By Gretchen C. Van Benthuysen
The successful two-person TV/ stage/film writing team of Billy Van Zandt and Jane Milmore has morphed into a threesome.
Wait! Before you think that’s a bit risqué for a family newspaper, we’re talking about two Jersey Shore artists who not only specialize in the double entendre, they’ve made a career mining it by writing comedies with such titles as “Love, Sex, and the I.R.S.,” “Playing Doctor,” “The Senator Wore Pantyhose,” “A Little Quickie,” “What the Bellhop Saw” and “What the Rabbi Saw.”
They also authored and performed weekly in the international megahit “You’ve Got Hate Mail” at the Triad Theatre (now Stage 72 on West 72nd Street in Manhattan) from September 2010 through January 2015. The comedy continues to be produced in translation around the world.
Both grew up in Monmouth County – he in Middletown, she in Keansburg – before going Hollywood where, between jobs and auditions, they wrote plays that originally were produced by Kathy Reed and Dennis Lynch at The Dam Site dinner theater in Tinton Falls (now MJ’s at the Falls) in the 1980s. They had started acting earlier at the now defunct Barn Theatre in Rumson.
Their 24th stage production currently in the works is “Man*O*Pause,” Nov. 16 and 17 at Tim McLoone’s Supper Club, based on an idea pitched to the dynamic duo by musician and all- around entertainer Wayland Pickard.
“It came out of left field,” Van Zandt said in a recent telephone interview. “He had an idea for a show: that men go through ‘the change,’ too, basically. And we would write the lyrics and book.
“He’s a brilliant composer and musical director. He works with headliners all over the world and he knows his stuff,” Van Zandt said. “There was just something funny about the idea and we thought, ‘Well, why not?’
“Normally, we say, ‘No, thank you.’ We just like it when it’s the two of us. A couple of times we’ve worked with people we liked, but we pursued them,” he explained.
Besides their stage work, the team wrote, created, developed and/or acted in such TV shows as “Newhart,” “Anything But Love,” “Sydney,” “Suddenly Susan,” “The Wayans Bros.” and “Nurses.”
They were nominated for an Emmy Award for their TV special “I Love Lucy: The Very First Show.” They won People’s Choice and NAACP Image awards for the Martin Lawrence comedy “Martin” and a Prism Multi-Cultural Award for “The Hughleys.” Also, they wrote and acted in the feature film “A Wake in Providence.”
“We’ve worked on ‘Men*O*Pause’ for awhile. Now it’s more of a fun and casual evening, like a nightclub act. Three funny guys and me,” Van Zandt explained referring to Glenn Jones, Tom Frascatore and Jeff Babey. “Rather than wait to mount a whole show, we thought we’d just do a sneak peak of the music.”
For nearly 30 years, Van Zandt and Milmore would return to the Shore area, particularly Brookdale Community College (BCC) in Lincroft and produce a new full-length, fully staged, two-act comedy each spring.
It was as predictable as the swallows returning to the Mission San Juan Capistrano in March.
But once “You’ve Got Hate Mail” (loosely based on the collapse of Milmore’s first marriage) became so popular and they were commuting from Los Angeles to Manhattan weekly for performances, combined with changes at BCC, plus other issues, premiering an annual show just wasn’t working anymore.
Both writers live in California. In 2015, Van Zandt sold a second home in Middletown on Brown Dock Road that he shared with his wife Adrienne Barbeau (from whom he currently is separated) and their two now college-age sons William and Walker. Milmore maintains a home in Rumson and is married to Richard Vaczy, a TV writer and producer.
They miss opening shows at the Shore, he said. “Man*O*Pause” at McLoone’s is a way to satiate local fans.
“These are our people,” Van Zandt said. “We’re still working on the show and this is the first time anyone will see it.”
Friend, musician and restaurateur Tim McLoone – with whom they previously collaborated on “Merrily We Dance and Sing (or the Naughty Boy)” – booked the show for Nov. 16 at his Asbury Park supper club.
It sold out in 24 hours, VanZandt said. A second night was added for Nov. 17.
Pickard, who lives and works in Las Vegas, is flying in to be the music director. Currently the show includes 14 songs and runs about 70 minutes, no intermission.
“Four guys are talking about the changes they go through at a certain age, myriad issues such as hair loss, weight gain, unfulfilled dreams, kids and marriage.
“All men, when they hit their 50s, go through it one way or another,” VanZandt said. “But men don’t like to talk about themselves.
“I hope, with funny songs on an off topic, men will relate and find it funny while women will understand what husbands go through.”
The goal is to see what works and what doesn’t and take it from there. No costumes, no dance routines, no book. Long term, Van Zandt said, they are looking at bookings in Vegas or on cruise ships.
“They don’t like long shows in Vegas,” Van Zandt explained. “They want people back at the tables.
“If it has universal appeal, though,” he added, “the show could go anywhere.”
8 p.m. Nov. 16 and 17
Tim McLoone’s Supper Club
1200 Ocean Ave., Asbury Park
Tickets $20 and available at
or call 732-774-1155
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