Emmy Award winner Tom Bergeron, 59, is the host of the wildly popular Dancing with the Stars as well as America’s Funniest Home Videos, whose 25th anniversary season premieres on Oct. 12. Born and raised in Haverhill, Bergeron spent more than a decade at WBZ-TV (Ch. 4) early in his career, hosting shows such as People Are Talking. He became the host of Breakfast Time on Fox in 1994, a guest anchor on Good Morning America in 1997 and the host of the Hollywood Squares reboot in 1998. In 2009, he had more primetime hours on TV than any other host, and he’s emceed everything from the Miss America Pageant and Lottery Live to the daytime and primetime Emmy Awards. The author of I’m Hosting as Fast as I Can!: Zen and the Art of Staying Sane in Hollywood, he divides his time between California and Connecticut with his wife and two daughters.
Jonathan Soroff: There’s an internet meme that says, “Dancing with the Stars is an American game show for ex-celebrities who want to be back in the spotlight but are too shy to leak a sex tape.” Which star from the show is most likely to do a sex tape?
Tom Bergeron: Cloris Leachman. Definitely.
So You Think You Can Dance with the Stars
That’s a great idea. We could combine it with Cops, so you could see them getting arrested, too. I’m in. Call the production company.
I don’t know about traditional ballroom dance costumes, but ours aren’t. Some of them are pretty revealing though. I remember once, with a very beautiful woman, when I said, “Tune in next time, when she’ll be wearing the other half of that costume.”
If there’s enough tequila around.
Dancing with the Stars
I’m sure there are some, but even if I knew who, I probably wouldn’t say, at the risk of humiliating them twice.
Not really. But there have been a few pro athletes who—when they realized how hard it was going to be—couldn’t get back to the golf course fast enough.
The retired Pope.
I have some very incriminating photos of the network higher-ups.
Can I have some of what you’re smoking?
I’d say neither. I’m going with my personality. Especially since I’ve always said I have a face made for radio.
Oh, God. Yes, I did that. From what I recall, I’d say things like, “Welcome to As the Balls Turn,” or something ridiculous, to try and inject some personality into an otherwise purely mechanical process.
Well, it was absolutely no fault of theirs, but I did customer service for an industrial tubing company, and that was less than inspiring.
Not really. Lois is great at those sorts of things. My problem is that I’m OK in front of potentially millions of people, or maybe at an industry thing, but put me in a cocktail party setting and my upper lip looks like Nixon’s during the first televised debate. I’m awful at small talk.
America’s Funniest Home Videos
It’s kind of ironic how many people are using smartphones to film themselves doing really stupid things, but it definitely has had an impact. There’s actually an AFV app available for download, and they get something like 2,000 videos a week.
[Laughs] By chance. Whoopi Goldberg and I were working together, and she said, “Let’s go check out the set.” We were with the producer, Rick Berman, and I made a comment about the show. He said, “You’re a fan? You want to be on the show?” And I was like, “Wow. It’s as easy as that?” So I did several hours of prosthetic makeup and had a role in the opening scene as an alien trader. It was very cool.
Oh, yeah. I’ll be seeing her soon, when I go and do The View, but we text or communicate pretty regularly, like when Robin Williams died, or when the show was in flux, or times like that. I have to say, Whoopi is the most generous person I’ve ever worked with. When we started out with Hollywood Squares, no one knew who I was, and she kept me by her side at all times. I remember one event where she was asked to pose for a picture with the film director Robert Townsend. Whoopi held me firmly by her side, and I could hear the photographer saying, “Don’t worry. I can crop the white guy out.” [Laughs]
When you redid Hollywood Squares, did you really think you could improve upon Paul Lynde? No. All those folks—Paul Lynde, Jonathan Winters, Buddy Hackett—they were impossible to replace or recreate. The saying is true that you can only be a virgin once. But what we could do, and did do, was an updated version, and it was really good.
I’m really glad you asked me that because this is for a Boston audience. The people I really looked up to when I was a kid were local broadcasting personalities like Larry Glick, who eventually became a good friend of mine, and Rex Trailer, who had the kid’s show Boomtown, or Frank Avruch, who was the original Bozo. The idea of being on a local Boston TV show was the thing that really excited me.
I’m going to say a rumba with Grace Kelly.