Wise counsel from that eminently important film Animal House taught us years ago that fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life. Well, let me say first-hand that short, fat and balding ain’t that great a method, either.
So, you can only imagine my joy when someone at a recent industry event asked me as a favor if I would be interested in interviewing newly signed Boston Celtics center Shaquille O’Neal. In person. Standing up.
Yes: Picture the massive, 7’1” O’Neal standing there, and then pan way, way down and see a guy so short that when he lied on his high school basketball team roster about his height, he still could only get away with listing himself at 5’9”.
And so there I was, standing face to, um, belt buckle with Shaq, stretching a recording device way up in the sky and wondering if there were any way I could look any more ridiculous at a Hollywood industry event. I’ve never had a colonoscopy, but I imagine the feeling is kind of the same: I closed my eyes and prayed for it to be over quickly.
I did the Shaq interview for two reasons: first, as a favor to the person who asked me to, and second, because I happen to think that Shaq is hysterical. And I don’t just mean his free-throw shooting.
The guy is seriously funny, and has charisma to spare. He’s done movies and music, and has an ABC show called Shaq Vs. in which he competes against experts in other fields. He wants to play two more NBA seasons and then get into TV. And not as a basketball analyst; he has another idea.
He has long said he wants to work in law enforcement (seriously), so I asked him if he might want to put those two things together and star in a new version of Cops. “Would I do that? No,” he said. “I don’t like to go out and do dangerous stuff and put people on TV who don’t need to be on TV.”
When I asked what he would want to do, he said he has one idea firmly in mind. “Honestly? I would love to do a Dave Chappelle-type show,” he said.
Shaq’s very own sketch comedy show. And he wants to write and act in it. So, network execs, if you think Shaq can bring the funny, here’s your chance to go get him.
I had to ask the big fella if—when he decides what he’s going to do post-hoops—he plans to make the announcement in the form of an hour-long special on television, as his former teammate did. “No,” he said sternly, like he had just swatted away one of my weak drives to the lane. When I asked what he thought of The Decision, he took a minute and clearly chose his words very cautiously. “Everyone is different how they handle their stuff,” he said.
If there had been a little word bubble like they have in cartoons next to his head, showing what he was really thinking, I’m betting words like “fool” and “dumbass” would be battling for position under the basket. Then again, anyone who saw me stand there and try to interview a guy about two feet taller was probably thinking the exact same thing.
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