Grodin shares stories of life and career at The Ridgefield Playhouse

Charles Grodin is a funny guy — his wife Elissa says he “can’t help it” — and with more than 50 years in show business he has lots of funny stories to tell. He will share many of them — 80 minutes’ worth to be specific — with his audience Saturday, April 12, at 7:30 p.m., at The Ridgefield Playhouse. 

The Emmy Award winner is a down-to-earth man who sees the comedic aspect to many things that have happened to him, perhaps not right away, but definitely in retrospect.

“It’s all non-fiction,” he told The Bulletin last week of his upcoming performance. “This is all actual stuff that happened to me. We could have called it the title of my book It Would Be So Nice If You Weren’t Here, which someone actually said to me.”

Mr. Grodin, who lives in Wilton, said he did a similar show at the Metropolitan Room in New York that was well received, which encouraged him to do this show.

It is “a progression from the beginning [of my career] to the present time, overcoming all these put-downs basically. And, believe me, they were non-stop.

“If you say ‘I won an award,’ that’s not amusing,” he continued. “What’s amusing is when I first got an agent I asked if I should have pictures made. He said, ‘of course have pictures made so people who don’t want to see you will know who they don’t want to see.’”

Early in his career someone suggested he get a publicity agent. When he went to the agent’s office he said to Mr. Grodin, “Your impact upon entering a room is as if someone just left.”

As a freshman at the University of Miami the head of the theater department complimented Mr. Grodin. “It was six years before anyone else said anything nice to me,” he said.

Even now, with the résumé he has, the road still isn’t smooth. Over the course of his career he has written three plays — two of which were sell-outs. He has been waiting years to get the third one produced.

Mr. Grodin, who says he deals with rejection quite well, attributes his success to perseverance, talent and a benefactor, in his case, the actress, screenwriter and director Elaine May.

He began his career on the stage and then moved to television, most frequently cast as a villain. Recalling the dramatic series The Defenders, which starred E.G. Marshall, he said the director went to Hollywood where he made westerns. “They asked me if I could ride a horse and I said ‘yes,’ and I immediately took riding lessons.”

When he was 32, he met director Roman Polanski and was cast in the 1964 horror classic Rosemary’s Baby to start his film career that has included The Heartbreak Kid, Catch-22, Midnight Run, So I Married An Axe Murderer, Dave, and Beethoven.

As part of his performance at the Playhouse Mr. Grodin will show clips, primarily of his appearances on talks shows with Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, David Letterman and John McLaughlin of The McLaughlin Report. That, he said, was a very funny segment.

“He just snarls his questions at you,” Mr. Grodin said of the acerbic television host. “I just snarled right back, which thankfully he found very amusing. He was having a good time.”

Mr. Grodin said he will also likely take some questions from the audience.

As for the length of the show, which he refers to as “sit-down” as opposed to stand-up since he will be seated on stage, he first did something like this in 1982 in his hometown of Pittsburgh. “One review said ‘after 80 minutes one could only wish for more,’” he said. Taking that to heart, he added, “I’ve never gone to anything I thought was too short.”

Tickets are $45 orchestra, $40 balcony and mezzanine; $55 gold circle meet and greet. To purchase, call the box office at 203-438-5795 or visit ridgefieldplayhouse.org.

Editor's Note: This story was updated to reflect a change in the date of the event.