Alec Baldwin on the Return of ‘Match Game’ & the Guest Who Makes Fun of Him Most
You can always tell when summer has arrived by TV’s sudden interest in bachelors or bachelorettes, sharks and game shows. Not that we’re complaining at all, especially since the latter means the return of Match Game, the iconic and often raunchy fill-in-the-blank hoot that’s been cracking up viewers since its first iteration back in 1962.
We recently chatted up current host Alec Baldwin about the new season — which kicks off with a panel that includes Constance Zimmer (UnReal), Jason Alexander (Seinfeld), comics Gabriel Iglesias and Bridget Everett, The Talk‘s Sheryl Underwood and SNL‘s Michael Che — and learned that behind the scenes, he works with some very, very ______ folks.
Before we talk about the new season of Match Game, I wanted to ask about Framing John DeLorean, which looks like the most interesting movie. You’re playing DeLorean, but you’re also yourself, you’re breaking the fourth wall. How did this come about?
Alec Baldwin: It was Don Argott and Sheena Joyce, the two directors who are a couple in real life. They made a movie called “The Art of the Steal,” which is one of my favorite documentaries I’ve ever seen. We produced a program at the Hamptons Film Festival that they were in and I interviewed them after the screening at our summer documentary series. We kept in touch, and they asked if I wanted to work with them.
And this notion of playing John was kind of a weird [crossover] because DeLorean had called me himself back in 1994, I think it was right before he died in ’95. He had called me and asked me to play him in one of the handful of films that were on the burner back then that were being made about his life and legal entanglements and so-forth. Those movies never wound up getting made, but this film… I just love Don and Sheena. I think that they make interesting projects. They’re very unique filmmakers. So, it really started there.
It looks fascinating. And you worked with one of my favorites, Morena Baccarin.
This will embarrass her because she’s a wonderful person, but they have a shot at the unveiling of the car and they cut to her smiling at John — it’s her as Cristina Ferrare, warmly applauding in her own separate place in the audience, John and the launch of the car — and she’s one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen in my life. And I thought, “I would sell cocaine if that’s what it took to land that woman!” [Laughs] I would become a coke dealer if that’s what was required.
Could we expect to see her show up on Match Game this season?
She wasn’t available. I think that she went on vacation. She just finished Gotham, they wrapped her show and I was led to believe that she was not available.
OK, so let’s talk about the new season. Who do you have lined up for this round?
We have a lot of our normal people returning, that we really, really love. You know, like Ali Wentworth, Chris Parnell. People that I’ve loved — Caroline Rhea, Sherri Shepherd, Joel McHale, Horatio Sanz. People that I love in this business, and I think are really funny. And we have a lot of new people as well.
The show is known for having some great entendres, but how much has to be edited out because of the things that get said that can’t be aired?
Well, there is a great deal that’s said here that can’t be aired! [Laughs] I think most of what is said here can’t be aired. This is like batting practice. There are a lot of foul balls, my friend. There are a lot of foul balls here. We hit a lot of line drives into the stands. You know, these people are power-hitters here. So they get their game together and then we play Match Game, which is family entertainment. So there’s a line we kind of go up to — we try not to cross that line. But, yeah, you know there are times, my God, the things they say!
We have a wall of cards here [in the production office] that were rejected by the network standards people for content and we made it into a mural on the wall. It is every vulgar phrase and obscene word that you could imagine. With little drawings to accompany them. I mean, they don’t just say something really disgusting, they draw a little emoji to go with it. So, some of the people here are beyond help, they are just incredibly so sick. [Laughs]
So the gag reel is absolutely not safe for work.
I have it in my contract that I’m going to get a piece of the sale of the gag reel, which is going to make billions of dollars. [Laughs]
And possibly ruin some careers.
I really don’t care about that. [Laughs]
As executive producer and host, what’s your normal day like working on the show?
We pack it all into a pretty tight period. They make the order per the needs of the network and their slots. Last year we did 18 shows that we spread out over six shooting days, two weeks. And you know, getting the cast to come in, sometimes people will say no if they have to fly in on a Sunday. It’s a lot. Last year was just a miracle in terms of having great guests, a great schedule, and we shot a lot of shows. Everything was as smooth as can be.
This year, we’re only going to do an order of 12 shows. But it didn’t put any bump in the road here because we got everyone we wanted. We got a great group of people. And the name of the game is just to keep moving, because we do three shows a day and it does require a good amount of energy. I say a lot of prayers in my dressing room before we start. I pray to God for the strength to get through the day. [Laughs]
Do you keep the same audience for each show?
No, they load in the audience each show, or every other show. Each show is a fresh audience and the audience is always great. And let me tell you, the network people, the ABC people that handle the show are great. The producer, Jen Mullin, who now runs Fremantle, she and all her people are great. And Scott St. John who’s the real producer that does the show minute-to-minute is great. And I know how this sounds, but I’ve worked with a lot of people on a lot of projects, TV, theater, movies and so forth. And this is one of those rare groups where top to bottom, everybody’s wonderful. We have a great group here.
I hear that your wife Hilaria shows up this season.
Yeah, my wife is going to come.
How did you wrangle that?
I just said, “I don’t want her here, I don’t need her, she makes fun of me enough inside our own home, we can’t have that here on national TV.” But I was over-ruled, shall we say. My wife is coming to the show. [Laughs]
And how is she at game night? Do you guys do game nights at home or out with friends?
Well, I told her that she’s going to be here with some of the greats of comedy of the last 25 to 30 years. You know Caroline Rhea, Adam Carolla, Keenan Thompson, Horatio Sanz… Raven-Symoné is coming on, Sandra Bernhard. You know, all these people we have. So I said, “Good luck, let’s see what you’re really made of, let’s see what your comedy muscles are really like.” I hope she makes it. Because if she’s not funny, she’s never coming back, by the way. Same rule applies to everybody else. If she’s not funny, she’s out. [Laughs]
Now, you’ve made some headlines this week, talking a role that you maybe don’t feel like playing anymore. You have a very good schedule with Match game, but would you ever consider signing on for another network series?
I’m actually in the middle of developing a network series right now for me to be in.
So you like the TV schedule?
Well, what I like is something that’s manageable because I want to be with my kids. Everything I do, especially for the last couple of years, there’s no long-term commitments. 30 Rock ended in December of 2012, my daughter was born the following year in 2013, and for the last five or six years there’s been no TV contracts. I did a couple of plays that were very limited runs in kind of summer theater, you know? A Broadway gig for six months. I don’t see my kids from six o’clock on and spend every night with strangers. And a TV series gig is months on location.
Those things just aren’t in my life right now. And I’m very happy. You know, my kids are really my main focus. And so Match Game is a very important component in terms of jobs I’ve been seeking, where I can stay home and be with my wife and my kids.
Match Game, Summer Premiere, Wednesday, June 12, 10/9c, ABC