Comedian Mario Cantone brings his inimitable outlook to ‘Page Six TV’
ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Executive Editor
Summer is usually a black hole for original TV programming, but if you’ve tuned into the broadcast networks this past week, chances are you’ve seen a show with Mario Cantone. First, he was a celebrity guest on the primetime reboot of the classic game show The $100,000 Pyramid (and he’ll be on its sister show, Match Game, next month). And late-night on Fox, you might have caught him as one of the hosts of Page Six TV, the new gossip chatfest getting a three-week tryout in select cities, including Dallas. What’s with the media blitz, Mario?
“If they ask me, I [show up] — I can’t go beggin’, Arnold!” he shouts in mock anger. “I go home and watch Turner Classics Movies and when they call, I come. The problem is, you’re always asked to do the stuff you don’t want, and aren’t for the ones you do.”
That’s not the case, he insists, for Page Six TV, modeled after the New York Post’s famed gossip column.
“The thing about Page Six is, it’s historic — not that it invented gossip, but it’s always been fun and lighthearted. That’s what I like about it — it’s more ‘what the fuck’ than ‘fuck you.’”
On the TV version, Cantone and his fellow panelists — entertainment reporters Elizabeth Wagmeister and Carlos Greer, lifestyle guru Bevy Smith and host John Fugelsang — tackle a series of trending topics in the news that day, and offer their insights. Example: In rehearsal, they discussed the current trend of people who are getting vegetable tattoos. “Reallly!?” Cantone gasps. “What the fuck! You gotta watch the tattoos — when your 90 and you skin is hanging on the floor, and the ink is staining the carpet, don’t call me!” And don’t get him started on Pokemon GO.
So what, exactly is Cantone, who has no background in journalism, doing among these experienced rumor-mavens?
“[The producers] called me and said they wanted a comedian,” he explains. “I won’t do a reality show, but I will do a talk show or a game show. And it’s the mix of the cast that moves it along. I really love Bevy Smith — she’s so knowledgeable about [pop culture]. And Carlos! I love his demeanor. He and Elizabeth are more serious, because they’re journalists. My comments are frivolous, spontaneous and hopefully funny, which I think is refreshing. If everyone was so in-the-know, it wouldn’t [have broad appeal]. I’m representing you on the show, Arnold!”
Me? You mean, the gays? Not necessarily…
“No offense to my people, because I love them, but if I brought a true gay perspective, I would watch The Real Housewives, which I don’t. And they’re all Italian, which is so embarrassing for me! A friend forced to me to watch the Kardashians the other day, which was torture!!! No, I represent the townhouse set — I bring the cranky-old-man perspective.”
Cantone is joking (a little), but it’s true that his persona — from his guest spots on The View (or Pyramid) to his featured role in Sex and the City to his Tony-nominated show Laugh Whore — is that of the short-tempered New Yorker with a heart of gold but no time for bullshit. Unlike a Lewis Black or Sam Kinison, his shouting doesn’t seem like a pot boiling over but a teakettle letting off steam before providing a refreshing beverage. He has an old-school appreciation for who deserves to be famous.
“I was teaching the young’uns, like young Carlos Greer, that in my day, you had to have a craft to be a star. Now, people are famous without having a craft. And whether you think I’m funny or not, I know how to hold an audience. On the show, I’m coming from that animosity and resentment,” he says. (It’s probably what led Jon Stewart to call him “the white Sammy Davis Jr.”)
He hopes, of course, that the show is a hit with audiences.
“It’s the summer and this came out of nowhere,” he says. “If it goes away, in 2017 I’ll be in my trailer. Come get me.” He’ll just be watching Turner Classic Movies.
Page Six TV airs weeknights at 11:30 p.m. on Fox4
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 22, 2016.