Tacoma Weekly's interview with Canadian funny woman Caroline Rhea is a bit snakebitten, to say the least.
On her end, the normally perky actress and comedienne (“Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” “The Caroline Rhea Show”) is cranky from a day spent flying; and she's minding her 4-year-old daughter, Ava, in the back seat of a car whisking them away from Toronto Pearson International Airport.
Here in Tacoma, a spotty connection, an echoey iPhone speaker and the ears of a rock critic who wasn't always smart enough to wear ear plugs contribute to awkward pauses and missed punchlines. Rhea is quick to acknowledge she's bombing for her audience of one.
“Oh God, this is gonna go really well,” she interjects, sarcastically. “So far, I've had a lot of nods from Ernest and then silence; and then he's pretending his phone doesn't work.”
Through all these obstacles – not to mention her penchant, as a former talk show host, of taking over the questioning – we only marginally focus on her upcoming three-night stand at Tacoma Comedy Club, scheduled for June 13 to 15. The good news, though, is she gives us the skinny on the next “Phineas and Ferb” flick. Here are some outtakes:
Tacoma Weekly: Okay, can you hear me?
Caroline Rhea: Yes, and I have selected “Cinderella 2” to be the background music for this interview because that is what my daughter is watching on her iPad. If you have any problem, we can go with “Cinderella” one or three, or I know all of the dialogue. I can do any of the parts.
TW: On your voice message, you were breaking up a little bit. But they lost your daughter?
Rhea: Noooooo, they lost her (unintelligible). You know how there are tiger moms? I'm a kangaroo mom. She's in my pouch at all times, and I am looking into the reattachment of the umbilical cord.
Rhea: Do you have kids?
TW: So far, I don't.
Rhea: So far?
TW: Not that I know of, at least.
Rhea: How old are you?
TW: I am 42.
Rhea: You know what? You can be like Tony Randall. You've got another 36 years (Laughs)
TW: Could you say again? Your phone broke up a little bit.
Rhea: I said, you could be like Tony Randall. You've got another good 36 years in you. (Seemingly to Ava) Yes, he knows who Tony Randall is. He's an adult who talks to incredibly important entertainment people. (Back to me) Please tell me you know who Tony Randall is.
TW: Oh yeah, no doubt. (Sounding unconvincing since I've briefly blanked on all those “Odd Couple” reruns I saw as a kid. I quickly change the subject.) Are you traveling for business or pleasure? I've read you're doing the “Phineas and Ferb” movie.
Rhea: Yes, I think we just finished doing the recording of it. You know what? Disney bought Marvel. So we did this episode, and all I know is that at one point I'm talking to Darth Vader … and Luke Skywalker as my little character. And I'm like, “Wow, this is like a giant company party.” There's all sorts of different characters in this movie.
I am here to do a benefit. I'm with my daughter, and I'm with one of my best friends who I've known forever, who I met 30 years ago; and she's visiting from Australia. And then Asnan (sic) is driving us, and he is from Pakistan; and he is a big cricket fan, and he loves Shane Warne. That's it.
What about you, Ernest? I just told you my surroundings. Is it raining in Tacoma?
TW: No, actually, the weather is kind of nice today.
Rhea: Can I tell you the story about something that actually happened to me many, many years ago in Seattle?
TW: By all means.
Rhea: I was flying from Seattle to the San Juan Islands. There was this super cute little guy; he was, like, in his 20s, this little blonde Brad Pitt type. … He's checking me into the airline. And then he says, “How much do you weigh?” And I was like, “120.” Why am I gonna tell you what I weight? Then the little guy who checks me in goes and gets on the airplane. Have you ever flown to the San Juan Islands?
TW: No, I've taken a boat.
Rhea: Yeah, it's basically “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” … We're, like, driving through the air at 30 miles per hour, and we're going lower, and we're sputtering. I go, “Why did you ask me how much I weigh?” He goes, “Well, I had to calculate … how much extra cargo I was able to take.” I go, “Is it okay that my purse weighs 35 pounds?”
(Awkward silence as I strain to hear.) Ernest, that was supposed to be hilarious, and I'm really hoping we have a bad connection.
TW: It actually is that. You're on my iPhone and I'm having compression issues.
Rhea: (she laughs) That's what my act is like now. That is the funny part, laugh now. … What's your birthday, Ernest?
TW: My birthday is March 2.
Rhea: Awwwwww. He's a Pisces, March 2. I love Pisces. I'm a little obsessed with astrology. I'm now going to tell you another joke that I hope you approve to attract people to my hilarity. I'm not saying that I'm obsessed with astrology, but I did have to have an emergency C section because I was very high risk because at my age for having a Scorpio.
TW: Uh huh, uh huh.
Rhea: Okay, would you like to ask me any more questions? Or should I just pretend to be funny and then have you (she clips out again, right on cue).
TW: I'm sorry, I think we have a bad connection and …
Rhea: Whateveeerr. It's like a Match-dot-com date. We have a bad connection. That's all you keep saying. (Breaks up, then appears to be addressing daughter.) Oh, right. Mommy is trying to talk so I can work and pay for college.
TW: Okay, to randomly change gears, I recently learned that your first movie was “Meatballs 3.” Is that a source of pride or …
Rhea: Okay, first of all, here's what happened. I needed a summer job, and my mother, who's even more co-dependent than I am, secretly sent out resumes to everyone. … I get this phone call and he's like (in ambiguously Euro accent), “Is this Caroline Rhea?” I'm just thinking it's somebody joking. “You have a part for the job (unintelligible).” My mother's jumping up and down like, “I applied for that job. I sent in a picture of you in a bikini.” I am like, “What is wrong with you?”
She's like, “You have to get this job. They're filming 'Meatballs 3.' Can you hear me?
TW: Yeah, yeah.
Rhea: This is really how my life is. I'm just speaking into a void. No one is listening, and there's no response from the man whatsoever.
On my call back, the guy left and I saw his notes. And literally, for every girl, they were completely lascivious. They're like, “Nice rack, nice butt” … like a high school grading system. And then by my name it said, “Funny, really funny.” I'm like, wow. (Laughs)
Then my mother, who is hilarious, told everyone, “They wanted her to be the topless water skier. But sadly, she can't water ski.” So I ended up being the pivotal part of beach girl number 3.
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