Broadway alum, “Rugrats” voice actress Melanie Chartoff bares all and discovers true self in fun new memoir


“… a very insightful chronicle of a very funny woman maturing
in an odd profession in which we’re all very odd.” — John Goodman, actor

LOS ANGELES – Trying to crawl inside the television set to get her parents’ attention, she got blocked by all the tubes and wires. So she went the long way around to get herself onscreen. In a series of essays and stories, actress Melanie Chartoff explores her ambition, artistry and love blunders in her hilarious, heartbreaking and hopeful new memoir, “Odd Woman Out,” (Feb. 2, 2021, Books Fluent).

From her 1950s childhood in a suburb she describes as an “abusement park,” to performing Molière on Broadway, to voicing characters on the popular “Rugrats” cartoon series, Chartoff was anxious “out of character,” preferring any imaginary world to her real one. Obsessed with exploring her talent and mastering craft, fame came as a destabilizing byproduct. Suppressing a spiritual breakdown while co-starring on a late-night comedy show, Chartoff grew more estranged from whoever she was meant to be. But given a private audience with a guru, she finally heard her inner voice, played by ’70s soul singer Barry White, crooning, “Get out, baby!”

All the while, she’s courted by men with homing pigeons and Priuses, idealized by guys who want the girl du jour from TV to be their baby rearer or kidney donor.

Go backstage on Broadway, behind the scenes on network television, and inside the complicated psyche of a talented performer struggling to play the role of a complete human. “Odd Woman Out” intimately exposes the nature of identity in the life of a performing artist, snapshotting the hopeful search for a self Chartoff could love, and someone else’s self to love, too.

“Odd Woman Out: Essays and Stories”
Melanie Chartoff | Feb. 2, 2021
Books Fluent | Memoir
Paperback | 9781735268927 | $12.99
Ebook | 9781735268934 | $9.99
Audiobook | 9781735268941 | $9.99

Early praise for Melanie Chartoff and “Odd Woman Out”

“Melanie Chartoff’s book reads like a novel. A thriller, a tragedy, a comedy and romance.
The eloquence with which she presents her inner world is a service to any reader who lives a
deeply examined life. I felt like I’d gotten 25 years of therapy just observing her trajectory
towards serenity and the ability to say, ‘f*ck you’ to her personal demons. …
‘Odd Woman Out’ is a highly personal thrill ride. A must.”
— Laraine Newman, actor

“Chartoff reminds women of all ages that you can be sexy, infertile, half a century old,
but still young all at the same damn time.”
— Jenni Konner, co-showrunner, writer and director of “Girls”

“Melanie Chartoff’s ‘Odd Woman Out’ is a brilliant and engaging read. Chartoff, an actress of great wit and charm, is candid about navigating both the fleshpots of Hollywood and her own inner minefield. What emerges is extremely funny, often touching, often profound. A collection of pieces that will by turns delight you, sadden you and ultimately affirm how hard and how beautiful life can be. It is a journey you will be glad you took.”
— Fred Melamed, actor

“A beautiful, funny, moving rendering of a unique life in art, show business and comedy.
She is a brilliant actor and a wonderful writer. Her book inspired me.
Her teachings and insights changed my life.”
— Betty Buckley, actor

“I’ve known the talented Melanie Chartoff since 1980 and was well aware of her huge talent as an actress but had no idea that she was an equally brilliant author, as well. This is an extremely touching and funny memoir that is a must read!”
— Ed Begley, Jr., actor

“Melanie Chartoff is the most gorgeous writer, the most funny, poignant, sinuous teller of tales that make you gasp and sigh and cheer. Just. Wow. This book reconnects us to what it means to feel, to care, to be human, and still be able to laugh at it all. Odd Woman Out is a magnificent piece of writing about the fantastic adventure of her life and times. We can all relate, but none of us could have made it this funny, warm, honest, humane and human. Do yourself a huge favor and give yourself the gift of going along on this adventure.”
— Elayne Boosler, comedian, writer and animal activist

“From one chick in the chuckle racket to another — Bravo, Melanie!
This is the book I wish I had written — except for the dirty bits!”
— Anne Beatts, American comedy writer

About The Author

Beginning as an actor off and on Broadway, MELANIE CHARTOFF is best known for the characters she created on “Fridays,” “Seinfeld,” “Newhart,” and “Rugrats.” She’s recently been published in McSweeney’s, Medium, Entropy, Purple Clover, The Jewish Journal, Funny Times, Five on the Fifth, Glint, Entropy, Verdad, Bluestem, Evening Street Press, Mused, Jewlarious, Defenestration, Better after 50, Living the Second Act, and in three editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul (Simon and Schuster). “Odd Woman Out: Essays and Stories” is her first book. Visit Melanie’s website for more info. And connect with Melanie on Book Ya Ya for an event.


In an interview, Melanie can discuss:

  • Her illustrious career as an award-winning Broadway, Hollywood, TV and voice actor, singer, dancer, essayist, and inventor
  • How an out-of-place oddball initially found comfort and acceptance through performing
  • How she began her acting career and how she helps those looking to hone their talent
  • How she opted to forgo a conventional career and life with children to pursue artistic and creative endeavors
  • Her long journey to finding love and first-time marriage at 65, and her desire to give hope to other mature singles

An Interview with Melanie Chartoff

1. Your family was in some sense the inspiration behind your comedic talents. How did your familial relationships foster your desire to perform?

We writers begin stalking our parents for material almost prenatally, poor things, and mine provided plenty. They inherited handed-down traumas from their Holocaust-fleeing families. It was an uphill battle for them to laugh. I performed strenuously to draw fire from my daddy’s rage, to parody my anxious mother, to cheer up my sad sister. This gave me a large capacity for embodying all the characters in my small-town life.

2. So how did you get into acting?

I was mad for theater at an early age. I recall an actor was walking through the audience at our local repertory theater and spoke his story to me directly. I felt as though I was sucked out of my seat and into the vivid life on the stage at age 13. Thereafter, I wanted to live in a play better written than my life story with better characters, including myself.

3. Any advice you can give to aspiring actors?

With the evolution of online performance, it’s imperative that young actors learn to adjust their truths for the camera and mic hidden in their computers; that they internalize roles that are bigger than life for the close-up scrutiny of the small screen; that they can believe so ardently in a fiction and feel it so deeply, that the audience feels it, too.

4. You’ve said that you’ve played many roles as a human being before you actually became one — can you elaborate a bit on that?

I was a product of people’s projections. I took my shape from their desires. I had no idea who I was, but I was a carrier of what others needed from me. I tried to look like other people looked like they felt when I was young. Then, when I became famous, I pretended to be my onscreen persona, although I didn’t always feel like that tailored, fabricated self.

5. Is there a specific reason you waited so long to get married? Do you regret waiting?

I made many mistakes in love as I didn’t know which aspect of myself to be with different people. And my husband and I regret we didn’t find one another far sooner in our long lives. We’ll have less time than other people, so we are cramming as much joy as we can into our days and into our relationships with the many we love.

6. You say that you’ve written this book for mature singles. Can you explain how you think your experiences can help inspire them?

I think singles (of all genders) who have found themselves child-free and freelance in their lives after 35 will keenly relate. It took me a long time to forgive myself for my colossal blunders in relationships; for needing love too much to be more discriminating; for not knowing who I was sufficiently to know what I needed; to find delight and wonderment in my own company and imagination so that being alone didn’t feel like a punitive sentence pronounced by some patriarchal system.

7. What do you hope readers take away from the book after reading about your life?

I trust they’ll be amused by revelations in my quirky ways of thinking and that they’ll see and forgive themselves in my actions. I hope they’ll enjoy highlights of a 50-year life in the arts on stages and screens, in an assortment of odd courtships, and finally in a new marriage of unique equals whose mutual oddness turned to evenness when they wed. I want to remind readers it’s never too late to learn to love — yourself and other people — and to get life right.