rick reynolds

Reynolds Escapes New York

by Steven Winn

When Petaluma monologist Rick Reynolds set off to play a prominent off-Broadway theater in New York this spring, a lot of people wondered if Jack Rollins and Charles Joffee, the famed show business managers who had taken Reynolds under their wing, knew what they were doing.

With its mix of one-liners, confessional family pathos and a sentimental philosophy of life that hinges on savoring every last cookie in the box, Reynolds' autobiographical show, Only the Truth Is Funny, is a far cry from, say, Jackie Mason's acerbic one-man Broadway evening. Wouldn't New Yorkers eat this no-name white-bread California comic alive?

Apparently not. Despite a mixed press reception in New York and a 2 1/2-month run at the Westside Theater that lost over $100,000, Reynolds' career is ''right where it should be,'' according to Rollins & Joffee spokesman Robert B. Weide.

This week, in preparation for a September opening at the Canon Theater in Beverly Hills, Reynolds returns to the town that first discovered him. Only the Truth Is Funny re-opens tonight at the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre and plays through September 1.

Meanwhile, the gears are meshing for a three-way release of Truth in the spring of next year -- as a book (published by Hyperion), an album (on the new Gang of Seven label) and a Showtime special. Reynolds is contemplating a multi-city tour after his Los Angeles run, and after that, various television and film opportunities.

He's already been offered -- and rejected -- a week as guest host on ABC's Into the Night and prepared "prototypes" for a comic slot on that network's Prime Time Live. He recently read for a new Stephen Frears film after drawing the attention of Woody Allen's casting agent, Juliet Taylor. Reynolds is also thinking of writing a new solo show.

''New York did what we wanted it to do,'' said Weide, vice president of development for Rollins & Joffee, the blue- chip entertainment firm that also represents Allen and David Letterman. ''Our philosophy was to break him in as an artist without pinning him down to a specific game plan.

''It's clear to us now that whatever Rick does from this point forward, it should be something only he can do. He's not a sketch comedian, and he really doesn't see himself as an actor in someone else's material. He thinks of himself, primarily, as a writer.''

Both Weide and Bob Fisher, who is co-producing the Lorraine Hansberry run of Truth with Michael Sawicky, blame poor advance publicity on Reynolds' slow start out of the gate in New York. ''The publicists handled him as a household name,'' said Fisher, ''which, clearly, he was not.'' Fisher also said that ''a major pan by the New York Times would have done us more good'' than the short, neutral notice Reynolds received from the paper.

As for the charge that the show's philosophical insights sound awfully familiar, Fisher acknowledges that Reynolds is ''not saying anything really new or earthshaking. But audiences have become aware that these are things Rick arrived at himself by living life.''

Since opening at the Improv and then transferring to Theater on the Square before its leap to the East, Truth has undergone various changes and refinements. The show now closes with the birth of Reynolds' son, Cooper, a milestone that could only be anticipated by audiences at the Improv.

By mid-1992, after returning to San Francisco for the Showtime taping, Reynolds plans to put Truth into cold storage. Said Weide, ''He doesn't want to be talking about his son's birth two years from now, when Cooper is already walking and talking.''

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