We began Stars In The House two weeks ago as of this past Monday! If you don’t know, it’s a twice-a-day live stream of James and I hosting celebrities chatting and singing. People watch from all over the world (Seriously! We get comments from Singapore, Italy, Australia) and they feel connected during this time of social isolation. They also donate to The Actors Fund. Most donations are around $25 and amazingly, we’ve already raised over $120,000!
The new fun thing we’ve added: auction items. Since these shows are in people’s houses, I’ve been asking them to find mementos from past performances with which they are willing to part. Audra McDonald auctioned off the baby she buried in Ragtime. Yes, from the original 1998 Broadway run. She held it up and sassily told us: “This baby is now 22 years old. It’s time he left the house!” That auction just ended but there are so many more!
Jon Hamm put up jackets that only people who worked on Mad Men received and Tina Fey put up some amazing stuff from 30 Rock, including a tank-top for the fictional Tracy Jordan Show. Look at all the items at StarsInTheHouse.com/Auction.
Speaking of Tina Fey, she was my first guest on my new SiriusXM Pandora podcast called Seth Rudetsky’s Back To School. Turns out, she named a lot of characters in the film Mean Girls after people from her high school. She felt that real names sound more realistic than made-up ones, but now she regrets using them. For instance, there really is a Glen Coco and, yes, people are constantly saying to him “You go, Glen Coco” because of this moment.
She told me on the podcast that she learned her lesson…but then immediately busted herself because on her most recent TV show, she named Tituss Burgess’ character Titus! However, there was a real name used on 30 Rock that was requested by the actor: When she cast Tracy Morgan on the show, they were trying to think of his character name. He told Tina that he wanted it to be Tracy. Why? Well, if the show became a hit, he knew people would recognize him from the role. He said he wanted to walk through an airport and have people yell,“Hey, Tracy!” and not something like “Hey, Bobo!”
Vanessa Williams is my second guest on the podcast (new episodes released on Tuesdays) and her high school years were such a contrast to Tina. They were both big achievers, but Tina was a goody two-shoes and Vanessa…wasn’t. Vanessa said her father was “famous” in the neighborhood for one of his many disciplinary moves: he literally removed the door to her bedroom! And not just for a day…for a LONG period of time!
But, she was an excellent French horn player and the star of many high school productions. Here is an amazing photo she sent me of her doing her school musical, Two Gentlemen of Verona. #Werk
And here’s a photo we took a few months ago after the podcast with Vanessa holding up her high school yearbook…looking like she still is in high school!
Jack (Plotnick) made me an incredible video with actual audio clips from guests like Tina, Vanessa and Allison Janney!
Back to Stars in the House. We’ve had some amazing moments and here are a few highlights:
We had some of the stars of Frozen (the original animated one) on the show, and Josh Gad (who plays Olaf) recounted his audition for Juilliard. When he walked in, he went to shake the hand of Michael Kahn, who ran the drama school, and as Josh’s hand approached, Michael said, “No, thank you!” Josh said he didn’t even know that could be a response to a handshake! Josh did his first monologue, thought he nailed it…and got no response. Crickets. Then he went into his Shakespeare monologue. Well, halfway through he forgot his lines…and started improvising…in rhyming couplets. To be clear, he was improvising Shakespeare in front of the man who not only ran Juilliard’s drama division but had also been the artistic director of the Washington D.C. Shakespeare Company! Suffice it to say it all ended with Josh walking out and saying, “Thank you! I’ll be enjoying your school…from afar!” Josh wound up going to Carnegie Mellon and is super-successful so it all worked out.
Stephanie J. Block and her husband Sebastian were on last Thursday and were so charming! We wound up having Sean Hayes and Eric McCormack on the show, as well, who are good friends in real life! I asked for crazy Broadway stories and Stephanie talked about doing The Boy From Oz (where she played Liza Minnelli). She told us that there wasn’t much security backstage and one time, during Act 2, she saw a man wandering around who asked if she was Stephanie J. Block. She was in full Liza drag, with the requisite crazy eyelashes, and told him that she was indeed Stephanie…and he immediately served her with papers!!! Seriously! Her ex-manager was suing her because he had represented her during Wicked when it was first being formed and, even though she was no longer with the agency, the manager felt she owed him money because she was going to play the role of Elphaba. She told us that she wound up having to write a check. Eric asked, “Before the curtain call?” Brava on the comedy!
Sebastian and Stephanie also recounted how Sebastian proposed. They were in France. While Sebastian proposed, there was a cellist, sitting nearby on a bridge, playing beautiful French music. After Stephanie said yes, they started walking back to the hotel and passed the cellist. They wanted to remember every amazing European moment that encompassed this very romantique proposal. They approached the cellist, and asked what his name was. They spoke clearly so he could understand. Was it Pierre-Luc? Jean-Claude? Turns out, non. He looked at them, and in the flattest American accent ever, responded “Brad.” Quel dommage! They’re still miffed that out of all the French musicians playing outdoors in Paris, they got the one American who sounded like he was from Idaho.
Here’s the Stars in the House schedule for the rest of the week!
THURSDAY, APRIL 2
2pm ET: Variety Thursday! Harrison Greenbaum (The Illusionists), Caroline Rhea, France Joli, Bill Berloni
8pm ET: Will Chase & Ingrid Michaelson
FRIDAY, APRIL 3
2pm ET: Santino & Jessica Fontana
8pm ET: Randy Rainbow
8pm ET: Kristin Chenoweth
Watch at StarsInTheHouse.com and look at the auction, too!