Laugh Lines

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  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2007-04-10
  • Publisher: Vintage

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This one-of-a-kind anthology features thirty-six hilarious short plays by major American playwrights and emerging new voices, all guaranteed to send readers and audiences into peals of laughter. From the surrealistic wit of Steve Martin's "The Zig-Zag Woman" to the biting political satire of Steven Dietz's "The Spot," from Christopher Durang's wonderfully loopy "Wanda's Visit" to Shel Silverstein's supremely twisted "The Best Daddy," there's something in here to make everyone laugh. There are plays for casts of all sizes, from monologues to large ensembles, with diverse and challenging roles for actors of every age and type. Even the titles are funny: Mark O'Donnell's "There Shall Be No Bottom (a bad play for worse actors)," Elaine May's "The Way of All Fish," and Alan Ball's "Your Mother's Butt." A bonanza for theatergoers, performers, and comedy fans,Laugh Lineswill bring down the house. From the Trade Paperback edition.

Author Biography

Eric Lane and Nina Shengold are editors of twelve contemporary play collections. Their other titles for Vintage Books include Plays for Actresses, Leading Women: Plays for Actresses II, Take Ten: New Ten-Minute Plays, Take Ten II: More Ten-Minute Plays, Under Thirty: Plays for a New Generation, and Talk to Me: Monologue Plays. For Viking Penguin, they edited The Actor’s Book of Contemporary Stage Monologues, The Actor’s Book of Scenes from New Plays, Moving Parts: Monologues from Contemporary Plays, The Actor’s Book of Gay and Lesbian Plays (Lambda Literary Award nominee), and Telling Tales: New One-Act Plays.

Nina Shengold received the ABC Playwright Award and the L.A. Weekly Award for Homesteaders, published by Samuel French. Her Romeo/Juliet, a five-actor adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, is published by Broadway Play Publishing. Her ten-minute plays have been performed at the Actors Theatre of Louisville and dozens of other theaters. Ms. Shengold won the Writers Guild Award and a GLAAD Award nomination for her teleplay Labor of Love, starring Marcia Gay Harden; other screenplays include Blind Spot, with Joanne Woodward and Laura Linney, Unwed Father, Double Platinum, and a flm adaptation of Jane Smiley’s Good Will. She is artistic director of the upstate New York theater company Actor’s & Writers. Her first novel, Clearcut, was published by Anchor Books.

Eric Lane is an award-winning playwright and filmmaker. Plays include Heart of the City, Times of War, Shellac, Cater-Waiter, and Dancing on Checkers’ Grave, which starred Jennifer Aniston. Mr. Lane has written and produced two short filims: First Breath and Cater-Waiter. For his work on TV’s Ryan’s Hope, he received a Writers Guild Award. Honors include the Berrilla Kerr Playwrighting Award, La Mama Playwright Development Award, numerous Yaddo fellowships, and a St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity fellowship in Malta. Mr. Lane is an honors graduate of Brown University, and is artistic director of Orange Thoughts Productions, a not-for-profit theater and film company in New York City.

Table of Contents

Miss youp. 3
Your mother's buttp. 15
Alone at last!p. 31
The gallows monologue from Sidney Ryan's Gunpowder and bloodp. 41
Poodlesp. 47
Ties that bindp. 57
Mistaken identityp. 65
Outsourcedp. 77
Heritage, her-i-tage, & hair-i-tagep. 89
The spotp. 99
Post-its (notes on a marriage)p. 117
Wanda's visitp. 127
The Valerie of nowp. 163
We cannot know the mind of Godp. 171
The Tarantino variationp. 179
The statue of Bolivarp. 193
Mars has never been this closep. 205
Surprisep. 217
How we talk in South Bostonp. 227
The zig-zag womanp. 241
The way of all fishp. 257
There shall be no bottom (a bad play for worse actors)p. 289
Check, pleasep. 301
Controlling interestp. 335
2B (or not 2B)p. 349
Popsp. 363
Forty to lifep. 369
The best daddyp. 381
The Flying Wollmskies returnp. 391
Streakp. 403
Rosa's eulogyp. 417
Chocolatep. 421
The earringp. 431
The blueberry hill accordp. 443
Wedding duetp. 461
Please have a seat and someone will be with you shortlyp. 479
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.


An Excerpt from
Miss You
by David Auburn
(First published in Fifth Planet and Other Plays, copyright © 2002 by David Auburn)

Miss You was first produced at the HBO Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colorado, on January 5, 1997. It was directed by James Eckhouse. The cast was as follows:

WOMAN 1, 2 Lisa Edelstein
MAN 1, 2 Jerry Levine



MAN and WOMAN on the phone.

WOMAN: Hello?

MAN: I miss you!

WOMAN: Oh, hi.

MAN: Miss me?

WOMAN: Uh-huh.

MAN: Really?

WOMAN: Yes. Yes I do: I miss you.

MAN: A lot?


MAN: How much?

WOMAN: I told you, a lot.

MAN: God, I miss you.


MAN: I wish you were here.


MAN: I wish you were here right now.


MAN: I wish I was there.

WOMAN: Uh-huh.

MAN: I wish I could be there with you: I mean, I really miss you. I have a—

WOMAN: I know.

MAN: I have a—

WOMAN: Can you hold on?

MAN: I have a little sur—

WOMAN: Can you hold on a sec? I've got another call.

MAN: S (ure)—(Beat. She clicks over.)

WOMAN: Hello?

MAN 2: Hey.

WOMAN: Oh, God. Oh, God, hi! Oh, hi! God, hi!

MAN 2: Hey.

WOMAN: Hi, God, you called! I was hoping you'd-where have you been? Hi! Thank you for calling! How are you?

MAN 2: I'm fine.

WOMAN: Great.

MAN 2: How are—

WOMAN: Great. Wonderful. Now! Hi. When can I see you? Are you free? Are you busy? I can get time. Do you want to get something to eat tonight? Or we can cook. I can shop and we can— We can stay in. We can cook here, I've got wine. Come over. Come over now if you want. I miss you.

MAN 2: Listen-

WOMAN: I miss you. Yesterday afternoon was-the museum was wonderful (I can't believe I live right here in the city and I never go), and the walk, and the river. And the ice cream! Unh! Nothing has ever tasted so good to me in my life, I swear to God, it was—and drinks by the—and dinner, and God, you looked so—and last night was—

MAN 2: Listen, there's some things I should do, but we ought to try to get together.

WOMAN: Try? Try to get together? Yes, I think we should "try"! I mean, yes. Yes. That would be great. Tonight? Do you want to set something up for tonight? (Beat.)

MAN 2: Tonight?

WOMAN: Yes. We could—

MAN 2: Look, can I call you back?

WOMAN: What?

MAN 2: I gotta call you back.

WOMAN: Okay, but call me right—

MAN 2: Yeah. I'll call you. I'll talk to you. Okay?

WOMAN: Soon. I'll talk to you, okay—

MAN 2: Bye. (Beat.)

WOMAN: Bye— (She almost hangs up.) Shit— (Clicks over.) Hello?

MAN: Hello?

WOMAN: It's me.

MAN: I missed you!

WOMAN: I'm sorry. I couldn't get—

MAN: I'm coming home.

WOMAN: What?

MAN: I'm calling because I'm coming home. It's my surprise. I'm cutting things short. I'm at the airport!


MAN: I'm about to get on an airplane.

WOMAN: No, why-you're cutting things short? Can you do that?

MAN: Yes. I worked straight through. I haven't slept for two days so I'd get done early because I missed you and I'm—

WOMAN: Wait. Hold—

MAN: We take off in ten minutes. They're preboarding now. I'm carrying my—I want to give you my arrival time so you can come get me. I've only got carry-on, so don't come to the gate, don't park, just pull up at arriving flights and I'll be—

WOMAN: 'Nother call, sorry, I—

MAN: Honey, wait, I'm about to board, I don't want to miss my—

WOMAN: (Clicks over.) Hello?

MAN: No, it's still me. Don't go. I don't want to miss my—

WOMAN: Sorry, hold on. (Clicks.) Hello? Hello?

MAN 2: Hey, me.

WOMAN: Oh, hi!

MAN 2: Hey. Listen. I—

WOMAN: That was fast! You're—

MAN 2: Listen, I just realized, I've got a lot of things to take care of.

WOMAN: Uh-huh.

MAN 2: So I think we better—

WOMAN: What?

MAN 2: I think we better take a rain check on tonight.

WOMAN: A rain check.

MAN 2: We'll do it some other time.

WOMAN: You have a lot of things to take care of?

MAN 2: Yeah.

WOMAN: What things?

MAN 2: I should get some sleep. I have to get up early.

WOMAN: We spend the day together yesterday. You didn't have things to take care of. Yesterday turned into last night and it was a long sleepless night and that seemed fine with you then; it seemed wonderful to me—

MAN 2: We'll have to do it another time.

WOMAN: I don't have another time. This is the time. Do you see? Let's do this now. I'm sorry. I just mean, while we can. We shouldn't miss this. Yesterday came out of nowhere. We were together. It was great. I loved it. I loved being with you. I loved you. (Beat.) Did you hear me? I love you. Can you hear me? Are you there?

MAN 2: Can you hold on a minute?

WOMAN: What?

MAN 2: I've got another call coming in.

WOMAN: Don't take it!

MAN 2: I have to—

WOMAN: They'll call back.

MAN 2: I'll just be—

WOMAN: Don't— (He clicks over.)

MAN 2: Hello?

Excerpted from Laugh Lines: Short Comic Plays
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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