Bruce Vilanch

Writer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his three-hour interview, Bruce Vilanch talks about growing up in New Jersey 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 & Marie, The Star Wars Holiday Special, The Barry Manilow Special, Dolly, The Miss U.S.A Pageant, Burt Reynolds: Conversations With, The Gala for the President (for Presidents Bush and Clinton), The Sesame Street All Star 25, Comic Relief, and his many appearances on 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 on June 22, 2011 in North Hollywood, CA. 

"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. 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."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Bruce Vilanch on when he realized he was funny
Bruce Vilanch on working with Florence Henderson on The Brady Bunch Hour
Bruce Vilanch on writing for Cher and The Sonny Comedy Review
Bruce Vilanch on writing for Donny & Marie
Bruce Vilanch on writing for The Star Wars Holiday Special which featured Beatrice Arthur
Bruce Vilanch on helping Bette Midler with her farewell appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early childhood, family, and education; on television he watched growing up; on when he realized he was funny and on his first professional writing jobs
On writing jokes for Bette Midler's act; on coming to Los Angeles and on early television writing jobs; on appearing in the feature film "Mahogany"
On writing for The Paul Lynde Show; on working with Florence Henderson on The Brady Bunch Hour; on working for Sid and Marty Krofft on The Brady Bunch Hour
On writing for Donny & Marie; on writing for The Star Wars Holiday Special

Chapter 2

On writing for The Star Wars Holiday Special; on writing for the special Bette Midler: Ol' Red Hair Is Back in which Dustin Hoffman appeared
On writing for Dolly; on writing for Cher and The Sonny Comedy Review; on writing for An Evening with Friends of the Environment, Miss USA, and Burt Reynolds' Conversation With
On writing for the Academy Awards in 1989, produced by Alan Carr, with Snow White and Rob Lowe; on the challenges of writing for the Academy Awards; on writing jokes for the Academy Awards on the fly, and on Billy Crystal's Jack Palance jokes -- for which they won an Emmy award
On writing for the very first Academy Awards show in 1989; on where he is physically during the Academy Awards telecast; on the various Academy Awards hosts during his time as a writer, and on what the hosts hope to accomplish

Chapter 3

On writing for actors on the Academy Awards; on James Franco and Anne Hathaway hosting the Academy Awards and on writing for the presenters; on his writing process for the Academy Awards show
On how the events of 9/11 affected the Emmy Awards in 2001 and the Academy Awards in 2002; on the challenges of keeping the Academy Awards telecast interesting each year; on becoming head writer for the Academy Awards and on divvying up the writing
On the involvement of the Academy in the Academy Awards telecast and on serving the producers; on staying topical with his writing for the Academy Awards shows; on the difference between writing for the Emmy Awards and the Academy Awards
On helping to create the SAG Awards; on doing charity work; on how things have changed for gay people on television since he started; on helping Bette Midler with her farewell appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
On appearing on Hollywood Squares; on the documentary "Get Bruce"; on appearing on Celebrity Fit Club
On enjoying writing and acting; on his signature T-shirt look; on the fan mail he gets
On writing jokes; on advice to aspiring writers
Shows

Academy Awards, The

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for the Academy Awards in 1989 produced by Alan Carr with Snow White and Rob Lowe
Bruce Vilanch on the challenges of writing for the Academy Awards
Bruce Vilanch on writing jokes for the Academy Awards on the fly, and on Billy Crystal's Jack Palance jokes -- for which they won an Emmy
Bruce Vilanch on bringing politics and current events into the Academy Awards
Bruce Vilanch on where he is physically during the Academy Awards telecast
Bruce Vilanch on the various Academy Awards hosts during his time as a writer, and on what the hosts hope to accomplish
Bruce Vilanch on his writing process for the Academy Awards show
Bruce Vilanch on the challenges of keeping the Academy Awards telecast interesting each year
Bruce Vilanch on staying topical with his writing for Academy Awards shows
Bruce Vilanch on the difference between writing for the Emmy Awards and the Academy Awards
Bruce Vilanch on writing for actors on the Academy Awards
Bruce Vilanch on James Franco and Anne Hathaway hosting the Academy Awards and on writing for the presenters
Bruce Vilanch on becoming head writer for the Academy Awards and on divvying up the writing
Bruce Vilanch on the involvement of the Academy in the Academy Awards telecast and on serving the producers

Barry Manilow Specials

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for The Barry Manilow Special, and on Manilow's initial reluctance to be out in front

Bette Midler: Ol' Red Hair Is Back

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for the special Bette Midler: Ol' Red Hair Is Back in which Dustin Hoffman appeared

Brady Bunch Hour, The

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Bruce Vilanch on working with Florence Henderson on The Brady Bunch Hour
Bruce Vilanch on "fake Jan" on The Brady Bunch Hour
Bruce Vilanch on working for Sid and Marty Krofft on The Brady Bunch Hour

Burt Reynolds' Conversation With

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for Burt Reynolds' Conversation With

Celebrity Fit Club

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Bruce Vilanch on appearing on Celebrity Fit Club

Cher

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for Cher and The Sonny Comedy Review

Dolly

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for Dolly

Donny & Marie

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for Donny & Marie

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

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Bruce Vilanch on writing jokes for the Academy Awards on the fly, and on Billy Crystal's Jack Palance jokes, for which they won an Emmy
Bruce Vilanch on how the events of 9/11 impacted the Emmy Awards in 2001 and the Academy Awards in 2002
Bruce Vilanch on the difference between writing for the Emmy Awards and the Academy Awards

Evening with Friends of the Environment, An

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for An Evening with Friends of the Environment

Hollywood Squares, The

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Bruce Vilanch on appearing on Hollywood Squares

Miss USA

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for Miss USA

Paul Lynde Show, The

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for The Paul Lynde Show

Screen Actors Guild Awards

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Bruce Vilanch on helping to create the Screen Actors Guild Awards

Sesame Street

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for Sesame Street specials and the Muppets

Sonny Comedy Review, The

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for Cher and The Sonny Comedy Review

Star Wars Holiday Special, The

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for The Star Wars Holiday Special, executive produced by George Lucas
Bruce Vilanch on writing for The Star Wars Holiday Special which featured Beatrice Arthur
Bruce Vilanch on public reaction to The Star Wars Holiday Special and on George Lucas' attempt to suppress it after it aired

Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The

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Bruce Vilanch on helping Bette Midler with her farewell appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Topics

9/11

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Bruce Vilanch on how the events of 9/11 affected the Emmy Awards in 2001 and the Academy Awards in 2002

Diversity in Television

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Bruce Vilanch on his experiences as an openly gay man in Hollywood and how he approached being open about his identity throughout his career

Emmy Awards

View Topic
Bruce Vilanch on writing jokes for the Academy Awards on the fly, and on Billy Crystal's Jack Palance jokes -- for which they won an Emmy
Bruce Vilanch on how the events of 9/11 affected the Emmy Awards in 2001 and the Academy Awards in 2002
Bruce Vilanch on the difference between writing for the Emmy Awards and the Academy Awards

Fame and Celebrity

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Bruce Vilanch on the fan mail he gets

First Big Break

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Bruce Vilanch on his first job, writing for Bette Midler

George H.W. Bush

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for A Gala for the President when George H.W. Bush was president, and on writing differently for different kinds of shows

Historic Events and Social Change

View Topic
Bruce Vilanch on his experiences as an openly gay man in Hollywood and how he approached being open about his identity throughout his career
Bruce Vilanch on how the events of 9/11 affected the Emmy Awards in 2001 and the Academy Awards in 2002

LGBTQ

View Topic
Bruce Vilanch on his experiences as an openly gay man in Hollywood and how he approached being open about his identity throughout his career

Memorable Moments on Television

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Bruce Vilanch on writing jokes for the Academy Awards on the fly, and on Billy Crystal's Jack Palance jokes f-- or which they won an Emmy

Pivotal Career Moments

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Bruce Vilanch on his first job, writing for Bette Midler

Pop Culture

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Bruce Vilanch on the fan mail he gets

Television and the Presidency

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for A Gala for the President when George H.W. Bush was president, and on writing differently for different kinds of shows

We Laughed

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Bruce Vilanch on writing jokes for the Academy Awards on the fly, and on Billy Crystal's Jack Palance jokes f-- or which they won an Emmy
Professions

Writers

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Bruce Vilanch on enjoying writing and acting
Bruce Vilanch on writing jokes
Bruce Vilanch on advice to aspiring writers
Genres

Awards Shows

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for the Academy Awards
Bruce Vilanch on writing for the Academy Awards

Children's Programming

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for Sesame Street specials and the Muppets

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

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Bruce Vilanch on working with Florence Henderson on The Brady Bunch Hour
Bruce Vilanch on writing for Donny & Marie
Bruce Vilanch on writing for The Paul Lynde Show
Bruce Vilanch on writing for The Star Wars Holiday Special
Bruce Vilanch on writing for The Star Wars Holiday Special which featured Beatrice Arthur and Harvey Korman
Bruce Vilanch on writing for The Barry Manilow Special and for Bette Midler: Ol' Red Hair Is Back
Bruce Vilanch on writing for Dolly
Bruce Vilanch on writing for Cher and The Sonny Comedy Review

Reality TV

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Bruce Vilanch on appearing on Celebrity Fit Club

Talk Shows

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for Burt Reynolds' Conversation With
Bruce Vilanch on helping Bette Midler with her farewell appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
People

Beatrice Arthur

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for The Star Wars Holiday Special which featured Beatrice Arthur

Sonny Bono

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for Cher and The Sonny Comedy Review

Johnny Carson

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Bruce Vilanch on helping Bette Midler with her farewell appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

Cher

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for Cher and The Sonny Comedy Review

Billy Crystal

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Bruce Vilanch on writing jokes for the Academy Awards on the fly, and on Billy Crystal's Jack Palance jokes -- for which they won an Emmy

Florence Henderson

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Bruce Vilanch on working with Florence Henderson on The Brady Bunch Hour

Dustin Hoffman

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for the special Bette Midler: Ol' Red Hair Is Back in which Dustin Hoffman appeared

Sid Krofft

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Bruce Vilanch on working for Sid and Marty Krofft on The Brady Bunch Hour

Marty Krofft

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Bruce Vilanch on working for Sid and Marty Krofft on The Brady Bunch Hour

Rob Lowe

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for the Academy Awards in 1989, produced by Alan Carr, with Snow White and Rob Lowe

George Lucas

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for The Star Wars Holiday Special executive produced by George Lucas
Bruce Vilanch on public reaction to The Star Wars Holiday Special and on George Lucas' attempt to suppress it after it aired

Paul Lynde

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for The Paul Lynde Show

Barry Manilow

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for The Barry Manilow Special, and on Manilow's initial reluctance to be out in front

Bette Midler

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Bruce Vilanch on his first job, writing for Bette Midler
Bruce Vilanch on his collaborative process working with Bette Midler
Bruce Vilanch on writing for the special Bette Midler: Ol' Red Hair Is Back in which Dustin Hoffman appeared
Bruce Vilanch on helping Bette Midler with her farewell appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

Marie Osmond

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for Donny & Marie (Donny Osmond, Marie Osmond)

Donny Osmond

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for Donny & Marie (Donny Osmond, Marie Osmond)

Jack Palance

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Bruce Vilanch on writing jokes for the Academy Awards on the fly, and on Billy Crystal's Jack Palance jokes -- for which they won an Emmy

Dolly Parton

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for Dolly (Dolly Parton)

Burt Reynolds

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Bruce Vilanch on writing for Burt Reynolds' Conversation With

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