Fangirl Fridays – Paul Rudd

Let me tell you a secret. I had months to decide who I was going to fangirl over today. And I just couldn't decide. It's not that I had soooo many people to pick from and couldn't bear to choose one over the other. Oh no. This self-professed fangirl couldn't think of a single person I wanted to write an entire Fangirl Friday about! My inspiration well had run dry.

Until one weekend in July. Big Slick was in town. Apart from its unfortunate name (it's a poker term, but it still makes me giggle), it's a weekend every year when Jason Sudeikis, Rob Riggle, and Paul Rudd come home to Kansas City with 10 to 20 of their closest celebrity friends, take over a Royals game to play wiffle ball, throw one hell of a poker tournament, and have a big party at the end of it all. No, they aren't "actors behaving badly." It's all a fundraiser for a local children's hospital.

As the Big Slick festivities were getting underway, I couldn't get Paul out of my mind. I kept thinking of my love affair with Paul over the years. He has always been a steady presence, always been someone whose work I've loved, someone whose energy and personality I've admired, and someone who spearheaded a celebrity fundraising event in a way that made it fun and laid back and not an "event" at all. How cool is that?

Let's fangirl a bit on Paul Rudd after the jump, shall we?

Adorkable: Although Paul had a few television roles, many of us first remember him as the adorkable Josh in Clueless, Cher's ex-stepbrother and eventual love interest.

Paul at this year's Wiffle Ball game
Big Slick: Paul and friends Jason Sudeikis and Rob Riggle just hosted the fourth annual Big Slick KC in July, a weekend-long fund raising event for Kansas City's Children's Mercy Hospital. The weekend kicks off every year on a Friday with the celebrity Wiffle Ball game at the KC Royals' Kauffman Stadium, followed by the celebrity poker tournament on Saturday, and concluding with a giant party and auction Sunday night. The 2013 Celebrity Attendees were Angela Kinsey, Damon Wayans, Jr., James Marsden, J.K. Simmons (who still terrifies me after his role on Oz), Johnny Knoxville, John Glaser, Kevin Pollak, Olivia Wilde (of course), Rich Eisen, Samm Levine, Sarah Chalke, Will Forte, and Wilmer Valderrama. The event gets bigger every year. Even though the celebrities do it because it's a good cause, there are a lot of good causes out there. What makes Big Slick different? I think the event is so successful because Paul and his friends Jason and Rob have organized something that is fun, worthwhile, and is more meaningful than a "photo-op" philanthropic event. In fact, I don't think Big Slick gets much, if any, coverage outside the bi-state area. Big Slick KC raised $210,000 in its 2nd year. Last year the event raised over $525,000. And this year it raised over $600,000!

Stand Up to Cancer: Paul is involved in several philanthropic endeavors, including Stand Up to Cancer, an organization that seeks to encourage collaboration vs. competition in cancer research. All of the public funds raised go toward research grants. Administrative costs are funded by a portion of major donations and large fundraising efforts (the rest go toward research). Paul is currently sponsoring a fundraising team on CrowdRise for the organization. The cause is personal to Paul, as it is to so many of us. Paul's father passed away due to cancer a few years ago.

Rudd as Hunt in Diggers
Dramatic actor: After attending the University of Kansas for a couple of years, Paul earned the Spencer Tracy scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts-West in Los Angeles. After graduating, he studied at the British Drama Academy at Oxford University where he helped produce the Globe Theatre's production of "Bloody Poetry," in which he starred as Percy Bysshe Shelley. While at Oxford, he also played Hamlet under the direction of Ben Kingsley.

England: Both Paul's parents were born in England, and Paul feels a strong connection to the country. "Even from my earliest memories," he says," of the candy, really. And tea. And that counts for something when you're a kid." Paul recounts a lot of satisfaction of his time in England, particularly being able to study "scenes or plays that were very English." Being somewhat of an Anglophile, and having studied in England myself, I can identify with Paul's fond memories of being a student in London.

Fanboy: Paul is a fanboy. At least, I have found one confirmed fanboy occurrence over Steve Martin. Apparently, and I did not know this, there is an art form to the character names that Mr. Martin creates for his comedy routines and movies. And Paul is one of many who fanboys over these character names. But it's sort of an underground cultish fan club. While with a gathering of friends and acquaintances some years ago, Paul was admiring one such name, "Gern Blanston," when someone excitedly proclaimed that this explained Judd Apatow's email address. Paul had never met Mr. Apatow, but you know how those underground fandoms are. Paul emailed Mr. Apatow and the rest is history. There is a footnote to this history lesson. This story got back to Steve Martin. He sent Paul a copy of his book Born Standing Up, autographed, of course, but with "Gern" in parentheses!

Gloria Rudd: When Paul's mother talks about him, she speaks with pride. She is proud not of a son who is successful, but of a son who is true to himself, who does the right thing, and who has a good moral compass. She was interviewed for a local magazine and asked which of her son's roles were her favorite. She said she liked "Ned" in My Idiot Brother because "He played that character with a good, good heart. He saw the good in everyone, which is like Paul in real life. Loving and sincere." Regarding "George," the gay lead opposite Jennifer Aniston in The Object of My Affection, Gloria said "Paul played George Hanson with no affectations. He played a man who knew who he was and was torn. It was a captivating performance, again, straight from the heart." You can tell a lot about a man by the relationship he has with his mother. If this interview is anything to go on, Paul is one hell of a man. His mother sounds like one hell of a woman, too.

Hometown boy makes good: Paul grew up in Lenexa, KS, a suburb of Kansas City. I grew up about 45 minutes from there. He attended Shawnee Mission West High School. After college, I worked with kids who were enrolled in school at West. Before moving on to the bright lights, big city of L.A., he attended the University of Kansas. I lived and worked in Lawrence while going to a nearby university. There are several famous people from Kansas City, and from Missouri and Kansas. And Shawnee Mission West is a large school, and many of its students go on to college at KU, so that's not such an unusual thing. But still, it's kind of cool to share so many local experiences with a famous person I just happen to admire.

Integrity: Paul recently made a movie, Prince Avalanche, with David Gordon Greene. Nothing too special about that, except they didn't tell anyone they were making it. They didn't pitch it to any studios. They didn't promote it. They didn't use any fancy equipment or special effects. They just grabbed some cameras and made the movie they wanted to make on their own terms, without outside interference. And showed it at Sundance with a positive reception. At the time of this writing, it has an 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Just proving that you can produce a quality product that is well-received by critics and the mass public without studio interference support.

Jack Sullivan Rudd: Paul's son, Jack, was born in 2006. He has a daughter, Darby, who was born in 2010. First, Paul wins the award for best celebrity kid names. Second, Paul wins the award for coolest father of the year. When Jack was 4, he and Paul would watch old footage of Live Aid, because they liked the experience of 80s-era pop music and fashion seemingly frozen in time. The best part is that at the time, Jack already had his own fashion sense. An unconventional fashion sense for a 4-year-old. He preferred suits. Dress shoes. Bow ties. And to accessorize and pull it all together? Glasses. When Paul's father converted the basement of the family home into an Irish pub-inspired space, he named it Sullivan's, after Jack. Paul has a similar setup in his New York home, called Sullivan's East.

Kansas, University of: We've already established that Paul attended classes at KU. In addition to being a KU basketball fan, I made my home in Lawrence for several years in my early 20s. And I love Paul a little bit more every time he gives a shoutout to KU in one of his projects. That's probably why I fangirled so hard for him in Clueless. Which, yes, I saw in a movie theater in Lawrence. But Paul doesn't just have the school pride of an alumnus or your everyday sports fan. No, he continues to give back to his school by mentoring current KU students. He also mentors students at Shawnee Mission West. Because that's just the kind of guy he is.

Library, Kansas City Public: Like I said earlier, Kansas City, as well as the larger Missouri and Kansas areas, has produced its share of famous and noteworthy citizens. However, this summer the Kansas City Public Library has fangirled a little bit itself over Paul Rudd, and is hosting an outdoor summer film series, showing one Paul Rudd film a month free to the public. I have to qualify this by saying this isn't your average movie-in-the-park, public-service type of thing. The Kansas City Public Library, when it hosts events, is more of a curated affair. The library takes this shit seriously. Perhaps you've seen pictures of the downtown KC library? They don't do anything on a small scale.
The Central branch, while a fully functioning library, is equal parts meticulously maintained historical structure (the building was constructed in 1906) and museum with rotating art exhibits. The executive director of the Kansas City Public Libraries is Crosby Kemper III, whose family founded the line of UMB banks, and who himself hosts a local Emmy-winning series called Meet the Past with Kemper interviewing actors as various historical figures such as James Naismith, Willa Cather, Mark Twain, John Brown, Charlie Parker, Thomas Hart Benton, Jesse James, and Amelia Earhart. The library has a large local cultural influence. And the Kemper family an even larger one, with an events center and a contemporary arts museum bearing their name. So when the library devotes an entire summer to your films, they're legitimizing your work.

Midwesterner: You travel around the first 10 years of your life. You live the next 10 years in Kansas before you strike out for fame and fortune and live the next 20 years as a successful actor in L.A. and New York. Where are you "from?" How do you identify? Paul still identifies as a Midwesterner, even though he lived here only 1/4 of his life. "I like it. I like being from the Midwest. . . . I think the formative years for me were spent in the Midwest. And, during that time, I think I kind of came to this conclusion that it's a good thing to grow up in a place that you know is not the cool place to be. I think it's good for your kids' psyche and character to know that you're living in a place that people don't necessarily come to. . . . And now, when I go back to Kansas City — And I go back, still, pretty often — while I am happy that I live here [New York] I will say there is something...I do feel more relaxed there. People seem to be friendlier. And there's something I really love about it." Paul is sort of the ambassador of the Midwest. He doesn't just enjoy coming "home," he tells everyone he knows how great this place is!

You can't be nice all the time
Nice: The death knell of guys everywhere. But Paul strikes the perfect balance of being the nice guy that you'd still want to date. How does he do it? I'd like to think his frequent visits home have something to do with it. "I love coming back to Kansas City and hearing people say things like 'have a nice day' at the grocery store. I live in New York and spend a lot of time in L.A., but people in the Midwest keep me grounded. I've been told I'm a pretty polite guy and that's because of Kansas City."

Our Time: Another philanthropic activity. Paul is a board member of Our Time, a New York-based not-for-profit that helps kids who stutter. Our Time also hosts a camp in August that is open to participants world-wide. Paul hosts the annual Bowling Benefit in October. He was playing a character who stutters and discovered the organization while doing research for the play.

Phoebe Buffay: How can you not love the person who is able to embody the perfect partner for Phoebe? Honestly, who could Phoebe have married other than Mike Hannigan? He's the Crap Bag to her Princess Consuela Banana Hammock.

Quoteworthy: Not that his movies aren't quoteworthy, but these are all Paul:
I can, and do, walk the street. No one bothers me or anything, because most people wouldn't know who I am.
I think there's something great and generic about goldfish. They're everybody's first pet.
Having an AOL address is like wearing Ocean Pacific shorts. It's so uncool that it's cool.
I just think there's something inherently funny about the naked male body, particularly mine. Ryan Reynolds, sure, it makes sense why he'd strip down. But not me. I shouldn't be allowed to do it.
Reno 911!: It has recently come to my attention that not everybody has witnessed the greatness that was Comedy Central's Reno 911! television series. This makes me very sad. However, what makes me very happy are Paul Rudd's appearances on the show and in the movie. Here you can see Paul's character, a Lamaze coach, getting up close and personal with Officer Trudi.

Paul and his mother, Gloria
Supportive parents: I've heard this story, like, never. Paul wanted to be responsible about pursuing his acting career, to have a college degree to fall back on in case things didn't work out. His parents said, Wait a minute—if you're going to do this, do it right. You can always pursue the backup plan later. They encouraged him to give acting a solid 10 years of effort. "People with passion chase their dreams," said Gloria. "I didn't want Paul or my daughter, Mandi, to be shadowed by the 'woulda, coulda, shoulda' syndrome." Uh... really. I'd love to go meet Gloria and just give her a giant hug.

The Angry Lenexan, a.k.a. Michael Rudd: Speaking of passion. Michael, Paul's father, had issues he was passionate about, and would write to letters to the opinion section of the local papers and sign them "The Angry Lenexan" after a nickname given to him by friends. In particular, after he was diagnosed with cancer, he wrote about the misguided religious opposition to stem-cell research. He would always send copies of his letters to Paul. Paul channels his father when his characters act out indignation, at the silly names coffee chains use for beverage sizes, for example. Paul says he shares a sense of indignant humor with his father, "When people like Dick Cheney have gay children—that's just all funny."

Undead: Paul is.

Vibrant: Why did I pick Paul over any of his cohorts also from the Kansas City area? It's because of his vibrancy, and seeming love for life. He has this aura about him that is so happy to be here and sees the positive in those around him, and that type of personality is infectious. Those are the types of people I try to surround myself with. In my research for this post, I didn't come across one fan experience of "Oh, Paul must be having a bad day," or any other grumpy Paul stories. Most of the fan experiences were like Lindsay Robertson's, which just left me with a huge smile on my face, and thinking that perhaps humanity has a chance after all. And THAT, in a nutshell, is why I fangirl over Paul Rudd.

Winning personality: And how did Paul grow up to have such a winning personality? "I moved around to so many places when I was little. I mean, up until the age of 10 I had lived in three different states, I had gone to many different schools, and so I was always trying to acclimate into new scenarios and settings, and I got teased for certain things." Oh, Paul, let me give you a hug! But he quickly learned to use humor to win people over. "I think that was probably the way that I kind of tried not to get my ass kicked, or at least make friends, you know, with new kids so I would be accepted. That was probably my defense mechanism. Still is." I admire someone who can take a difficult experience and not use it to explain away their troubles, but find a way out of it. Paul not only found a way out of a difficult situation, but used it to his advantage, and turned it into a successful career!

eXtolling: Extolling the virtues of Paul could take all day, so I'll start wrapping it up. (Hey! "X" is a hard one!)

Yearbook photo: Just because. And it's a lot nicer to include than a video floating around of his bat mitzvah DJ work.

This iZ the End: Okay, sorry, "Z" was hard, too. Really, it's This is the End, a movie that came out over the summer, in which Paul has a cameo. A lot of celebrities have cameos in this movie. I mean, a LOT. So that's nothing special. However, if you've seen the movie, you know that pretty much all the celebrities in it do a wonderful job of poking fun at themselves, and I have to respect every one of them for that. It's a really funny, and very self-aware movie. Go see it.

If you've stuck around with us this long, either you already loved Paul as much as I do, or you do now!! Tell us what you love so much about him in the comments below. OR, tell us about your own celebrity hometown hero!!


  1. Love, love, love this post, for all of the reasons you mentioned! I've always been a fan, but he skyrocketed to the top of my list in December when I got the chance to see him star in a play on Broadway. He was phenomenal, and it goes without saying that stage acting is a true test of talent. He has it.

  2. I'd love to see him on stage. From interviews I've read, it seems he really enjoys the challenge and the variety it gives him from film. I also want to check out some of his dramatic work (vs comedies).

    1. That was the beauty of this play. Because it was a dark comedy, we got to see him play the funny guy who also has a psychotic break. It was AWESOME. You should definitely check out The Object of My Affection with him and Jennifer Aniston. It's funny but far more serious than his other movies. It reveals a whole different side of him!

  3. Veronica, I loved this post. So many things that I didn't know about Paul Rudd. Thank you.


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