As the saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Lesser known is the adage, “When the universe doesn't write your biography and adapt it into a play that further glorifies your lifefuck itdo it yourself.”
The latter is exactly what actor and Comedy Central writer Mark Sam Rosenthal did. Tired of waiting for someone to pen his life story, he decided to get down to business, imagining his very own celebrity autobiography laced with heaps of self-praise and drenched in sarcasm. Although the book exists only inside Rosenthal’s head, its concept became the theme to Rosenthal's off-off Broadway play, I Light Up My Life.
"Like most pornographic celebrities, I was hoping to derive self-esteem from extreme self-objectification and abasement."
The one-man show, which was performed at the New York experimental theaters Ars Nova and Dixon Place and the 2011 New York International Fringe Festival, parodied celebrity adoration and its first cousin, self-aggrandizement. And should Rosenthal ever become “mainstream famous,” it gave the same crowd who liked tUnE-yArDs before w h o k i l l the chance to say they were a Mark Sam Rosenthal fan before he starred in ________ (Oscar-winning film TBD).
Gelf Magazine’s people got in touch with Rosenthal’s people, who directed us to his show’s central character. The would-be sex tape star generously answered a bevy of questions via email for the following interviewone that has been edited for clarity and future Wikipedia references. For details on hitting rock bottom with soft drugs, carefully scheduled bowel movements, and Rosenthal's preferred porn site, read on.
Gelf Magazine: You’ve preemptively created your celebrity autobiography to save you the bother once you actually become a "celebrity." Can you run us through what your day will be like once you're insanely famous?
Mark Sam Rosenthal: I can't imagine my days will be much different, as I already live as if I were an object of intense media scrutiny: I have 1,709 Facebook friends! I suppose I might spend a bit more time taking calls from other famous people and from agents and various other minor cogs in the wheel of fame, and a bit less time reading "work e-mails" or "riding the subway."
Mark Sam Rosenthal: I begin my day now with a crackle of depressing NPR reportage, followed by prayers for world peace at my windowsill and a number two. (Not at my windowsill.) I feed the cats out of duty and proceed around the corner to the Manhattan Plaza Health Club. There I disrobe. I admire my naked figure in the large mirrors and notice the several senior citizens who are also admiring me. I put on my Speedo, spoiling their view! I proceed along a corridor past the glass-walled yoga studio and the watchful eyes of those in up-dog, and pretend not to notice the stares from the scrawny young clerk at the front desk I'm flattered, but there is a height requirement for this ride! I swim. If I am lucky I will find a rhythm that takes me far away from crowded Manhattan island and my life of fame, although usually there is a much slower person sharing the lane with me. I reward myself with a bacon, egg, and swiss sandwich from the corner deliand another number two. By then it is 9:30, and time to go to "work." Ah, fame.
Gelf Magazine: What's the craziest thing you've done to keep up your celebrity image?
Mark Sam Rosenthal: I wrote my celebrity autobiography! "LOL." Also, I have tweetedwhich has got to be the craziest thing anyone has ever done.
Gelf Magazine: Who, if anyone, inspired I Light Up My Life?
Mark Sam Rosenthal: Just me.
Gelf Magazine: You wrote a preemptive celebrity autobiography. Does that mean you've planned a celebrity rock bottom? If so, can you get into the details of your impending meltdown?
Mark Sam Rosenthal: The best things in life just can't be planned! At any rate, years ago I spent a harrowing Monday afternoon fighting with myself in my apartment over whether I should get high or not before going to do my laundry (a fight I lost!), so I don't see how it could get much more horribleand glamorousthan that.
Gelf Magazine: When you acted in a porno (which apparently was not your "rock bottom" moment), were you doing it more for the cash, the future story-trumping card it would become, or another reason I can't fathom?
Mark Sam Rosenthal: I have never done anything "for the cash," thankfully. (My "job" notwithstanding.) I imagine like most pornographic celebrities that I was hoping to derive self-esteem from extreme self-objectification and abasement, which is a much more convoluted calculation than it might at first appear. And of course, I was trying to not "miss out" on life!
Gelf Magazine: What is your favorite celebrity biography/autobiography-with-a-halfway-decent-ghostwriter?
Mark Sam Rosenthal: I rarely pay attention to the competitionbut I'm currently reading Bride of Fortune, an out-of-print account of the life of Varina Davis, First (and Last) Lady of the Confederacy. Dare I reveal how much I relate
Gelf Magazine: The title of your show I Light Up My Life leads itself to two interviews. You've already spoken with Out; why have you not appeared in High Times?
Mark Sam Rosenthal: See my answer about smoking before doing laundry. Those days are thankfully behind me!
Gelf Magazine: To get political for a moment, do you think gay marriage will ever be legal in all 50 states? If so, when do you think it will happen? Also if homosexuals were allowed to marry in all 50 states, do you think heterosexuals would stop getting married because "marriage would be gay"?
Mark Sam Rosenthal: Personally I only acknowledge 48 states, as I'd rather Arizona still belonged to the Mexicans and Utah to the Mormons. (I imagine most people do!) But I do think same-sex marriage will eventually be the law of the land by the time of the second Cuomo administration (voila: I've taken out my gypsy ball!). I'm sure heterosexuals will never stop getting married, though, because they simply can't think what else to do.
Gelf Magazine: Having starred in other one-man shows such as Blanche Survives Katrina in a FEMA Trailer Named Desire and Love Mercy, who do you think has what it takes to share the stage with you?
Mark Sam Rosenthal: I think you've answered that one with the question itself.Gelf Magazine: My fiancé wastes a lot of her time reading PerezHilton and Jezebel, which I can’t even get mad at because I waste just as much of my life reading about the bullshit of professional athletes. What’s your biggest guilty pleasure website? And how much time do you spend every day reading about other celebrities?
Mark Sam Rosenthal: GayMaleTube.com
there's not a lot of "reading" on that site.
Gelf Magazine: Who is your favorite celebrity and what makes him your favorite?
Mark Sam Rosenthal: I bet you think I'm going to say myself. Well, I do want to, but instead I'll go with Jesus Christ. What a likable fellow! And what I find most admirable about him is that although He was born a Jew, he ultimately saw the light and realized no one has to live that way. Plus I'm just crazy about some of the music from Godspell.
Gelf Magazine: Who’s your least favorite celebrity and why?
Mark Sam Rosenthal: Snooki. And shame on you for asking why.
Gelf Magazine: On the scale of celebrity, where does a Bravolebrities rank? Where do you rank yourself?
Mark Sam Rosenthal: Definitely above a Bravolebrity!
Gelf Magazine: Did you consider any other titles for I Light Up My Life?
Mark Sam Rosenthal: As a matter of fact, there were several strong contenders - including the now quite timely I Will Always Love Me. Poor Whitneywe don't all make it. Other runners-up were Gypsies, Tramps, and Me; Six Degrees of Me; and You Can't Rape the Willingwhich I quite favored but against which I was dissuaded by my Mormon dramaturge. (His people are generally uncomfortable around all forms of sexual expression, even rape!)