Harry Connick Jr. hasn’t forgotten the night he played to a completely empty nightclub in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania.
“There wasn’t one person there,” he remembers. “I asked the owner of the club, “Do I still have to play?’ and he said, ‘Yeah. I am paying you!’”
That was the first of many poorly attended gigs for the future music superstar and judge of AMERICAN IDOL.
“I was 20 years-old, 22 years-old,” he says. “You just play the show and keep on going.”
Nearly three decades later, Connick is set to premiere his first daytime talk show, HARRY, on September 12 — the day after his 49th birthday.
Here’s what we know about the program, so far:
- It will be executive produced by Connick along with Justin and Eric Stangel, who spent 17 years working on THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN.
- It will be live-to-tape, recorded Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at CBS Entertainment Studios in New York City.
- The pilot was taped using a temporary set on the SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE soundstage at 30 Rock.
- Connick does not plan to pre-interview guests before they join him on stage — unless it makes them feel more comfortable.
- He won’t be playing any games with guests. “That is never about the guest,” Connick says “It is always about the host. My job is to make (guests) feel like king of the world.”
The New Orleans native shared more in an exclusive interview with TheTVPage.com:
How did this show come to be?
This is an idea that has been going on for probably 20 years. It was just a matter of finding the right context to do it in and finding the right time in my life.to do it. And I got to know Justin and Eric Stangel. We were working on another project a few years ago and we got together and decided that this was something that seemed like the right move.
Are there any elements where you have to step outside your comfort zone a bit?
Not really. I guess the biggest thing that would be out of my comfort zone is that I haven’t done this particular thing before. But I don’t feel uncomfortable about it. It just feels exciting, I guess.
Who are your dream guests?
I am excited to talk to a lot of the everyday folks. But in terms of the celebrities, they are booking a lot of people. Over the summer we talked to everybody from Terence Howard to Russell Crowe to Kristen Bell and Mindy Kaling. It is all fascinating to me.
Are you nervous?
No. We shot three pilots about a year ago and everybody kept saying it was going to take hours. We shot three of them in three hours and ten minutes. Everybody knows what they are doing?
Will you sing?
We are not really planning it. I will sing a lot, but it is not like I will come out and sing on every show. It is very informal and very spontaneous.
Any part of the AMERICAN IDOL experience that helps you prepare for this?
Any time you are in front of an audience, whether it is on AMERICAN IDOL or on tour, all of that stuff is cumulative, I think. But man, I have been waiting to do this for a long time.
You said you have been working on this for 20 years. Was it just an idea back then?
We have people approaching us. This is the first time I pitched it myself. Twenty years ago, people were saying, “Are you interested in doing a show? How about this idea or that idea…” It just didn’t feel like the right thing to do.
The failure rate for talk shows is off the charts…
Failure rate? Try making a jazz record! (laughs)
Considering how many daytime shows don’t make it, how do you prepare yourself?
I guess I don’t think of it. Every record I make, every Broadway show that I do, they all have the potential to fail. All you can do is to do the best show that you can.
Why is it so hard?
You have to ask the people who failed, I guess. We haven’t failed yet.
Is there a talk show host that you look up to?
Everybody from Michael Parkinson to Mike Douglas to Merv Griffin. There are a million of them. Oprah is amazing. But there is no path that has been led before by a host who also leads the band. That has never been done. That feels uncharted to me and that is what is exciting. It hasn’t been done before.
Who is your band?
It is my band! My band is there and I am the guy running it. Like in a musical comedy situation, there is no middle man. We had Mindy Kaling on the pilot and she wanted to sing. She was telling me a story about how she auditioned for a Broadway show and she sang a song. We ended up doing it immediately. Never planned it. If you had a music director to go through, it would be fine, but it would slow the process down.
What does it do to your concert touring schedule?
Well, I have seven nights a week off and about four months a year off. So I will be singing a lot.
Would you ever take the show down to New Orleans?
I would love to. There are a lot of things we would like to do.
What is this show going to do for New Orleans?
I think indirectly it could bring some attention to New Orleans maybe in a slightly different way. I am very proud of it. I know of wear my experience there on my sleeve. I do a lot of things to kind of help my town. It is not like I am going to be plugging those efforts on my show. At least not on a regular basis, but I think just by association, people will say “Oh, he is from New Orleans.”
HARRY premieres on in syndication on September 12.
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