The gay interview: Andrew Rannells of “The New Normal”

I met Andrew Rannells on two occasions. The first was a strange circumstance about five years ago: I was headed to the Fair Park Music Hall to meet him and other members of the touring cast of Jersey Boys when my car was T-boned (the other driver’s fault). Nevertheless, I still made it to the interview, albeit a bit late. I got quite a few “attaboys” for showing up at all.

The last was just briefly about two and a half years ago, when he was starring in a show at the Dallas Theater Center called Give It Up. The show finally made it Broadway with a different title — Lysistrata Jones — only Rannells wasn’t in it. Instead, he’d taken on a different role in a musical: The Book of Mormon, which netted him a Tony Award nomination in the biggest hit since The Producers.

ATTPAC just announced last week that The Book of Mormon would be part of its 2013-14 lineup, but once again, Rannels won’t be in it — instead, he’s starring in one of the hit shows of the fall, NBC’s The New Normal, and out actor gets to play gay … and boy does he.

Our Chris Azzopardi got to chat with Rannells a few weeks ago, and I thought it might be a good time to run the story. The next episode airs tonight.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: Leslie Jordan’s “Fruit Fly”

Throughout the opening night performance of Leslie Jordan’s one-man show Fruit Fly, which runs through tomorrow at the Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, the flamboyant actor and comedian referred to his standup act; that’s not what this is. In fact, while hysterically funny in ways that print cannot do justice, Fruit Fly is, first and foremost, a performance: In the course of 90 minutes (it was only suppose to be about 70, but he was on a roll), Jordan spoke not only in his own voice but that of his still-living mother, a hard-drinking Southern lady, an antique drag queen, an obese speakeasy proprietress and too many more to count.

“I’ve always been a good mimic,” Jordan notes almost off-handedly.

No shit.

The show — basically a living room slide presentation tracing Jordan throughout his life of debauchery (“this is just the tip of the iceberg” he says after explaining how he contracted gonorrhea at age 13), his coming out (“Mama would laugh, then say, ‘Don’t tell daddy’”) and his relationship with his mother, father (who died tragically young) and his twin sisters — is surprisingly thin on Hollywood gossip. It barely even mentions his career, except to frame certain issues (going on a gay cruise as the entertainment, how London cabbies recognize him from Sordid Lives, etc.). But it doesn’t need any name-dropping: His life is so endlessly fascinating, you could sit and listen to him, in that squeaky Tennessee drawl, wax for hours more. (It’s amazing he survived this long.)

“You can’t make this shit up!” Jordan says, only half joking. He’s got that right. It’s an unmissibly dishy and touching performance, a real intimate night of theater that feels more like a dinner party with the best host you could imagine.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Leslie Jordan finally gives me credit — sort of

I have a history with Leslie Jordan.

Back in September of 2006, I had a pre-arranged interview with him on the Monday between two big events: On the previous Saturday, he would be attending the “technical” Emmy Awards — what Kathy Griffin so derisively calls “The Schmemmys” — as a nominee for best guest actor in a comedy series for Will & Grace; the following Sunday would be the actual broadcast prime time ceremony.

The latter wouldn’t matter much if Jordan didn’t win; but if he won, it would be big: It meant that Jordan would personally present an award the following Sunday.

And he won.

So, it’s now Monday morning, and Jordan has been an Emmy winner all of 36 hours when we talk. I of course congratulate him. He’s ecstatic. “It hasn’t been out of my hand since I won!” he gushed. “I even take it to be with me.” “Is that the first woman you’ve ever slept with?” I asked. He laughed.

Imagine my surprise six days later, watching Jordan present with Cloris Leachman … and use my very line.

Jordan is an inveterate thief of other people’s material, which he owns up to in my interview, in the paper Friday. But I was most gratified by this exchange we had earlier this week:

One of the producers on Will & Grace — I’m not saying which one — was never quite a fan of Beverly Leslie [the character he played on the show]/ He didn’t think it was funny and was too effeminate — he’d always say “Butch it up!” but the direct said, “Less butch!” So after I won the Emmy, he was the only on the show who didn’t congratulate me. Instead, he said, “You stole my line.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Years ago, when I won my Emmy, I said ‘She’s the only woman who’ll even be in my bedroom.’ I got mad. I said, “I did not steal that line from you! I stole it from Arnold Wayne Jones of Dallas, Texas!

I guess we all have to take our credit where we can get it.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones