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'Celebrity books, reworked'

Last modified: 10/21/2010 12:00:00 AM
One of the deliciously inane passages Rachel Dratch gets to read for Celebrity Autobiography is Joan Lunden's minute-by-minute exposition of how she gets ready in the morning. The banal excerpt seems custom-made for the New England-bred comic, whose bug-eyed, pursed-lipped antics made her a favorite on Saturday Night Live for seven seasons.

But watch closely this weekend when Dratch reads the part about Lunden oiling her door hinges so as not to wake her family. You may catch a hint of that signature smirk - you know, that one that turned her Debbie Downer at Disney sketch into a giggle fest on one memorable episode of SNL. That's because nowadays, Dratch knows the joke's on her.

After reading the line dozens of times to big laughs at the Triad Theatre in New York, Dratch gave birth to son Eli seven weeks ago. And what did she recently find herself doing in an effort to preserve her son's slumber? Yup, oiling the door hinges.

'It was comic karma, I guess,' Dratch said in a telephone interview peppered with squawks from the 'little creature' who's given her a new appreciation for WD-40.

Motherhood also seemingly drained the comic of some her sharp wit. 'I've got new mommy brain,' she said in apology for losing track

of questions and offering few of the laugh lines you'd expect from someone in the business (not that anyone who gets an interview with Dratch is complaining).

For that reason, Celebrity Autobiography, which comes to the Capitol Center for the Arts on Saturday, has new appeal for Dratch, whose comic range on Saturday Night Live ran from Elizabeth Taylor impersonations to zany characters of her own invention, such as the Boston teen Zazu, who liked to lock lips with Jimmy Fallon's Sully. In contrast to other stuff she's done, 'it's pretty easy work,' she said. 'You just show up and the material's right in front of you.'

The simplicity of the show is also part of its genius. Dratch and other comics - along with a rotating cast of guest stars - poke fun of former and current celebrities simply by reading directly from their memoirs in all their earnest, often self-important, minutiae. 'It's best when you just read them kind of straight,' said Dratch, who also reads excerpts from Vanna White's autobiography and a book by Burt Reynolds's secretary. 'Most of the stuff is funny on its own.'

Created by veteran writer-performer Eugene Pack and Dayle Reyfel, the show has been running for three sold-out years at the Off-Broadway Triad Theatre in New York and recently went on the road. Along with wisdom from the former queen of morning television, audiences can get love advice from Tommy Lee, listen to Suzanne Somers's poetry and find out what musician Neil Sedaka eats from the time he wakes up until he goes to bed.

Like Saturday Night Live, Celebrity Autobiography is all in good fun. Dratch knows of at least one featured celebrity - George Takei of Star Trek - who attended a show and thought it was a blast.

'It's not a mean-spirited show,' Dratch said. 'But let's face it, if you're going to list everything you eat in a day, prepare to be mocked.'

When she's not sleep-deprived and juggling a fussy infant, Dratch comes by that brand of gentle mockery easily. Growing up near Boston, she hung out with a group of girls who became known as jokesters. She attended Dartmouth College, where she performed with the improv group Said and Done, and acted with the North Country Center for the Arts' summer theater troupe in 1987. While doing improv in Chicago, Dratch was spotted by the producers of Saturday Night Live and eventually got a part on the show.

'I totally miss it,' said Dratch, who, since leaving the show in 2006, has made guest appearances on 30 Rock with former castmate Tina Fey and appeared in several films. 'It's a lot of pressure, but the people were great, and doing a live show was fun.'

Celebrity Autobiography has partially filled the void. 'I think it's fun for people to see us in person,' she said. 'Usually it gets huge laughs . . . it's just kind of mindless fun.'

(Celebrity Autobiography comes to the Capitol Center for the Arts on Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 to $45 and can be purchased at 225-1111 or ccanh.com.)


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