Bruce Vilanch | Biography

Quick Wiki

  • Full Name Bruce Vilanch
  • Occupation Writer, actor, and philanthropist
  • Nationality American
  • Birthplace New York City, Vilanch, U.S.
  • Birth Date Nov 23, 1948
  • Age 75 Years, 6 Months
Famous For His Comedic Writings for the ‘Annual Academy Awards’

Bruce Vilanch | Biography

Served as a panelist and the head writer for 'Hollywood Squares' and the celebrity square for four years

Vilanch grew up modeling as a chubby child and went on to take theater and journalism studies at the Ohio State University. He was interested in both acting and writing; therefore, he began his writing career as an entertainment writer at the Chicago Tribune. Gradually, he wrote for shows and artists as he moved to Hollywood.

Bruce Vilanch is a multiple-time Emmy Award-winning writer. He is also an actor and philanthropist.

Who is Bruce Vilanch?

Vilanch is prominently known for his comedic writings for the ‘Annual Academy Awards’ and also for his appearance on the show Hollywood Square in which he appeared alongside Whoopie Goldberg.

He grew up modeling as a chubby child and went on to take theater and journalism studies at the Ohio State University. He was interested in both acting and writing; therefore, he began his writing career as an entertainment writer at the Chicago Tribune.

Gradually, Vilanch wrote for shows and artists as he moved to Hollywood. He wrote comedic scripts for Robin Williams, Diana Ross, and the lyrics for the ending song of the show Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show. The song won him an ‘Emmy Award.’ Later, he was a panelist on the show Hollywood Squares, and it's head writer for four years. Then, from 1989 to 2014, he was a writer for the ‘Oscar Awards.’ In the role, he collaborated with Whoopi Goldberg, Letterman, and Billy Crystal.

In addition to that, Vilanch also acted in several productions such as the 1984 movie The Ice Pirates and the series Law & Order. He also acted in Broadway shows, including Bruce Vilanch: Almost Famous (2000) and the musical Hairspray (2005) as Edna Turnblad.

Vilanch has won two ‘Primetime Emmy Award’ for ‘Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program: Annual Academy Awards’ in 1991 and 1992. And then, in 2010, he was honored with a ‘Career Achievement Award’ at the ‘Fort Worth Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival.’

Age & Early Life

Born on 23 November 1948 in New York City, Vilanch was adopted at a young age by optometrist Dr. Jonas Vilanch and his wife, Henne Vilanch.

While growing up, his parents signed him up with child acting agencies for theatrical exposure. He modeled as a chubby child under Lane Bryant’s Charming Chub division.

Therefore, after graduating high school, Vilanch joined the Theater and Journalism major at the Ohio State University. He wrote reviews, participated in college theater, and eventually began dreaming of becoming a playwriter.

Bruce Vilanch
Bruce Vilanch in 2013 (Photo: Instagram)


Formally, Vilanch’s writing career began when he wrote entertainment issues on The Chicago Tribune. He wrote about the industry culture and also did interviews. He also did a segment on celebrities.

Following that, he moved to Los Angeles and joined The Donny and Marie Show as a co-writer. He wrote for multiple shows and movies, including Star Wars Holiday Special of 1978 and Brady Bunch Variety Hour. Also, in 2008, he co-wrote the show The Showgirl Must Go on with Midler and An Evening with Friends in 2010.

In addition, Vilanch also delivered personal scripted jokes and performances for actors and artists. His contributions accompanied the performance of Lily Tomlin, Roseanne Barr, Rosie O’Donnell, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Diana Ross, legendary Robin Williams, and Barbara Streisand.

In addition to that, Vilanch wrote the lyrics of Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show, which won an ‘Emmy Award.’ And in 1985, he co-wrote the Village People Band’s song ‘Sex Over the Phone,’ which also gained a significant cult following and popularity.

Further, he also served as a panelist and the head writer for Hollywood Squares and the celebrity square for four years alongside Whoopie Goldberg. He also worked as a column artist at The Advocate. There, he published comedic as well as heavy issues.

Vilanch was also successful in publishing his writings. In 1978, one of the books he wrote for the musical Platinum was performed on Broadway. And his writing collection, ‘Bruce!: My Adventures in the Skin Trade and Other Essays’ was nominated for Lambda Literary Award.

Award Shows Writing

Vilanch was first recognized for writing special materials for the ‘35th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards’ in 1983.

Then in 1989, he was selected as a writer for the ‘Annual Oscar Awards.’ He continued writing for the Oscars and occasionally collaborated with Whoopi Goldberg, Letterman, and Billy Crystal. And eventually, he became the head writer in 2000 and retained that position till 2014.

Along with Oscars, Vilanch also wrote for the ‘People’s Choice Awards,’ ‘Annual Grammy Awards,’ ‘Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards,’ and ‘Annual Tony Awards,’ among others.


Vilanch made his film debut in 1975 with a minor role in the film Mahogany, acting alongside Diana Ross.

In addition to that, he appeared in an episode of the series Bosom Buddies, then with Richard Gere in the movie Breathless and also in the movie The Ice Pirates (1984). He also appeared in the famous tv-series Law & Order during the 1990s.

Further, Vilanch continued his acting passion in broadways. His one-man show Bruce Vilanch: Almost Famous (2000) was adored by the viewers at the West Beth Theatre Center. Then in 2005, he also played a major role In the famous musical Hairspray as Edna Turnblad. He then played the same role on the show’s first national stage tour of 2003 and 2006.

Later, he became known for appearing alongside Goldberg on Hollywood Square. And he further gained prominence due to his openly gay role in the 2010 movie Pride: The Gay & Lesbian Comedy Slam. He also actively supported LGBTQ and pride-related events, after which he was recognized as the unofficial gay mascot of the 2019 movie La La Land.


In 1999. Andrew J. Kuehn’s subjected a documentary on Vilanch’s life as ’a a richly funny behind-the-scenes look at the art of creating comedy.’ The documentary was titled Get Bruce! and it incorporated interviews with people close to Vilanch, including Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, and also his mom.

Further, in 2007, he released a documentary Laughing Matters: Gay Comedy in America. And in 2010, he appeared as a commentator in Christopher Hine’s documentary The Adonis Factor.

Philanthropic Works

In addition to his artistic work, Vilanch is also involved in philanthropist duties. He has worked on the honorary board of the Aid for AIDS organization.

Vilanch has also hosted the Los Angeles organization’s Quest for the Crown event, which later became Best in Drag Show.

Further, he also hosted the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS program Dancers Responding to AIDS in 2009 and 2010. In 2010, he scripted and hosted the fundraising event, An Evening with Tab Hunter of Los Angeles PAWS.


Vilanch has recognized himself as openly gay while he has kept his relationship status private.

Did You Know? 

  • According to Celebrity Net Worth, Vilanch's estimated net worth is $8 million. 
  • In 2010, Vilanch was mocked in an episode titled 'The Coon' of the American animated television series South Park. Later, he wrote the show's creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone a thank you note. The episode was aired on 16 March 2010.

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