Being a host on "Talk Soup" seems like a steppingstone to major success in Hollywood. The show's first host, Greg Kinnear, went on to garner an Oscar nomination for "As Good As It Gets." Sucessors Hal Sparks and Aisha Taylor have gone on to shows like "Queer as Folk" and "Friends" respectively. The host of the revamped "The Soup," Joel McHale juggles his duties on the show and the primetime cult hit "Community."
John Henson is no exception. He's currently providing commentary on the obstacle course comedy "Wipeout" and will guest star on the animated series "Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil." In a recent exclusive interview, Henson talked about what makes falling down funny and whether or not he's ever run the course.
John Henson Will Voice Chuck Glarman on 'Kick Buttowski'
On Saturday, February 18, Henson can be heard voicing Chuck Glarman on "Kick Buttowski." A neat freak, who goes head-to-head with the show's title character while on highway clean up duty. The actor described his character as "a sick and twisted man." He noted, "Chuck had a very traumatic experience in his upbringing, which has caused him to become obsessed with cleanliness and making sure that things are clean and ordered and that there is no litter on the ground. Unfortunately, he is driven to madness in his pursuit and locks horns with Kick Buttowski."
Henson pointed out that Glarman has another obvious quirk. He laughed, "He's also a big fan of the third person. Chuck Glarman refers to himself as Chuck Glarman all the time…. Rare outside of professional sports, but yeah, we have a character who constantly refers to himself in the third person."
John Henson's Career Has Been Based on His Improv Skills
While the stand-up comedian-turned-actor has built a career based on his improv skills, Henson acknowledged that there's not a lot of room for spontaneity on an animated series. He noted, "'Kick Buttowski' is relatively scripted, simply because they're simultaneously working on the animation and so your words need to match how they're drawing the mouth moving."
Luckily he gets a chance to revisit his impulsive instincts on the rough and tumble game show "Wipeout." Henson said his roots in impromptu comedy led him to this place in his career. He recounted, "I did about two years of improv at B.U. And then I actually left Boston University to pursue a career in stand-up comedy. And I did about eight years of stand-up comedy before I was lucky enough to land the job on 'Talk Soup.' And that improv base led to a lot of improvising in my stand-up act."
He continued, "Then, of course, 'Talk Soup' was a generous amount of improv. We really used the script as a leaping off point and spent a lot of time seeing where that would lead us in experimenting. And fortunately that has become a hallmark of my career, of several television shows I've done since 'Talk Soup.' They've always hired me as a host/producer-writer because they know that I spend a lot of time working on my own material. And then even on something like 'Wipeout,' they really are tremendous in giving a very wide berth to improvise."
John Henson Explains Why Wiping Out Is Funny
On "Wipeout," contestants navigate a highly challenging and heavily padded obstacle course that hovers above a sea of often-muddy water. Their mission, to get to the other side without plunging into the pool, isn't as easy as it sounds. For those at home, the entertainment value comes from watching failing contestants flailing.
Henson explained why this is so funny, "There's a German word schadenfreude, which means to take pleasure in the pain of others. And I think that at the root of every laugh on 'Wipeout,' is a subliminal thought process that goes, 'Oh my god, thank god that's not me.' Anyone in the course of their lifetime has seen someone slip or fall or stumble, and found that kind of moment amusing. I consider 'Wipeout' to be the greatest thing to happen to the pratfall since the banana peel."
John Henson Describes the Ultimate 'Wipeout' Contestant
So what makes the ultimate "Wipeout" contestant? According to Henson the key is to "start with a borderline personality." He joked that the kind of person that would put themselves through the tasks at hand must have "some form of mental instability that leads you to look at that course and go, 'Yeah, I want to do that.'"
And, needless to say, a sense of humor is key. Henson acknowledged, "Our contestants, the bigger the personality the better - we welcome people who are coming to run and have a good time."
Just don't expect to see him donning a jumpsuit anytime soon. Henson conceded, "As far as my willingness to run the course, whenever somebody asks me if I've run it I always say the same thing, 'Have you seen the show? Have you seen what happens to people? Why would I want to do that?' I like it in the booth, where it's warm and dry."
Catch John Henson on "Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil" on Saturday, February 18 at 11 a.m. EST/10 a.m. Central on Disney XD. And watch the season finale of "Winter Wipeout" on Thursday, February 23 at 8 p.m. EST/7 p.m. Central on ABC.
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- John Henson