Reporting Sara Pelissero
For one night only, a Minneapolis stage will be full of well-known celebrities — acting out the real-life memoirs of other celebrities.
The result? Utter hilarity. Just ask ‘Ugly Betty’ star Michael Urie.
Urie describes the international smash hit, “Celebrity Autobiography” as a show that truly fills a room with laughter. Urie, who is best known for his outlandish character Marc St. James, said the show is basically a collection of true celebrity autobiographies (the creators read through hundreds to find the best) that are taken out of context and acted out verbatim.
“It’s a hilarious concept,” he said. “But it’s not necessarily humor books. It’s books written by celebrities who have written things that you just can’t believe they thought we’d be interested in, like dieting habits or sexual exploits or bizarre showbiz stories … or horrible grammar and syntax.”
In his first show, Urie was joined by fellow castmates, Rachel Dratch, Kristin Wiig and Richard Kind, to name a few. With a cast like that, it was no surprise, Urie got hooked.
“It was a really cool cast. It was a really good opportunity to see it done before I jumped in head first,” he said. “I was really able to learn a lot from the other folks. So then I ended up doing the New York show whenever I could and it just sort of picked up. I had a lot of fun doing it.”
The show’s goal isn’t about being rude or making (that much) fun of the celebrities, Urie said, but more so taking certain bits they wrote, putting them into a new realm and running with it.
“If you were to go and read the book, it might not be as funny as it is when you take it out of context and read it aloud in front of an audience,” he said. “It’s become a bit of an art form. They’ve created these pieces from these different autobiographies and they’ve cut them down and spliced them together.”
It’s a much different world than what Urie had been used to during his days at the fashion hub of Mode magazine, where he played a flamboyant, highly opinionated and often scheming character.
Urie said he drew inspiration for his Marc St. James character through an unlikely source — Shakespeare.
“When I got the job, I had been doing a lot of Shakespeare, so when I first started working on it, I thought of both Wilhelmina (Vanessa Williams) and Marc as Shakespearean villains and also, Shakespearean clowns,” he said. “So that’s where I started and that’s how I got into it.”
However, that Shakespearean influence luckily, or perhaps not, didn’t exactly translate to the wardrobe of Mr. St. James — the overly colorful and always fashion forward assistant. Urie said when it came to St. James’ wardrobe, he would occasionally get last edit, but not always.
“We were often told to tone it down, or specifically, we were told once, ‘No more hats,’” he said, with a laugh. “But I had input — I didn’t have much experience in fashion but I was often schooled. I would just be amazed when I saw colors coming towards me and would be told to put them together and I thought, ‘This will never work,’ but it did.”
While Urie said he loved his time on “Betty,” he admits it’s been truly amazing to get back to the stage — the place where his career began. He admits that while shooting the TV show, he’d often get the itch to be back in the theater, in front of a live crowd again.
“Just to get up on a stage in front of an audience again and get your fix, you get rejuvenated by the laughter and energy,” he said. “So it’s been awesome to get back to the theater.”
Urie will visit Minneapolis for his first time, joining Illeana Douglas (from “Entourage” and “Cape Fear”), Tim Bagley (of “Will and Grace”) and others to bring “Celebrity Autobiography” to life Friday for two performances. The show is at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. at The Loring Theater. For tickets and more information, click here.