One of the most sought-after jokesmiths in the entertainment industry, Bruce Vilanch has become a recognizable face in his own right, thanks to the feature-length documentary "Get Bruce!" (1999) and his stint as a regular on "Hollywood Squares" (1998-2004), for which he also serves as head writer. Known for his eclectic eyewear and collection of unique T-shirts, he began as a child model for Lane Bryant, but when his initial efforts as an actor came to naught, he became an entertainment writer for the Chicago Tribune instead. Impressed by his review of her cabaret performance in 1970, Bette Midler hired him to punch up her act, and he later moved to Los Angeles where he wrote for variety shows like the original "Donny and Marie" and "The Brady Bunch Hour" (both ABC) and provided material for Richard Pryor, Lily Tomlin and Joan Rivers. He has maintained his connection with Midler through the years, working on such projects as the feature "Divine Madness" (1980) and the TV special "Bette Midler--Diva Las Vegas" (HBO, 1997), as well as writing for her sitcom "Bette!" (CBS, 2000-01).
Vilanch began contributing to Academy Awards telecasts in 1989, collaborating with the likes of Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg and David Letterman, and graduated to head writer in 2000. The Whoopi connection led to his providing the notorious material Ted Danson performed in blackface at a certain 1993 Friars Club roast of his then-girlfriend Goldberg, but his resume also includes "You Made Me Watch You," the touching Emmy-winning valedictory Midler crooned as a send-off to Johnny Carson. He made his feature debut as a dress manufacturer in "Mahogany' (1975), starring Diana Ross (to whose act he also contributed), and put his Muppet-like persona to excellent use as Santa's number one helper in the syndicated TV-movie "It Nearly Wasn't Christmas" (1989). On the heels of "Get Bruce!," Vilanch performed his comedy stylings Off-Broadway in "Bruce Vilanch: Almost Famous" (2000). After a first act reminiscing on his odd path to almost famousness, he opened up the floor to questions in Act II, displaying his amazing ability for off-the-cuff one-liners. As he told US WEEKLY (June 12, 2000), there is a downside to celebrity: "Now, I get knocked if someone tries something that doesn't work. Before it was the fault of these anonymous people, 'the writers.'"
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Impressed by review of her cabaret performance, Bette Midler hired him to punch up her act; Vilanch introduced her to work of entertainer Sophie Tucker, a mainstay of her act
Feature debut as a dress designer in Berry Gordy's "Mahogany", starring Diana Ross
Moved to L.A. to write for the short-lived "The Manhattan Transfer" (CBS) variety show; later wrote for variety shows like the original "Donny and Marie" and "The Brady Bunch Hour" (both ABC)
Helped write the Broadway flop "Platinum"
Co-wrote screenplay for "Divine Madness", starring Midler as the Divine Miss M
Portrayed Philpot, Santa's number one helper, in syndicated TV-movie "It Nearly Wasn't Christmas"
First time as writer for the Academy Awards; earned a shared Emmy (2009, 2010) nomination for Outstanding Writing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Special
Reteamed with Midler on "An Evening With Bette, Cher, Goldie, Meryl, Olivia, Lily and Robin" (ABC)
Provided the material that Ted Danson performed in blackface for the notorious Friars Club roast of then-girlfriend Whoopi Goldberg
Reunited with Midler for "Bette Midler--Diva Las Vegas" (HBO)
Was regular on the sydicated "Hollywood Squares", sitting in close proximity to Goldberg in her center square; also served as head writer
Wrote Nathan Lane's "coming out" story for <i>The Advocate</i>
Subject of feature-length documentary "Get Bruce!"
Penned music and lyrics for the comedy song "My Bill Gates" for "The 14th Annual American Comedy Awards"; garnered Emmy nomination
Starred Off-Broadway in "Bruce Vilanch: Almost Famous", a one-man cabaret-style show in which he sang and told stories about working behind the scenes in Hollywood
First time as head writer for the Academy Awards
Wrote for Midler's sitcom "Bette!" (CBS)
Headlined one-man show "Bruce! A Month of Mondays" in Beverly Hills, California