You may know Neil Simon for his Jewish trilogy plays Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, and Broadway Bound, his famed Broadway show (and movie) The Odd Couple or the sexy Sweet Charity which won a Tony award for Bob Fosse’s choreography. Or… like me, you may have just vaguely heard of Neil Simon. You knew he was a playwright, right? And maybe that he was Jewish?
Neil Simon’s first play, “Come Blow Your Horn” – filled with his trademark one-liners and master comedy – is coming to Minneapolis’ Theatre in the Round from July 2nd – August 1st, and the show’s run is a great opportunity to take a look at the life and work (most say with Neil, there’s no difference) of one of Broadway’s greatest and most prolific comedic stars – at one point he had four shows on Broadway at once; and we’re giving away TWO PAIRS of tickets to see the show, so keep reading. [FREE TICKETS ARE NO LONGER AVAILABLE.]
[Eds note: Read our review of the show here]
Who is Neil Simon?
Nominated for seventeen Tony Award (won 3x). Wrote 20+ screenplays, winning 4 Best Screenplay Oscars. Won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. But awards and prestige aside, what’s most fascinating (to me at least, and you have to read this, because you want the tickets, right?) is how Simon became the writer that he is (yes, is – at 82, he’s still writing).
I mean, how many playwrights grow up the Jewish younger son of a garment salesman in the Lower East Side during the Depression, struggle with poverty as a child, get a job in the Warner Brother’s mailroom, quit to write radio and TV scripts with their brother, and then start writing some of Broadway’s most performed plays?
Most of his plays are comedies, pickled with classic one-liners. Why comedy? He loved comedy films growing up and often got kicked out of movie theaters as a child for laughing too loud. Most were also based on his own life experiences – with childhood poverty, his first, second, third, fourth and fifth marriages (no kidding), mid-life crises, and family drama.
What is “Come Blow Your Horn”? And Why Should I See It?
“Come Blow Your Horn” was Neil Simon’s first Broadway show, premiering in the U.S. in 1961. It was also made into a film starring Frank Sinatra (so it must be good, right?). Simon’s first comedy, its rapid-fire one liners derivative of his time writing for Caesar’s Show of Shows with Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and for a time, Woody Allen.
The play is based on Simon’s own experiences moving in with his older brother. It tells the story of a young, naive man who moves in with his older womanizing brother to live it up a bit. A coming of age tale in the Swinging Sixties.
Of the play, Simon once said “It wasn’t much of a play. But it gave me enough money to get through to the next one.” But really, who listens to the playwright? What does he know? Didn’t your Bubbe always tell you to think for yourself?
How can I win a free pair of tickets?
Theatre in the Round has generously given TC Jewfolk two FREE pairs of tickets to raffle off to the “Come Blow Your Horn” performance of your choice. All you have to do to enter is answer this question in the comments below. Do you think it’s a cop out for a playwright to base their plays on their personal life experiences? Or is that only natural?
Remember – there’s no right or wrong answer. This is a raffle. We’re not judging. You have until June 24th at midnight to enter to win. Good luck!
I think it works out very well for a writer/playwriter to write about his/her life especially if there are a lot of interesting things that had happened to them.
No, not a cop-out. It’s what they know the most about, presumably!
Only natural. As long as they come up with something good, who cares where they got it? Art often is a reflection of reality, just not a pure one.
No! It is not a cop out – some of the most important stories told are those based on life experiences…
Neil Simon has used his life as the basis for many of his plays over his four (almost five) decade career as a playwright. What sets Simon apart from other playwrights who draw on their life stories is Simon’s ability to engage his audience. He tells stories in an insightful and witty way and creates characters that people can relate to.
Actor Jack Lemon said, “Neil has the ability to write characters — even the leading characters that we’re supposed to root for — that are absolutely flawed. They have foibles. They have faults. But, they are human beings. They are not all bad or all good; they are people we know.”
So no, it is not a copout. Simon has stayed relevant for the past 49 years because he is able to tell his personal story in such a meaningful way.
So, nu? What else is a first-time playwright going to write about?
My late father loved the movie version of this play.
Speaking of Sid Caesar, I composed this today, at the time specified:
I dreamed Sid Caesar talked to me
Last night at half past three.
We argued Jewish comedy.
“You’re still a schmuck,” said he.
I am entering the contest to win tickets to THEATRE IN THE ROUND/NEIL SIMON/COME BLOW YOUR HORN 2010.
Although I thank you for this chance to win, I disagree strongly with negative terminology like “cop-out” & “Do you think it is a cop-out for a playwright to base plays on personal life experience?”
Writing is of course crafted from a combination of experience & creative invention.
As long as every one of their plays is not based on their life experience (it will start to seem repetitive in such cases), I don’t see it as a “cop out”
It makes sense to write about what you know about and what is important to you. Life is so very interesting. Each of us has a story to tell. Just a few of us can tell it well.
What a great bunch of answers! Our winners of the free pairs of tickets are: Kris and Hal Davis. And may I saw that we draw the names randomly with a computer program, but I am thrilled that you won Hal, your answer was hilarious.
And to respond to the folks who wondered about my question, I agree with all of you! I don’t think it’s a cop out to write about your experience. I’m not a playwright, but do write music, and every song I’ve written related in part to my life’s experience. That’s part of what art is, I think. I just thought it was a question that would get some of you stirred up! And I was right.
If you didn’t win the tickets, please still go check out the show! It has a good-length run, and Theatre in the Round is an awesome theater.