As a comedic performer there's probably nothing more satisfying than being able to make an audience roar with laughter. And not just a hesitant chuckle, either. We're talking fall-out-of-your-seat, stitch-in-your-side, gut-busting laughter. It’s a unique and rare quality to possess, but one that Wayne Brady seems to have perfected to an art form.
A versatile performer, perhaps best known his brief acting stints on comedies like How I Met Your Mother, his wildly memorable appearance on Chappelle's Show, and putting his impressive improvisational skills to the test on Whose Line Is It Anyway, Brady is about to return to the small screen in a big way this summer as he introduces a brand new show called Trust Us With Your Life, which premieres tonight on ABC. Hollywood.com recently chatted with the star about what's in store with his latest celeb-filled comedic venture. “In a nutshell, it’s Whose Line Is It Anyway meets This Is Your Life,” Brady explains, “We take a team of improvisationalists, starring myself, Colin Mochrie, and my buddy Jonathan Mangum as a rotating improviser, and we improvise the life of a celebrity. They come on and Fred Willard, as the host, asks them about their lives and the interesting things that make them, them — some of the things that maybe you don’t know from having read Wikipedia.” In short, a pop culture geek's dream come true.
“We take stories that they tell us and we blow them up improvisational-style,” Brady continues, “So a very straightforward story about how someone and their three sisters grew up could become anything from a John Woo movie to a Broadway musical." In case that wasn't enough to whet your pop culture palate, there's one major Hollywood star who’s already signed up to appear on the show and it's none other than America’s favorite British comedian they love to love to hate: Ricky Gervais. Brady assures that, in addition to his known comedy skills, the Golden Globes host has some pretty incredible stories to tell, including about his time as a musician. “I didn’t know that Ricky Gervais was a musician. And I didn’t know that aside from just being a musician, he actually had a decent-sized hit in the UK,” says Brady, “So that’s another cool part about the show is that you end up learning stuff.”
And while they’ll definitely have some fun with each star’s background, Brady insists that it won’t be a Comedy Central-level roast, by any means. "We don’t go after the jugular on people,” he says. “Because how do you expect people to come back and get other guests if every show you’re kicking somebody in the ass? It’s all done in love, even the things that kind of play off the negative aspects of their career.” But even though he’s already got some willing celebrity guests like Gervais already lined up, Brady admits that there’s one person in particular who he’d love to get in the hot seat: former President Bill Clinton. “I would love to sit down with Clinton,” the 40-year-old reveals, “I think his life and his rise would definitely be amazing.” Until that day comes, Brady also hopes to return to TV later this fall on How I Met Your Mother and perhaps fill in a few of the blanks that came with Barney’s huge wedding shocker. “I’m hoping [the writers] write in the Barney bachelor party scene because I’m kind of wondering what’s the bachelor party like that I would plan for him,” Brady ponders. “Where would it be? So I’m definitely pulling for that one.” As are the rest of us. It would be legen— —dary!
Trust Us With Your Life airs Tuesday, July 10 at 9 PM (ET) on ABC.
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WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Eddie Murphy is terrific in Imagine That as Evan Danielson an overworked financial advisor who is so immersed in his job he’s forgotten about Olivia his daughter from an estranged marriage. When he is given custody for a week and he gets too busy with work she retreats into her fantasy world imagining a group of princesses who as it turns out really know their way around big business. When Dad figures out his daughter’s special blanket and otherworldly friends have the magic touch for investment advice he becomes an instant superstar in his firm. But his newfound success soon sets up a confrontation with his chief rival Johnny Whitefeather whose presentations are often full of (Red) bull.
WHO’S IN IT?
From Dr. Dolittle to Daddy Day Care Murphy has carved out a solid alternate career as a star of family-friendly movies. But none of those previous works play to his overall talents as a comedian better than Imagine That in which he gets to merge his kid’s fantasy world with office politics for optimum laughs. The purely delightful premise in which Murphy faces off with skeptical business partners is perfectly toned to his talents and allows him to be widely appealing for both kids and their parents. As daughter Olivia newcomer Yara Shahidi won out over 3000 girls and is wonderful a real charmer who goes toe to toe with Eddie. Thomas Haden Church provides the perfect foil for Murphy as Whitefeather a guy who plays off a phony Native American heritage and spouts nonsensical advice like he’s E.F. Hutton. As bosses vying for Murphy’s newfound talents both Ronny Cox and Martin Sheen play it straight lending the appropriate gravitas to their roles. Nicole Ari Parker is winning in her few scenes as Olivia’s mom.
Murphy’s comedic tendency to go way over the top (i.e. Norbit) is kept in check with great results. He’s totally believable as a stressed-out businessman and his trip into his daughter’s imagination is handled realistically mined for the optimum number of laughs without sacrificing credibility. Credit for this goes to Karey Kirkpatrick (Over the Hedge) an animation director making his live-action debut for keeping cartoonish antics to a minimum and emphasizing heart and the father/daughter bond instead.
The scenes between Murphy and Shahidi are so effortlessly charming and real that you wish there were more of them. (One highlight is when father teaches daughter to sing Beatles songs which are heard throughout the film.) It’s the kind of thing Bill Cosby did so well on TV but could never pull off in movies. Murphy does.
Murphy is in top comic form all the way and is never better than when he berates Littlefeather’s hokey presentation then comes up with one based on his daughter’s doodlings that shows off the comic genius we haven’t seen in this actor’s comedy vehicles in quite a while.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
Imagine That is a family film in the truest form and ripe for an outing with your kids. If you don’t have any rent one and go.