Media Q&A with Melissa Peterman of ABC Family’s “Dancing Fools” (J!-ENT Interview & Articles)
June 9, 2013 by Dennis Amith
On June 8th, ABC Family premiered it’s new comedy clip show “Dancing Fools” hosted by Melissa Peterman (“Reba”, “Here Comes the Boom”, “Working Class).
The show features the funniest, most outrageous and memorable dances caught on camera. The dancers from the top two clips of the week get to compete on stage for a chance to win $10,000.
For Melissa, since her acting debut on the film “Fargo”, she has appeared on television and is best known for her role as Barbra Jean on the TV series “Reba” (2001-2007) and has appeared on sereis sucha s “Surviving Suburbia”, “Rita Rocks”, “Working class” and “Pretty the Series”.
But for her role on “Dancing Fools”, Melissa not only hosts the show but she also provides her own humorous voice-over narration for the video clips featured.
In promotion of the series premiere of “Dancing Fools”, a media Q&A was held with Melissa Peterman to discuss her new series. Here is a transcript from the series:
Moderator You seem like you’re just naturally funny.
M. Peterman I like to think that, but my husband would probably disagree sometimes, but I think that I find humor in a lot of things.
Moderator How did you discover your natural talent for comedy on stage and on TV?
M. Peterman I had always loved theater. People are really surprised, I was kind of a quiet kid but I was a natural observer. I loved to watch people and part of it was I was close to six feet tall in high school and got into theater. When you got someone to laugh it was like the power of “if I can just get them to laugh with me and not at me”, it was a powerful—the ability to get a laugh out of somebody, it doesn’t matter if you do it for a living or not, that’s an amazing feeling, humor is the glue that gets everyone together and it was a great defense for me in a way in high school. If you’re funny, it doesn’t matter that you’re towering over every boy there, and then I learned to embrace my height so it was a good combo. I think I was just on stage. I did a lot of theater in high school, and when I first got that first laugh, I was addicted.
Moderator Speaking of your humor and using it in your show, “Dancing Fools”, you do these voiceovers for the videos, and they’re really funny. I was wondering do you prepare for those when you’re recording them, or do you make it up on the spot?
M. Peterman We had a great team of writers led by Brennan Huntington who is fantastic and we had a couple of writers who used to work for the “Ellen” show. So we had a great team that would come in and they’d been watching them and they’d send them to me and I’d watch them and mull it over. So, I was able to have jokes prepared, but a lot of times, we would get in the booth and start watching them and either tweak that or I’d have an idea or they’d have an idea. So, we had a template that sometimes we went off of.
There was one, and we could not figure out what to do with this. It’s this older gentleman and I think he’s dressed as a baby dancing and we couldn’t come up with anything because it was hilarious but a little creepy but we wanted it to be funny. So over time, after a couple tries, we just came up with a voice of, “Hi, my name’s Clark Stevens. I’m here to audition for the part of the baby. Goo-goo gah-gah.” We just went “Okay, that works, we can do that.” So, a lot of times, we had a template, but we would definitely stray from it depending on what was happening in the booth at the time.
Moderator Were you part of the evolution of the series or did they come and talk to you about it because they know you’re naturally funny?
M. Peterman Phil Gurn, who’s the producer, I’ve worked with him in the past. He did the Singing Bee which I did for him for CMC, and so, he knew me as the host but he came to me with this idea, and no, that was all them. I thought it was such a great twist of it’s got the feel of America’s Funniest Home Videos but with dance, but then the twist is there’s a game show element. There’s a live element of getting them to come dance live, I think is just genius, and that was the most fun to see the people that we were watching all week over and over again because that’s what I love about the videos too.
Even though we don’t want to admit that we’re getting sucked into watching videos on YouTube at our work, we do. I love watching any sort of fun video like that, and so, it was fun to have them, to be watching them over and over and then to see them come live, and who doesn’t like a chance to win $10,000 for a video that they might have done in their basement or at a wedding reception for fun? So, I just thought the idea was a great twist. You just love to watch it. You can’t stop yourself.
Moderator Any chance we can get you a part on “Melissa and Joey” and just do a Melissa Peterman trifecta on Wednesday?
M. Peterman I would think that would be amazing to do. I would love that. I’m a big fan of the show and the Melissa and Joey cast and our cast, we share some of the same crew as in we share some of the makeup people that have to do both shows, and I just have this feeling that Melissa Joan Hart and I would—everyone who knows both of us are like “You guys should do something together. You would love each other”. So, I’d love to do something with her.
Moderator What’s your favorite part about working on Dancing Fools?
M. Peterman Meeting the contestants. I just love genuinely—I think everyone has a story and I love meeting new people and we met some amazing people. I like hearing people’s stories and what they do and I love that and also the professional dancers that we have, I love trying to dance with them. That also makes me very happy.
Moderator How does “Dancing Fools” differ from any other dance competition show that’s on television today?
M. Peterman Because at any given point, we could have a ten year old or a grandma or two best friends or bridesmaids or groups—at any given point, you could have a 5 year old or a 80 year old coming to dance live and compete. So, I think that’s what’s very different.
Moderator What is your most embarrassing dance memory?
M. Peterman How much time do you have? Probably one of the earliest was my first dance recital and I think it must have been eight or nine or something like that and we were doing 99 Red Balloons. Imagine an eight year old girl with red turtleneck, leotards with the balloons and so, we’d rehearsed it without the balloons because we were going to carry helium balloons and then let them go right when the “da-da-da-da” started and we let them go, and I guess nobody thought that when helium balloons are released in an auditorium or a stage and they hit the lights they would all explode, and so, all these balloons just started popping and all of us were screaming but we were trying so hard to keep it together and keep dancing and I might have wet my pants. I was afraid by the balloons popping and the sounds and it was pop, pop, pop. So, that was the first, which was just a high bar to set for many years of embarrassing dance moments.
I love it when you think you’re killing it at a wedding and you’re like, “Man, everyone is watching me dance” and then you realize your dress is tucked into the back. That’s happened before. I’ve had a lot. I guess I’m not that embarrassed by it because I enjoy it so much that I figure things happen and I’m not the only one they happen to, but yes, thinking that you’re killing it and realizing that the reason they’re watching you is not the reason you think.
Moderator “Dancing Fools” is a perfect show for you to host, then.
M. Peterman It’s a perfect show, and I love it. I love game shows. I love dancing. I imagine I’m a much better dancer in my brain and I do love to dance. These two best friends [did] a dance that they sprung at a wedding reception and it gave me so much joy to watch them because you could just tell they were having the best time ever and we could not stop watching it over and over again. We bring them to do it live and it turns out that they had said that the wedding was going to be the last time they were going to do this dance together. They’ve been best friends since they were 14, and we brought them out of retirement on Dancing Fools to redo it and they were just the nicest guys, both recently married. One’s expecting a baby. I love those stories, and they were amazing.
Moderator Are there any comedians that have influenced you or that you admire?
M. Peterman Carol Burnett is a huge [influence]—I watched her Saturday night when I was a kid and just fell in love. Gilda Radner, I absolutely adored and would get to watch Saturday Night Live at my aunt’s house when I slept over and my parents didn’t know, so Gilda Radner, Catherine O’Hara, Andrea Martin. More recently, Tina Fey, I think is just a genius, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, anyone who’s fearless. I feel like that’s what I love to see in another woman comic, be fearless and don’t worry about being pretty.
You’ll do anything if you know it’s funny, and you don’t care how you look and don’t be afraid to be the butt of the joke and I think that’s just the secret. It was very exciting for me when we were shooting Baby Daddy that Hot in Cleveland shot next door and Betty White was like four doors down from me, and I wrote her a letter and sent it over to her dressing room and she said I could come over and meet her, and for me, she did three of the most—Rose Nylund and Sue Ann Nivens—she created so many amazing sidekicks that were just hilarious, and she’s 92 and she’s fearless. So, for me, it’s any woman who is completely fearless and willing to go for it and commit.
Moderator When do you find time to sleep with everything that you’re doing and what else do you have coming up?
M. Peterman Well, it looks busier because they’re all airing right now. The reality is I’m done shooting them all so now they’re just all airing. So, it’s extreme periods of business followed by a good chunk of time off, but during the shooting, it was extremely busy.
I do it because I do have so much downtime when it’s over, and I have a husband who’s a stay-at-home daddy so I have that support at home, but it appears busy because they’re all airing at the same time. Right now, I’m off until July 15th when I go start Baby Daddy again, but it is busy but I enjoy it so much. If it was a show that I wasn’t having fun on or I didn’t enjoy, I don’t think I could do it or commit to that much, but I’ve honestly really enjoyed everything I’ve been doing. So, it’s fun. It’s never a job when you like what you’re doing. So, that helps.
Let’s be honest, what I get to do is—I’m not a miner. It’s a great job and I’m really blessed and lucky to get to do what I love. So, I still think as an actor when most of your career people are saying no to you, when people are finally saying yes, it’s really hard to say no especially if it’s a project that really appeals to you.
Moderator When it comes back to “Dancing Fools”, can you tell us some of your other favorite moments from this season, what else we have to look forward to?
M. Peterman There’s this awesome kid. His name is Juan and he dances as a character that is called Granny Myrtle, and when I first saw the YouTube clip, I was completely blown away because I thought it was a 90-year-old grandma dancing to Black Eyed Peas and completely killing it. I just thought “Oh my gosh, this grandma is amazing and I need to know what she’s eating because I need that”, and it turns out it’s this young guy and we bring him to dance live and I always like to go meet everyone before the show and I was just talking to him and he had the greatest story.
He created this character because he felt that he’d been bullied before and he didn’t have a lot of friends and he just started to make up a character and he thought what would be fun and make people happy and he came up with this Grandma Myrtle character and would go spontaneously dance and bust her out in public places, and I just remember this kid and I wanted his phone number and I wanted to keep up with him because I just thought what a great story, but he created a character because he felt sort of different. That’s again, like the human interest of seeing them live that makes me really, really happy.
Also, I think looking forward to you’ll get to see a lot of our own professional dancers. I do hone in a lot more as I get more comfortable, which is sort of funny, but there are some great contestants, and to me, that’s the best part of the show.
Moderator As far as “Baby Daddy” goes, what attracted you to the role of Bonnie?
M. Peterman Because she doesn’t have an editor. She just does whatever she thinks, and when you first audition, you basically just get that first pilot script so you don’t really [know the character]. [Creator] Dan [Berendsen] was so great and I think every great pilot, the characters are already super defined right there, and when I read it, I just loved her. I thought she was loud. She could come off as overbearing and whatever, but at the end of the day, she would kill for her kids and she was funny. It was a completely different character from Barbara Jean but it still had some of the fun elements of things just come out of her mouth, and she was single and she was this woman who her kids are all grown up and they’re on a new journey and she’s divorced.
So, she has a whole new chapter coming up and she’s not 22, but she gets to still date and see what happens now that you’re not a mom full time anymore. So, that sort of attracted me. I don’t know if you’ve seen the cast, but that was sort of attractive too to get to work with them every day.
Moderator You’ve acted in movies, television programs, you’ve hosted, is there one that you prefer over the other?
M. Peterman I don’t know. I always kind of think of myself as an actress first in a way, but the hosting comes so naturally because of my improv. I don’t think I prefer anyone over the other. I think what I like about it is if I go host, I think that makes me a better improviser because it makes me faster on my feet, and if I go improvise, that makes me a better standup, and if I go do standup, that works on my timing which makes me better at a sitcom role, and if I go do a movie, that’s a whole other sort of muscle. Everything’s smaller and it’s a little bit—just a very different feel. So, I think I enjoy them all because I think they make me better and help me exercise a different muscle that makes me better for another thing. I don’t know if that makes sense.
Moderator I was wondering how close do you get with the contestants?
M. Peterman As I’ve hosted a few other shows, I found that if you take the time to go before the show starts and say hello, welcome them and take a moment to chat with them, it puts them at ease and they can have fun because here’s the thing—their time on the show is—this is the clip or the moment that every family’s going to watch at every holiday. They’re going to e-mail it to everyone. This is their time to shine and this is their moment. They get to be a star and this is the clip that their family will air forever.
So, I just always think it’s really important to go say hello and welcome them and it puts them at ease and they can have fun, but I always spend a few minutes or even longer before the show starts with all of the contestants there. I don’t follow them home or anything, but I would a couple of them. They were pretty fun.
For more information on “Dancing Fools”, please visit the official website here.
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