Celebrities Poking Fun at Celebrity Books

Florence Henderson channels Madonna, following other readings of celeb books.

June 24, 2010— -- Ever wonder what it would be like if America's most famous mom, Florence Henderson, channeled Madonna?

Look no further. Henderson is the latest star to poke fun at celebrity books using the celebrities' own words in the hit stage show "Celebrity Autobiography."

On Monday night at Santa Monica's Broad Stage, "The Brady Bunch" mom read aloud a passage from Madonna's book "Sex" about the singer's one-night stand with a teenager.

"I was so turned on; it was probably the most erotic sex I ever had," Henderson read. "But he gave me crabs."

"The reaction was very loud, very responsive," the show's creator, playwright Eugene Pack, told ABCNews.com. "A lot of jaws dropped. It just kind of threw the whole city on its side for that moment."

Apparently, Henderson loves throwing people who often mistake the frisky actress for the honest-to-goodness mom she played on television.

"If I say something, people laugh so hard when it's off-color, and I think it's because of the way I look and people don't expect it. They don't expect me to say the things Madonna wrote in that book," she told the Los Angeles Times.

"I love to shock people," she added. "And when I got to the part about the young man, I thought, 'Everybody's going to be thinking about Greg Brady.' I know some people were thinking that, but that's OK. It's fun!"

Henderson was referring to her famous "date" with Barry Williams, who played her son on "The Brady Bunch." She indulged the then-15-year-old's crush by accepting a date to an L.A. nightclub and even kissed him goodnight.

Unusual pairings, in this case of celebrity with celebrity book, has made "Celebrity Autobiography" a cult hit for three years running in New York.

"We try to think of real oddball pairings," Pack said. "It adds another layer to it."

The idea is not to tweak the celebrity but to poke fun at the celebrity memoir.

"If you're famous, [you] can really write a memoir at any time, or a diet book or self help book," Pack said. "Our show is fun-spirited. It's poking fun at the memoir and why we actually care."

He pointed to comic actor Richard Kind's reading of Vanna White's autobiography, "Vanna Speaks."

"It's Richard Kind interpreting her words like he's doing 'Hamlet,'" Pack said.

White's book was Pack's early inspiration for the show.

"I thought, 'What if you read this seriously, and it wasn't just to a couple friends but was in an audience?'"

He asked a few of his comedian friends to bring in passages from celebrity books and read them like a monologue. The reaction was "off the hook."

"Celebrity Autobiography" started as a Bravo special before developing into a once-a-month off Broadway stage show with such celebrity guest readers as Kristen Johnston, Mario Cantone, B.D. Wong, Bruce Vilanch and SNL veterans Laraine Newman, Rachel Dratch, Kristen Wiig and Kevin Nealon.

The show has branched out to Los Angeles and will be running in Pittsburgh, New Orleans and at the Edinburgh, Scotland, Fringe Festival this summer.

Brooke Shields performed during Monday's L.A. show. Donning sparkly jewelry and dark sunglasses, she channeled Ivana Trump.

Shields was one of several celebrity performers who have written books themselves. And Pack said Shields would like her book, "On Your Own," written when she was in college, to be included in the show.

"I was like, 'You've got to do a book that I wrote when I was 18. It's too bad-good to not do,'" she told the L.A. Times on Monday.

"I think they've tapped into something, and you almost can't believe what you're hearing is really written," Shields said.

Pack agreed: The words speak for themselves.

"You don't have to do that much and let the audience react," he said.

He said most celebrity books start with an over-the-top prologue and end with banal lists, because the star has "run out of things to say."

Pack does a reading from singer Neil Sedaka's "Laughing in the Rain," in which he lists what he eats at every meal.

Most celebrities don't seem to mind the send-ups of their books. Like Shields, they've even offered up their books to be read.

Pack, who also performs a monologue from George Takei's book, "To the Stars," said the "Star Trek" star came to see the show.

"He was on the floor laughing," he said.

For now, there seems to be no shortage of material.

"I don't think you can run out of material," Pack said. "Basically, if you're a celebrity, you're required to write a book."