Seth Rudetsky Looks Back at His Appearance on Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List

Seth Rudetsky   Seth Rudetsky Looks Back at His Appearance on Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List
 
This week, Seth sends well-wishes to the Broadway alum and brings his dogs to the vet.
Seth Rudetsky Kathy Griffin HR

I’m going to start with a doggie(s) update (everything is fine—don’t be stressed reading this).

So around two months ago our doggie Bagel was suddenly limping. We took him to the vet and found out he tore his ACL. Seriously! He obviously wanted to fit into the whole Olympics fever by getting an injury that world-class athletes get. Bagel’s doctor recommended surgery but said it didn’t have to be right away. Bagel started walking normally again so we weren’t stressed and decided to wait until my traveling slowed down. Then, James and I took Mandy to Rochester when I was doing my Deconstructing Broadway show.

We did a little excursion to Lake Ontario and Mandy loved it. She started running with me on the beach…and, no joke, tore her ACL. In the same paw as Bagel! So, now both Bagel and Mandy had a torn ACL in their back left paw. Well, Wednesday was their surgery and, thankfully, it went well. But, holy cow, the recovery. It takes 8 weeks and they are supposed to be basically immobile for the first few weeks. Right now, they are in small playpens in our bedroom and we’re very glad their medicine makes them sleepy. But this is just the first day. It’s so hard when you can’t explain to someone why they have to stay in one place. I actually bought this a while ago but regretfully haven’t done it yet with the doggies.

Now for the main part of the column: If you don’t know, the hilarious and groundbreaking Kathy Griffin posted on Twitter that she was about to have surgery for lung cancer. I was shocked. Apparently, she is (thankfully) on the mend and I decided to give her my version of a “Get Well” by filling this column with some of my fun experiences with her.

This is from 2010: Hello, my future televious audience! I filmed an episode of Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List!. I love that show so much. It was so cool to actually be on something I watch all the time. It reminds me of the time I first started subbing keyboards on Broadway. My first show was Les Misérables, and it was amazing to be the one playing the stuff I heard on the CD all the time.

Kristin Chenoweth, Seth Rudetsky and Kathy Griffin
Kristin Chenoweth, Seth Rudetsky and Kathy Griffin

Here's the background: For this season’s final episode, Kathy decides she wants to entertain at her mother's assisted-living facility. She knows she can't do her stand-up act because of her non-stop cursing, so she's decided she's going to sing a song from her mom's era. Kathy then realized she'd better learn how to sing. We met on Wednesday at Don't Tell Mama, and I taught her how to perform "You Made Me Love You" alongside the fabulous Kristin Chenoweth. And by "alongside" I mean with me completely in the background. Essentially, being on My Life On The D-List put me on the D-list. Seriously. At one point, I was literally like Lisa Kudrow in The Comeback when she tries desperately to edge up from her place in the back during a photo shoot. As Kathy and Kristin were chatting, I started chiming in comments from my seat at the piano. Of course, they were both in the middle of the room, so I had to stand to get nearer to them. I was then asked immediately by the director not to get off the piano bench. Then, we took a break from filming, and a make-up artist ran up to Kristin and adjusted her face while another one flanked Kathy.

I looked around and finally said, "Um…I seem to be the only person without anyone fixing my make-up." There was muttering into various headsets, and finally someone walked up to me. Not a make-up artist, mind you, but just literally a person. I guess he worked on the show in some capacity. My make-up was then "adjusted." Not with a re-touch of powder, under-eye concealer, or even some generic lip balm. No, the make-up artist (AKA crew member) simply blotted my face. Pat, pat, pat. Not with a brush, not with a make-up pad, but literally with a paper towel.

Regardless, Kathy was hilarious. She’s obsessed with getting accolades. If you don't know, her comedy CD is called For Your Consideration, and her new book is entitled Official Book Club Selection. When she rehearsed with us, she'd sing five notes and then ask if she could win a Tony for that. We would tell her no, and then she'd ask if we could figure out a way for her to win a Tony Award without doing a Broadway show. Our conversation then segued to Ambien, Botox, Collagen injections, Liza, pageants, and Kathy complimenting Kristin on shows Kristin wasn't in: "Kristin, I heard you were amazing in Frost/Nixon."

Seth and Sutton Foster
Seth and Sutton Foster Photo by Robb Johnston

After we wrapped, Kathy invited me to her show that was the next night at Madison Square Garden. I was so psyched. She got tickets for me and James, and we were seated directly in front of Joan Rivers. Then, right when the show began, someone grabbed my face from the row in front, and it was Sutton Foster! Sutton was laughing so hard throughout. I loved my seat and the A-list stars around us, and I thought, "Perhaps, I'm no longer on the D-list." That afternoon, I had gotten an email from the producer Bryan Scott (whom I love) telling me how to get backstage so I could see Kathy after the show. Right after it ended, James and I ran to the side entrance that led directly backstage. A security guard glared at us, and I haughtily explained, "I'm Seth Rudetsky. I just filmed an episode. We're here to see Kathy." I smirked as he got on his headset and told the powers-that-be I was waiting to see Kathy. He then informed me, "Kathy's gone. She left right after the show." I had officially moved to the E list.

(Here’s my column which I wrote after I filmed part two of the episode in L.A.). Kathy is so relaxed during filming and nice to everyone on the set. After we filmed, she told me that sometimes people put on a different personality when the cameras are rolling, but she was impressed by how I'm the same on-camera as I am off-camera. I took it as a big compliment thinking that she meant I'm able to be real on camera. Then I wondered if the reverse is the actual truth…meaning I'm constantly performing and pushing for laughs off-camera, and my desperation remains the same when I'm being filmed. As my therapist would say, it's probably a little of both.

Anyhoo, on Thursday I took a 7 AM flight to the West Coast and got to the hotel we were filming in at 11 AM. I met up with my good friend Jack Plotnick for breakfast since I had time before we filmed, and then I spent the rest of the afternoon at "auditions." Explanation: Kathy decided she shouldn’t be the only singing at her Mom’s new home… she wanted to do an entire show with elderly performers. I spent the first day sitting next to Kathy and her mom, judging various entertainers and people from the "manor" (as Kathy calls the assisted living facility) who wanted to perform in the show. It was like being at an open call for On Golden Pond. The average age was 67, and that's because I'm factoring in mine and Kathy's age. P.S. Kathy's mom was over 80 at the and looked amazing. She was nice to everyone who auditioned and constantly put up with Kathy's hilarious non-stop dishing of her, or as Kathy calls it, "elder abuse." (She passed away in 2020.)

The auditions consisted of a mix of comedians, singers, spoken word, and magicians. One 67-year-old woman came in and sang a gospel-like song she wrote called "Stand For Change." I wondered how Kathy's mom would like it because it's been mentioned on the show that she watches FOX News, and I didn't think she'd want to hear a song praising Obama. Well, cut to, when we were picking the final performers, Maggie told us that we should definitely use Sandra James. Kathy and I were confused because we didn't know who "Sandra James" was, and then her mom explained it was the woman who sang about her own name. What? Then we realized Maggie thought that when the woman sang "Stand for Change," she was singing "Sandra James." Wow. It went from an empowering anthem of social justice to a completely narcissistic song of name-pride. Kathy and I were obsessed and, of course, called the woman and her song "Sandra James" from then on.

George Britton and Cloris Leachman in <i>South Pacific</i>, 1952
George Britton and Cloris Leachman in South Pacific, 1952 ©NYPL for the Performing Arts

Two of the other performers we got for the show were Rip Taylor and Cloris Leachman. Cloris is actually a great pianist, and we staged her song so that in the middle of it, she'd push me off the bench and launch into a piano solo. She played and sang great and ended it on a sassy belted B flat. I, of course, asked her about playing Nellie in the original South Pacific. If you don't know, she auditioned for the national tour, and Rodgers and Hammerstein offered her the role in New York, London, or the national tour and then gave her four weeks on Broadway so she could see what it was like. She got tears in her eyes describing how, after her first performance, Oscar Hammerstein's wife came backstage and told Cloris it was as if she had been standing right behind Hammerstein the whole time he was writing the show. Brava Cloris!

Rip came and performed in between rehearsals for his solo autobiographical show called It Ain't All Confetti. I love how he's constantly busting himself and also busting the audience. I'm obsessed with the exit line he used after his number. He sang his song, glared, and then waved the audience away as he walked off and muttered "Separate checks!"

Here is the super-fun episode. Wishing Kathy a complete and fabulous recovery!

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