Thursday, July 21, 2011

Interview with John Stamos

In the Hollywood Bowl's production of Hairspray August 5, 6 and 7, directed by Tony Award winner Jerry Mitchell, John Stamos will play the super suave TV Host Corny Collins. Stamos starred on Broadway in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Cabaret, Nine and Bye Bye Birdie and is known for his television work on Full House and ER, and this season on Glee and Law & Order: SVU. In our chat, he talks about Corny and his favorite theatrical ventures.

Describe Corny Collins in Hairspray.

Corny Collins is a DJ, a host of a radio show, the host of a live television music show...he's sort of like a straight Ryan Seacrest. (we laugh) The first time I saw the show I was in Cabaret, and it was a gypsy performance of Hairspray. I was in between shows; I felt like I still had some sparkly makeup on my nipples from the MC in Cabaret, and I saw the gypsy run through of Hairspray. I remember thinking "Oh my God, I have witnessed something magical. This is going to be a smash hit." 

How do you intend to make your Corny stand apart?

I haven't started rehearsals yet. I was thinking about that this morning. He's a clearly overconfident, sort of cocky, sure-of-himself kind of guy. It's fun to play a guy who's very overconfident. I'm a hair guy anyway.

You've been a heartthrob in your roles on TV and on stage. Do you ever tire of playing that kind of character?

I don't feel that Albert Peterson (Bye Bye Birdie) ...clearly I wasn't the heartthrob of that show.

Right. I had that one listed as a real exception.

I loved playing Albert Peterson because he's a quirkier character. I went from Full House from playing Uncle Jesse to J. Pierpont Finch (How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying). I remember at the time it was a choice of playing Danny Zuko (Grease) on Broadway or J. Pierpont Finch, and the idea of playing a nerdier, kind of physically different guy was much more appealing. When I started to prepare for Finch, I started with his walk, his physicality. I did the same thing with Albert in Bye Bye Birdie. What was inside of me was a quirkier, wiry version...

congratulating the current Broadway J. Pierpont Finch Daniel Radcliffe

(I interrupt) Without trying to imitate Dick Van Dyke's interpretation. 

(we laugh)
I love Dick Van Dyke. I always get excited playing these characters... and have played some bad guys that weren't so attractive and so cool. I think Corny is pretty cool. He doesn't have to be quirky; he thinks he's pretty cool. I've always loved doing that DJ voice. I'm going to tap into...what was the name of that homeless guy they found on the side of the road recently who has that great voice? ...Ted Williams. He was on all the TV shows and they gave him some work as a broadcaster. He has that deep Broadway voice...he's my inspiration for Corny Collins. (we laugh)

Talk about the MC in Cabaret. That's a great stretch. I wish I had seen you do that.

That was hands down so far the highlight of my career. It was the perfect time of my life, the perfect show for me at that time. I was trying to get away from the Uncle Jesse character. I remember scaring the shit out of people that were coming to see Uncle Jesse because it was not long after I had finished Full House. I remember thinking that I didn't want to upset them, so I should give them what they wanted. But Sam Mendes (director) said "No. You're not servicing the character by servicing the audience. Be true to the MC, and they'll come around, and eventually they did. I couldn't wait to get to the theatre to do that show. I wish I had done it longer. I can't remember why I stopped. Then they asked me to come back, but I had the choice of going back or taking over for Antonio (Banderas)
in Nine. I hadn't done that, so I took it on, but that was a bigger...I think I wasn't mature enough to play that role yet. I was barely 40 and I hadn't gone through enough in life to play that role properly. 
But Cabaret was the best time.
Let's switch to your love of music and playing with the Beach Boys. How did all that begin?

I started in '85. It's been 26 years. I still play with them. I just got off a month tour with them. It's been one of those great things that have been continuous in my life. The Beach Boys really painted the tableau of California and surfing. When I grew up, they were my favorite band. I met them when I was on General Hospital. They said, "Do you want to come and play drums?"
That was the beginning of a long beautiful relationship. I played a little more and had them on my television shows, I recorded with them and toured quite a bit with them in the 80s and 90s. My goal has always been to introduce the Beach Boys to a younger generation. With the downfall of radio, where are kids going to really hear them? Right now I'm producing a feature film with Fox. It's sort of a teenage love story with their music intertwined, kind of like Mama Mia.

That sounds great. What's your favorite TV role?

Don, no one has ever asked me that. I would have to say I love Blackie, the first character I ever played, on General Hospital. Over the two years of being on a soap opera, you get to play every emotion on the planet and with twenty to thirty takes a was my first job and a very exciting time for me. I loved playing him.

What do you think is your mission as an entertainer?

I like to make people happy. I'd rather someone say I'm funny as opposed to better looking and make them laugh rather than cry. I'm fascinated by comedy. I love being around comics, comedians. Stand up comedy, I love. It's much harder to do comedy than drama. It's almost mathematical with all the rhythms.

You've done several courageous projects that I laud you for. One in  particular was The Wedding
Wars on TV. 

I'm very proud of that movie. One of my best friends Neil Meron who produced that and Chicago
with Craig Zadan... I give them credit for bringing the musical back: Chicago, the movie of Hairspray. They also did all the great TV musicals like Gypsy, The Judy Garland Story. I did Raisin in the Sun with them. They came to me with The Wedding Wars, and I said "Yes! I believe in the cause. I believe in gay marriage and want to get the word out there." That was a no-brainer. I jumped right on it. I wish they would replay it. It didn't get as much credit as it should have. I don't want to get into politics, but I was upset that it didn't get promoted enough. The message is so important, especially now.

Catch John Stamos as Corny Collins in Hairspray, co-starring with original Broadway stars Harvey Fierstein and Marissa Jaret Winokur at the Hollywood Bowl.

HAIRSPRAY will have three performances only -- Friday and Saturday August 5 and 6 at 8:30pm, and Sunday August 7 at 7:30pm.  Single tickets are available in person at the Hollywood Bowl box office, by calling 323.850.2000 and at

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