© Los Angeles Times. Oct 31, 1991
by Robert Epstein
Arts: Rick Reynolds' one-man theater piece has made his career. It's all a 'weird perk,' says the writer-actor of his hot, new status in the industry.
Tough to tell the hour when fame and fortune, like lightning, strikes.
The oatmeal advocate Wilford Brimley made it to Hollywood with a measured amount of maturity. Another advocate of a sort, Ruth Westheimer, did the same. And not to be forgotten, Clara Peller, who found late-in-life acclaim asking about the organic structure of hamburger.
Yet this is an age where advertisers find their beef in television audiences primarily from 18 to 35 and where the movie and music businesses pursue youth in Ponce de Leon single-mindedness.
But there are people who swim against the demographic tides and give new meaning to middle age and beyond.
People like Rick Reynolds and Charles Joffe.
Here's Reynolds, his biological clock sweeping past 39, the years of stand-up comedy clubs behind him, his hair thinning, his shoulders stooping, in his words "bland and nondescript," nightly telling the Reynolds family saga, wart-gags and all, at the Canon Theatre in his one-man show, "Only the Truth Is Funny." But for him, life has never been busier nor show business livelier.
When you have the presidents of four television networks asking you to write something, anything, just so long as it's funny, 30 minutes long, funny, up to network standards, and funny, you've reached the peak, you've climbed every mountain, you're Rocky at the top of the steps.
That's been happening to Reynolds in the eight weeks he's been at the Canon and in the past year since he talked his way into the San Francisco Improv with a 90-minute, one-man theater piece in a showroom where 10 minutes of stand-up is a career. Now for Reynolds, it's show-business executives in hot pursuit. Directors at the door. Producers on their cellulars.
It's all a "weird perk," says Reynolds of Hollywood. He's far more comfortable being known as Cooper's (his newborn son) dad or as Petaluma's second best-known export (poultry comes first ) . "It's hard to assimilate. It's so weird that someone can make a lot of money doing this and people point you out when what I do is no more important than baking bread. But I drive up to the theater at night and I see people waiting out there and it's all focused on me. It's really a thrill. It would be sad if it weren't my career."
What his singular performance has apparently demonstrated is that the Reynolds rap is real, he can write and he can act. That's why he has a few projects and some choices to make once the current show closes Nov. 10 to make room for the scheduled return of "Love Letters.
Reynolds may be spending his mid-passage years at all of the below:
Reynolds has options most of us can only dream about. The important thing is that he has options, that he can "control his destiny."
The quoted words belong to Charles Joffe. He and his partner of 35 years, Jack Rollins, know something about options. As producers and managers, they've been involved in the careers of Woody Allen, David Letterman, Robin Williams, Elaine May, Billy Crystal and a few others.They also know something about retirement: It doesn't always live up to its billing.
Consider their now overflowing plate, one year after getting unretired:
Not exactly most people's idea of retirement. "It's a juggling act," says Joffe. Five years ago, Joffe retired, followed later by Rollins, although they maintain their Woody Allen and David Letterman connections. For three years, Joffe taught at UCLA Extension, telling actors, directors, writers and producers what he knew best: how to turn professional.
Lured to San Francisco to see Reynolds perform, he telephoned his partner and told him, ''Let's go back to work.'' There would be no thoughts of senior discounts.
What they saw was incisive, biting human comedy, a new talent. Talent can get you to San Francisco. Connections get you to Hollywood. And connections is what Joffe and Rollins have. Their project: Get Reynolds known beyond the Bay Area and by showbusiness decision makers. ''We knew he had all the ingredients,'' Joffe says. ''Now that we've gotten this far we will sit down and see what Rick wants to do.'''