Behind the Curtain With Wendi McLendon-Covey, the Voice of Repeat After Me

Repeat After Me
Lorenzo Agius
Repeat After Me

Celebrities say the darndest things, especially when they have no choice in the matter! Repeat After Me–a new hidden-camera series from executive producer Ellen DeGeneres, based on her popular talk-show segment–features stars interacting with unsuspecting, everyday folks. The twist: They must deliver whatever bizarre lines are fed to them through an earpiece–and wickedly funny comedian Wendi McLendon-Covey (The Goldbergs) is on the other end of that line. (Sample: She instructs Taye Diggs to tell an aspiring actress, “Taye Diggs digs this.”) Here, McLendon-Covey mouths off about playing ventriloquist to the A list.

You have a background in improv. Did that prepare you for hosting this show?

It serves me well because I’m not afraid of the free fall. I have a TelePrompTer full of suggestions that I can use, but I have to gauge what’s going to work in the moment. Filming this show feels like being shot with an EpiPen all day long. I go home and just collapse.

Ellen Pompeo and Harry Connick Jr. are among your victims. What’s the criteria for guests?

You’re not supposed to speak unless I tell you what to say, and that’s very counterintuitive. And you have to be willing to be fearless and completely deadpan. I admire anyone who can do it–because when I break, I break really bad.

Any plans to bring on your castmates from The Goldbergs or Bridesmaids?

I would love to see Jeff Garlin or my delicious Goldberg children try it. I don’t think anyone from Bridesmaids would do it except for Ellie Kemper, and she would be brilliant.

How does the average civilian respond to famous people acting nutty?

They try to be polite. I love that look of confusion, when they’re like, “I’ve gotta keep my manners in check.” Because no one is going to say, “What is wrong with you?”

Repeat After Me premieres tonight at 8:30/7:30c on ABC.