpha state' which is so involving that you forget about everything else. But it's a very private thing. But I suppose if I had to make a choice I'd rather be performing because it's more immediate. It's lonely being a writer. Even when you're in a room full of writers. You know at some point you actually have to sit down and come up with the stuff yourself."

Highlights
Bruce Vilanch on the fear of having a host "bomb" on a live awards show
Bruce Vilanch on his writing process for the Academy Awards show
Bruce Vilanch on being funny
Bruce Vilanch on his signature "T-shirt" look
Bruce Vilanch on Bette Midler's farewell to Johnny Carson
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early childhood, family, and education
On his first job working as a writer for Bette Midler; on moving to Los Angeles and writing for variety shows; 

Chapter 2

On working with Bea Arthur on The Star Wars Holiday Special;
On writing for TV specials; on working with Barry Manilow, Bette Midler, Dustin Hoffman and Cher
On writing for The Hollywood Squares; The Miss U.S.A pageant; on different kinds of comedy writing; on Sesame Street and the Oscars; 
On writing for the very first Academy Awards show in 1989

Chapter 3

On the difference between working with actors and performers; on writing for Awards shows; on his writing process; on how the Awards shows have evolved
On the difference between writing for the Emmys and the Oscars; on the SAG awards; on Comic Relief
On appearing on The Hollywood Squares
On the genre of "reality television"; on his own signature look; on writing versus performing in public
Shows

Academy Awards, The

View Show Page
Bruce Vilanch on writing for the first Academy Awards show in 1989
Bruce Vilanch on the challenges of staying topical when writing for the Oscars
Bruce Vilanch on his writing process for the Academy Awards show
Bruce Vilanch on the Oscars as the "superbowl of women"; on becoming head writer of the awards show
Bruce Vilanch on staying topical with his writing for the Academy Awards shows
Bruce Vilanch on the difference between writing for the Emmys and the Oscars

Barry Manilow Specials

View Show Page
Bruce Vilanch on writing for The Barry Manilow Special with guest stars Bette Midler and Dustin Hoffman

Brady Bunch Hour, The

View Show Page
Bruce Vilanch on working with Florence Henderson on The Brady Bunch Variety Hour
14:10

Celebrity Fit Club

View Show Page
Bruce Vilanch on appearing on Celebrity Fit Club; on reality television

Donny & Marie

View Show Page
Bruce Vilanch on writing for Donny & Marie
07:20

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

View Show Page
Bruce Vilanch on how the events of 9/11 affected the Emmy Awards in 2001
Bruce Vilanch on the difference between writing for the Emmys and the Oscars

Hollywood Squares, The

View Show Page
Bruce Vilanch on writing for The Hollywood Squares; on writing for that show versus a pagaent shw
Bruce Vilanch on appearing on Hollywood Squares after having written for the show in the past

Saturday Night Live

View Show Page
Bruce Vilanch on why he turned down the opportunity to write for Saturday Night Live

Star Wars Holiday Special, The

View Show Page
Bruce Vilanch on writing for The Star Wars Holiday Special with Bea Arthur, Harvey Korman
Topics

9/11

View Topic
Bruce Vilanch on how the events of 9/11 affected the Emmy Awards in 2001

Fame and Celebrity

View Topic
Bruce Vilanch on creating the SAG awards

We Celebrated

View Topic
Bruce Vilanch on Bette Midler's farewell to Johnny Carson
Professions

Writers

View Profession
Bruce Vilanch on staying topical with his writing for the Academy Awards shows
Bruce Vilanch on honing his comedic talents in writing; on advice to aspiring writers
Genres

Awards Shows

View Genre
Bruce Vilanch on unexpected events at the live awards shows; when Michael Moore gave an anti-war speech at the Oscars
Bruce Vilanch on the fear of having a host "bomb" on a live awards show

Reality TV

View Genre
Bruce Vilance on the "unreal"ity of reality television; "it's all staged"
People

Beatrice Arthur

View Interview Page
Bruce Vilanch on writing for Bea Arthur on The Star Wars Special

Johnny Carson

View Person Page
Bruce Vilanch on writing "Johnny Carson's Farewell" on The Tonight Show with Bette Midler

Cher

View Person Page
Bruce Vilanch on working with Cher

Billy Crystal

View Person Page
Bruce Vilanch on writing for the Academy Awards with Billy Crystal as host

Whoopi Goldberg

View Person Page
Bruce Vilanch on writing for Whoopi Goldberg's appearance on the Oscars

Dustin Hoffman

View Person Page
Bruce Vilanch on working with Dustin Hoffman when he was a guest on the Barry Manilow Special, replacing Laurence Olivier

Paul Lynde

View Person Page
Bruce Vilanch on writing for Paul Lynde on The Paul Lynde Halloween Special

Barry Manilow

View Person Page
Bruce Vilanch on writing for The Barry Manilow Special

Bette Midler

View Person Page
Bruce Vilanch on how he came to meet and writer for Bette Midler
Bruce Vilanch on writing "Johnny Carson's Farewell" on The Tonight Show with Bette Midler

Michael Moore

View Person Page
Bruce Vilanch on unexpected events at the live awards shows; when Michael Moore gave an anti-war speech at the Oscars

Dolly Parton

View Person Page
Bruce Vilanch on writing for Dolly Parton

Burt Reynolds

View Person Page
Bruce Vilance on working with Burt Reynolds on Burt Reynolds: Conversations with Hollywood

All Interviews

Q
S