The best way to achieve fame and fortune? Don't focus on them.
If you're getting into the creative arts to get a big paycheck or ego boost: don't.
Born in The Bronx, Renée made her professional stage debut at age 15 in a Purim Pageant at Madison Square Garden (earning $5 for her role as ‘Slave Girl’). She then appeared in the showcase Talent 60, which led to her earning her Actors Equity card, at age 19, for appearing in The Rehearsal at The President Theatre. Around this time Renée was also performing stand-up in Greenwich Village nightclubs (a young Barbra Streisand opened for her at Bon Soir). After seeing Renée in a production of Easy Does It, Elaine May cast her in her improvisational revue The Third Ear. Mike Nichols then cast her as a standby for Anne Jackson in the Broadway production of Luv in 1964. After seeing her go on in Luv, George Abbot cast her in Agatha Sue I Love You. Another time she went on, performing opposite Gene Wilder, Mel Brooks saw her and cast her as Eva Braun in his Academy Award-winning film The Producers. Renée married Joseph Bologna in 1965, and the two co-wrote the hit comedy Lovers and Other Strangers, which debuted on Broadway in 1968, with Renée featured in the cast. The couple received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for the 1970 film. Renée and Joe co-wrote and co-starred in Made for Each Other, receiving a Writers Guild of America Award nomination for Best Comedy in 1971. The couple won Emmy Awards for writing the 1973 television special “Acts of Love and Other Comedies,” and were nominated once again the following year for writing the TV movie Paradise. They returned to Broadway in 1981, appearing in their play It Had to Be You, and again in 2001 in If you ever leave me … I’m going with you! Renée and Joe co-wrote, co-directed and co-starred in the 1984 TV movie “Bedrooms,” the 1989 film adaptation of It Had to Be You, and the 1996 film Love Is All There Is (which introduced a young Angelina Jolie). Together, the prolific couple collaborated on 22 plays, four film screenplays, and nine TV movies and series. Known for her Emmy nominated role of Sylvia Fine in “The Nanny,” Renée’s other TV acting credits include “Daddy Dearest” (opposite Richard Lewis and Don Rickles) and the groundbreaking HBO sitcom “Dream On” (she appeared on these three television shows simultaneously). More recently she has had recurring roles in “How I Met Your Mother,” “Bob’s Burger’s,” and “Happily Divorced.” Jerry Lewis gave Renée her big break in film, writing a role for her in The Errand Boy in 1961, and her many film credits also include A New Leaf, Last of the Red Hot Lovers, Lovesick, White Place, Life During Wartime, Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, and more recently, The Do-Over and How To Be a Latin Lover.
Renee Taylor: A lot of people say “Oh, I was going to be an actor, I was going to be a writer, I was going to be a director. But I gave it up because I can’t take rejection.”
Well you’ll always have rejection whatever you do. If you’re a plumber you’re going to have rejection.
The thing is you love it and that’s your passion, and that’s your joy, and that’s what you express. And you don’t think about “Are you going to make a lot of money? Are you going to be famous?”
You don’t think about things like that, or it won’t happen. Or if it does, it will be very shallow.
I was asking Lee Strasberg how he liked me on television, and he said he thought that I wanted to be famous more than I wanted to be an artist.
And I said to him, “Can’t you be both?” And he said “Yes, not in that order.”
And I saw that my priorities were not in the right order.
And when your priorities are in order you can achieve everything you want to achieve. But if your priorities are not in order you won’t achieve anything.
So if you’re just wanting to be famous as I see young people want to be, or they just want to be beautiful—they’re really sabotaging themselves, because what you want to be is creative, loving, joyful, expressing yourself. And the outcome will take care of itself or not.
There never will be a final outcome, and there’s no perfection except when you’re dead, because you can never be more dead. No one can ever say, “if she was only more dead, it would be great.” It’s just, it’s the journey, getting there.
I think when anybody famous dies you say “My god, she had everything. She had incredible beauty and talent and sex appeal and fame.” And the pain of not being able to find joy in your life really made me question myself. And it really made me think about, well what are the important things in life? It’s not looks, it’s not fame, it’s not diet, it’s not money. Well what is it? It’s love and it’s joy and it’s creativity. And it’s not getting, “Am I going to get this?” It’s giving, and it’s being able to receive. It’s very important to receive. A lot of people can give, but they can’t receive. When I come out on stage and people start applauding my first reaction is I want to run. It’s very difficult to stay there. At the end of the show too, at the curtain call. It’s very difficult for me to just stand there, and I say “No, just receive people’s message to you. Their appreciation of how much people need to laugh. And what the point of your play is.” My mother’s dream for me was to be famous. And my dream for me was to write about my life and share it with people. And that’s what I’m doing now, so that’s a miracle. A miracle is when you get much more than what you were expecting. And so I’m living in a miracle right now.
A meditation that I do before I go onstage, I will share with you: Before I go onstage I say—I go through my whole life, and you can do it in three minutes—And I say, “help me choose to be a vessel, to be someone greater than myself and bring joy and forgiveness and healing and love.” And then I go onstage.
- If you want to achieve anything, you have to get your priorities straight.
- Renowned actress and memoirist Renée Taylor tells us what the influential acting teacher Lee Strasburg told her early on.
- She shares the meditation practice that she does every time she goes on stage.
Renée's latest project is a play, My Life on a Diet, based on the book of the same name.
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