The city's most contentious Broadway commentator, Riedel has managed to offend nearly everyone in the business with his twice-weekly Post column.
A native of Rochester and a Young Republican in college, Riedel planned to go into law or politics after graduating from Columbia. Instead a friend offered him a job at the now defunct Theater Week, which commenced his career as a commentator on the Great White Way. In 1993, Riedel was hired by the Daily News; five years later, he took his act to the Post. Thanks to his biting style—"I'm a wimp when it comes to physical violence, but give me a keyboard and I'll kill ya"—Riedel has become one of the most read, and most influential, voices in the theater community. In addition to his duties at the Post, Riedel hosts a weekly PBS show with his friend Susan Haskins called Theater Talk.
Some have suggested that Riedel's influence on the theater biz now exceeds that of the New York Times chief theater critic, Ben Brantley. "Michael Riedel has eclipsed Ben Brantley as the single most discussed element in marketing meetings for Broadway shows," one theater executive declared to a reporter. Detractors say Riedel is obsessed with the negative—and he's admitted as much in the past: "I love a fiasco, and I love to watch it all fall apart." He's also been accused of harboring grudges against specific producers and directors. In recent years, he's trained his ire on Dance of the Vampires, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Sweet Smell of Success, and Seussical! The few productions he's actually approved of: Julie Taymor's Lion King, the Tommy Tune production of Nine, and Closer.
After Riedel called the 2004 Fiddler on the Roof revival "de-jewed," the show's director, David Leveaux, punched him in the face at Angus McIndoe on 44th street. Both emerged relatively unscathed, although Riedel's watch was broken.
Since 1996, when his then-girlfriend moved to LA, Riedel has lived by himself in small one-bedroom on Perry Street. A portrait of Igor Stravinsky hangs on the fireplace mantle.
Riedel performed on stage himself as a teenager. He appeared in a production of the Diary of Anne Frank at his Catholic high school.