Robert Wuhl began his career in stand-up comedy. His acting roles in films have included Tim Burton’s Batman, Bull Durham, Cobb, Mistress and Good Morning Vietnam. From 1996-2002 he wrote and starred in the HBO series Arli$$ as the title character, an agent for high-profile athletes. He won two Emmy Awards for co-writing the Academy Awards in 1990 and 1991. He starred on HBO in a one-man show Assume the Position with Mr. Wuhl.
Now Robert's new show HIT-LIT, a mistaken-identity screwball comedy, will play Queens Theatre from March 7-17. It tells the story of Phoebe Saint-Anne, an ambitious young editor who is searching for the next best seller. Click here for tickets!
1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer/writer? Adam, I really don't know what else I wouldn've done. But, among those who inspired me were Woody Allen, Neil Simon, Kaufmann and Hart, Paddy Cheyevsky, Cary Grat, Myrna Loy, Carole Lombard, William Powell, and Preston Sturgess.
2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Besides the above, I'd like to work with anyone who's willing to put their ass on the line for what they truly believe in. The Cohn Bros., Theresa Reback, David Mamet, Jason Reitman, and Alexander Payne.
3. What made you want to write HIT-LIT? HIT-LIT actually started out as a film script, but the feedback I got from the studios was that it was "too smart" for the demographics. One film exec actually said he was passing on it because it reminded him of Tootsie in style. When I asked what was wrong with that, he replied, Tootsie would have a hard time getting made today. I wrote it because I wanted to do a better romantic screwball than I was seeing.
4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? A big smile on their faces and a feeling of "that was a fun night of theater."
5. What excites you about having HIT-LIT as Queens Theatre first Mainstage Production of 2013? What does Queens Theatre offer your show that another venue might not? Ray Cullom, Executive Director of Queens Theatre, read a draft of Hit-Lit and within minutes said he would do a reading of it, and within two weeks he had it on his main stage. Among the actors in that reading were Richard Kind and Tracee Chimo. Afterwards, Ray offered to put it on his season. That kind of support and belief was overwhelming.
6. What is your favorite part of the creative process in writing a show? The organic nature of watching a comdy evolve and finding both truth and humor.
6a. Where is your favorite place to write? In my home listening to baseball.
7. You wrote and starred in HBO's hit series Arli$$. Looking back, what did you enjoy most about this time in your life? The fact that I could think of a topic to explore, whether it be steriods, homophobia in sports, domestic abuse, fallen idols, fantasy baseball, whatever, and within two months that story would be on the air. I fondly remember being at a party when Fran Leibowitz came up to me (in her chain-smoking melodious tone) and said, "I hate sports, but I love your show!" That's because Arli$$ wasn't about sports; it was about CHARACTERS in the world of sports -- and that's totally different. Most sports stories are all about "the big game." We never had a big game, we had stories about not only the athletes, but about the people who sold peanuts in the venues, the woman who choreographed the cheerlearders. The college athletic directors on the take, the female golfer who was fighting alchoholism, etc. Much more interesting to me than just the jocks.
8. You also won two Emmy Awards for co-writing the Academy Awards in 1990 and 1991. What did this honor meant to you? It was fun and working those years with Billy Crystal was terrific. Unlike today where you'll see a dozen or more writers on the show, it was originally just me and Billy. And then the great Bruce Villanch joined us. And don't underestimate the contribution of Marc Shaiman for the "medleys."
9. What made you want to transition from stand-up comedy to acting to writing? Actually, I was a writer first, then started doing stand-up as way to show off my writing skills. I had a strong drama and acting background from my years at the University of Houston. Among my classmates were Dennis Quaid, and my dorm roommate (believe it or not) was Julian Schnabel.
10. What have you learned about yourself from your career? That anything is possible.
11. What's the best advice you've ever received? What makes the unskilled eye laugh makes the skilled eye cry.
12. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? The power of making Donald Trump and Ann Coulter shut up.