The then-aspiring actor and anthropology concentrator’s relationship with the Hasty Pudding Theatricals was a fortuitous one.
O’Keefe says he honed his talents both on stage and later in the show’s scripts and scores—all while managing to look “very pretty.”
His career post-graduation has been creative and unconventional.
Most notably, he composed and wrote lyrics for Bat Boy, the tabloid-inspired tale of a half-boy, half-bat taken in after being found in a cave in West Virginia.
The musical became a smash hit, garnering the Outer Critics Circle and Lucille Lortel Awards for best Off-Broadway musical in 2001. It plays again this month in Boston.
In a few months’ time, the stuff of his childhood will be aired on a new WB sitcom, The O’Keefe’s, created and executive produced by his younger brother Mark.
The O’Keefe brothers, including the eldest, David—all real-life Harvard and Lampoon alums—serve as the inspiration for the brilliant, young home-schooled protagonists who rebel and “discover they are worse than utterly unprepared for the real world.”
But in a twist, brother Larry becomes “Lauren” on the show—ironic, perhaps, in light of Larry’s cross-dressing Pudding days.
“So, I’m being played by a 15-year-old girl,” says O’Keefe, who now lives in New York. “If only I had a quarter for every time…”
O’Keefe’s wit is clearly at work throughout. He has a knack for finding humor in mundane observations, and frequently references figures likeDante and Marx in punch lines that reflect his acerbic wit.
In fact, this sort of upside-down, unconventional comedy is a trademark in his work. So is his habit of blurring expectations, sneaking pathos into farce and the ridiculous into tragedy.
Bat Boy is itself not what you’d expect from a musical based on the life of a mutant cave-dweller. It’s a comedy, but it has weight to it as well.
Its world is as mundane as the protagonist is preposterous, and his story is “honest, truthful and logical,” according to O’Keefe—“the equivalent of Al Gore: he’s so earnest and ridiculous you go home making fun of him, but then end up thinking, ‘Hey, that guy had a point.’”
Proof is in the Pudding
At Harvard, O’Keefe was a veritable Renaissance man: a ’Poonster, Krokodiloe and theater maven.