Elayne Boosler is one of the busiest and most popular comedians touring the country today. She is one of the few comedians who can sell out theaters across the country. Okay, small theaters, but theaters none the less! She explains her burning desire to graduate from performing in clubs to performing her one-woman concert in theaters thusly: "I really wanted to be able to deliver a full-circle, rich evening of entertainment to the audience without distractions, and I also wanted to get off work early enough to be able to get food."
Born in Brooklyn, New York, right around the time the Dodgers were leaving, her first memories are of grown men crying. Not understanding, she felt responsible, and decided to go into comedy. Her most recent memories are also of grown men crying. Oh well. Her tool-and-die-maker father and her escaped Russian ballerina mother encouraged her from an early age to leave them alone. She has seven brothers, all veterinarians. She attended public school in Brooklyn, plus a nefarious (a word she did not learn in public school in Brooklyn) year or so at the University of South Florida in Tampa, where she avoided class, has no credits on file, and swallowed many strange substances while she watched her hands multiply, and listened to Janis Joplin albums.
Her only goal in college was to turn eighteen so she could legally leave school and move to Manhattan to fulfill her dreams of waitressing. That she did. She waitressed in no less than every joint in Manhattan and her number was retired upon her hundredth firing ("I didnt know they wanted silverware!"). Between coveted waitress gigs, she studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, acting, musical comedy and jazz at HB Studios, ballet at the Joffrey School, and voice in private lessons. She still owes them all money.
Of course, all of this hard work, pushing her body, stretching her instrument, contorting in dance, bracing for the operatic notes, pushing, straining, striving, is really, really useful in how she makes a living now: talking. Before she discovered talking she did use some of her training. She did dinner theater with a small company in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania, at Hanks Diner. It was a musical and came with fries. She also performed for several months in a musical review called "Jump For Joy" at the Lucayan Beach Hotel on Freeport Island in the Bahamas, the highlight of which was being able to walk to work in the ocean every day. The show was a crowd pleaser and no doubt would have run indefinitely were it not for the junta.
During this time period she steadily auditioned for Broadway shows and was offered long touring engagements in the road companies of Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar, but who wasnt? She decided to stick closer to Manhattan where the good waitressing jobs were. And then it happened! One night a waitress called in sick at a music and comedy club (the singing waitresses performed after every second comedian or so, to give the crowd a chance to talk), and she filled in. The club was one of about only five of its kind in the country at that time, as comedy was as low key and specialized as jazz in the early seventies. The club shall remain nameless, as they still owe her money. Bingo! She was an instant success! Although no one did get any silverware that night, during her eleven minute rendition of Van Morrisons "Moondance", she emptied the club sufficiently for the owner to close early, thus allowing him to go home, save his marriage, have a second child, and offer her a job as the club doorman, which she kept for three years. Noticing how naturally funny she was, comedian Andy Kaufman, a regular, convinced her that she should do stand-up comedy. Actually, what he said was, "You really shouldnt ever, ever publicly sing again." She and Andy dated for three years, stayed friends for all the rest, and he guided her all through her comedy education, as did the rest of her peers: Freddie Prinze, Jay Leno, Richard Lewis, Richard Belzer, Jimmie Walker, Ed Bluestone etc.
As the very first young, unmarried, dressed-up-for-a-date female comic, she was an instant success with audiences. They were more than ready for a slice of life approach to comedy from a woman just the way they had accepted it from the new breed of current male comics of the time like Robert Klein, Richard Pryor, David Brenner, etcetera. She did countless appearances on all the talk shows of the day, was a regular on Merv, Mike, Dinah, and Hollywood Squares (so unknown was she that she thought shed have to change her name legally to "Elayne Boosler To Block"). She appeared often on music shows like The Midnight Special, Rock Concert, did countless variety specials, and toured the country as the opening act for every single musical group in America.
Those appearances ran the gamut of performance venues, including playing clubs, 35,000 seat fairs, Las Vegas, Tahoe, concerts, theaters in the round, colleges, Atlantic City, rodeos, speedways, festivals, and you name it. Always a writer, in the 1980s she joined the Writers Guild of America and began splitting her time between touring and writing for television. Some of her TV credits (all shows which have aired) include: The Rodney Dangerfield special, "It Aint Easy Being Me," "Disney Goes to the Oscars," "Soundstage: Andy Kaufman" for PBS, "The Shape of Things," an NBC series, a Geraldine Fitzgerald pilot for CBS called "Mabel and Max," "99 Ways,"a Valentines Day CBS special, "Prime Times," a Leslie Nielson pilot and special for NBC, etcetera, etcetera. She has had articles published in Esquire magazine and the New York Times.
Last summer, she wrote, city-by-city (including London), customized material for Barbara Streisand to use in her show on her summer tour. She did this as a favor, as she does not normally write for other people, but the four months of daily work was very satisfying when it was so well received. Almost the entire New York monologue that she wrote for Streisand was quoted glowingly in the New York Times, and part of the political material in particular was quoted everywhere. Also, a top ten list that she wrote for Streisand to explain her postponed Los Angeles area shows was so funny that it was printed in its entirety on the cover of the Los Angeles Times entertainment section, excerpted in newspapers across the country, and run on CNN and all the networks.
In 1985, cable TV was sweeping the country, and comedy cable specials in particular were making headliners of any comic lucky enough to get one. Well, you didnt have to he lucky actually, you just had to be a guy. Elayne watched the specials and thought, "Hey, Im as lousy as those guys, why dont 1 have a special?" But it was not to be. Not one to whine, we wont dwell on how she was told TO HER cute little FACE that no one would watch a woman do an hour of comedy, it was too big a risk, it hadnt been done, etcetera, etcetera. Long story short, knowing that indeed people would watch, as she was by then headlining clubs everywhere and doing two hour shows, she put her money where her mouth was, formed Brooklyn Productions, Inc., her production company, and funded her own special. This could be done only because she was lucky enough to team up with a brilliant director/producer from New York named Steve Gerbson, who taught her how to produce, direct, line produce, etcetera, a show so they could stay within their limited budget. "Party of One" aired on Showtime in 1986. People magazine gave it an A. John J. OConnor in the New York Times wrote, "...how refreshing, a woman who doesnt have to tear her own skin off for our amusement... an attractive human being simply standing there being funny, the first to feel she doesnt have to be a grotesque" (note: sometimes she does tear her own skin off at home, but its not for anyones amusement). HBO immediately announced its new series of specials, "Women of the Night," and suddenly women comedians were everywhere! All kinds. And life was good.
To date, Elayne has done four one-hour concert specials of her own, They are: "Party of One," "Broadway Baby," "Top Tomata," broadcast LIVE from Omaha and voted Best Comedy Special of the Year by readers of Cable Guide magazine, and "Live Nude Girls." Her new years eve comedy-variety special, "Elayne Booslers Midnight flour," was a 90-minute special done at Town Hall in New York and telecast LIVE on Showtime. Elayne has also written, directed, and acted in two half-hour movies for Cinemax: "Comedy From Here," a drama, and "The Call," a reworking of that lighthearted Franz Kafka novel, Metamorphosis. All of these specials have been nominated for a combined total of seventeen-thousand CableAce awards. Ah well, its a thrill just to be nominated.
Elayne now tours those aforementioned theaters across the country, appears on Letterman, the Tonight Show, Tom Sniders show, and Larry King quite often. She especially enjoys her appearances on "The Today Show" on NBC, where she sometimes takes a film crew out for the day and shoots special pieces for the show. She has performed often in London, where she entertained the Queen of England on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Royal Command Performance, as well as the Queens forty second wedding anniversary. She takes no responsibility for the complete falling apart of the royal family soon after. She has also performed at the London Palladium as part of an Easter special that was simulcast live on the BBC. She takes no responsibility for the complete falling apart of the labor party soon after. Her comedy specials are also a big hit on English television.
Known for her feisty and thoughtful political material, Elayne performed for President Clinton and Congress recently as the single act chosen to entertain at the White House Press Correspondents dinner in Washington. She takes no responsibility for the complete falling apart of Congress soon after. She particularly has enjoyed appearing on CNNs Crossfire program, especially the New Years Day edition where her summations of the old year and her predictions for the new had even Robert Novak almost laughing.
When she is not on tour, Elayne writes movie scripts which she is hoping to direct and star in. Ah well, its an honor just to be nominated. She is offered many television parts, and always enjoys taking the good ones, like the recurring mean blind woman on Night Court, and the roles on Sisters, Living Single, The Cosby Show, and more.
Elayne lives on both the left and right coasts with her new black labrador named Wiley, and a man named Bill. Her passion outside of work is baseball. During the summer she books her tours to coincide with teams in town, and she has had the pleasure of singing the pre-game national anthem several times for the Dodgers and the Mets. She has also done play-by-play on SportsChannel with Duke Snider, thrown out the first ball for the Texas Rangers and the Seattle Mariners as well as delivered play by play for the Mariners on Seattle radio, and plays baseball once a year at Dodger stadium for Hollywood Stars Night. When CBS initially acquired the World Series, it was Elayne whom they chose to perform comedy about sports all week between the end of the evening news and the beginning of the game. They knew she would keep the men and the women tuned to the game.
Elayne devotes much time and effort during the year to fundraising for causes that are meaningful to her. A favorite is Tony LaRussas ARF, a fantastic animal rescue operation in Oakland that lets her combine her two favorite subjects; dogs and baseball. Other animal rescue groups that have benefited through Elaynes efforts are the SPCA and the Gillian Lange foundation. She devotes time to the MDA during the year, as well as appearing annually on its telethon. She performs fund-raisers for Voters for Choice, and several educational organizations and schools. She has twice performed for Bryant Gumbels annual fund-raiser for the United Negro College Fund, and appeared for four years on Comic Relief. She is also involved in performance and fundraising for the Lighthouse Inc., a New York institution that provides services to the blind and vision impaired, and this year an honorary seat in their new theater was named for her. Ecstatic, she cried, "Put gum under me She takes no responsibility for the complete falling apart of the snack bar soon after.