Wayne Brady, Filling In the Blanks

Wayne Brady calls himself "a throwback to an earlier age, a performer who's doing it all."

This summer alone, he's recording a new CD of soul songs and contemporary tunes scheduled for release in September; performing his live variety show Thursdays through Mondays at the Venetian in Las Vegas; and, of course, preparing to host the second season of "Don't Forget the Lyrics," Fox's fill-in-the-missing-words karaoke competition, which is airing reruns on Sundays.

"The old adage is, you strike while the iron is hot," Brady said. "I've been blessed enough that my irons have been hot-to-warm-to-hot for the past 10 years. So I'm still striking.

"This is what I was built for," he said. "I can't save a life; that's why I didn't become a doctor. I can't drive a 16-wheeler. There are a lot of things in life I can't do, but I'll be damned if I can't get on a stage and entertain."

He's pretty good on the telephone, too, as we found out when we started the interview by asking him to play "Don't Forget the Lyrics."

Q. The category is television theme songs. Four words. Ready? "Here's the story ..."

A. Oh, geez. If I've heard that a billion times since kindergarten, I've heard that 2 billion times. "Of a man named Brady."

Q. Actually, it's "of a lovely lady."

A. You know what? I want to say it's actually "of a man named Brady." I'm going to stand by that right now. ... Look it up and tell me if I'm right. I think it's "Brady" first.

Q. You seem to genuinely enjoy hosting "Don't Forget the Lyrics." What's your favorite part of the show?

A. That's an odd question. Why would I not enjoy doing it and then do it?

Q. Uh, money?

A. Money's money. Trust me, I'm no Pollyanna. I have my ups and downs. But the fact of the matter is, I have reached a point where I don't have to accept any job that comes down the pike. When Mike Darnell (Fox's president of alternative entertainment) approached me, he had to chase me down. I said, "Mike, I'm not doing a game show."

But when we did the mock-up game, I fell in love with it, because who doesn't want to watch someone sing karaoke poorly? Even if they're singing well, it's still karaoke, and it's fun. Then I got sucked into the human end of watching these people vie for all this money.

Q. Clearly, contestants have to be pumped up. Has anyone been so overcaffeinated that you had to settle them down during the commercial?

A. Yes. And if you watch the show steadily, you can tell who those people are. Some of the overcaffeinated ones, they go home early because they don't slow down their style of play. I try to help them: "Are you sure you want to lock in those lyrics?" "Oh, man, oh, yeah. For all those folks in Cincinnati, I'm locking in those lyrics!" "Okay, here we go."

Q. I turned on the TV one night and saw you on "Everybody Hates Chris." After that, I flipped the channel and there you were on "How I Met Your Mother." I changed the channel again and you were on a "Drew Carey Show" rerun. If I had changed the channel one more time, where would you have been next?

A. On a rerun of an old show called "Kwik Witz" I used to do late nights on NBC that was syndicated but still pops up every blue moon. Or on Byron Allen's panel show for comedians. Hopefully, you won't see me on an infomercial anytime soon. "Hey, these knives cut brilliantly. They're made of a space-age polymer." That's where I don't want you to see me. But who gets a chance to say they've done enough that something like that could happen? That's just great.

Q. Instead of saying "Get me a Wayne Brady type," do casting agents just say, "Get me Wayne Brady?"

A. My manager told me there's this unofficial rule in show business: You go in cycles. First it's, "Who's Wayne Brady?" Then, "Get me Wayne Brady." Then, "Get me someone who looks like Wayne Brady." And then it's, "Who's Wayne Brady?" The best you can do is to keep kicking some butt until the Wayne Brady 2.0 rears his ugly head.

Q. By the way, "The Brady Bunch" theme does begin, "Here's the story of a lovely lady."

A. I would have been one of those contestants: "I'm going to lock in those lyrics!" And then I would have been right back on the plane home.


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