The Girl Who Can't Say No

Anne Marie O’Connor | November 7, 2016 | Feature Features

Actress-comedian-writer Ali Wentworth has appeared on The Tonight Show more than 100 times, experiences that inspired some of the screwball plots of her new show, Nightcap. She plays the frazzled talent booker on the Pop Network comedy that premieres Nov. 16, which she also created, wrote and produced. Here, she discusses how art imitates life.
“I'm not much of a drinker,” admits Ali Wentworth, photographed at Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel in NYC.

It’s amazing what they’ll ask you to do on a talk show. On The Tonight Show, I became that person who would do all the crazy stuff. Jay Leno once had me drive an $8 car across the country. It was insane because not only was I driving an $8 car, but I had to write, shoot and edit three-minute pieces every night. I’m definitely the girl who can’t say no. On Nightcap, I’m the talent booker who has to ask the guests to do crazy stuff, like convince Michael J. Fox to let himself be shot out of a cannon and Mariska Hargitay to be swallowed by an anaconda, a stupid pet trick that goes a little awry. Sarah Jessica Parker also gueststars on an episode. During the pre-interview, my character reminds her that we went to acting camp together. She kind of remembers me; then I say, “Remember when we kissed?” And she goes, “No!” At the end of the episode, though, she kisses me and says, “Of course I remember.” The plot doesn’t have any parallels with my real life—I think I probably subconsciously wrote it just so I could kiss Sarah Jessica.

She does lots of TV and movie work where she’s kissing people all the time, but I haven’t kissed anyone except my husband, George [Stephanopoulos], in 15 years. So when Sarah Jessica and I kissed, I immediately thought we were in a committed relationship. We kind of have an ongoing joke about it.

A talent booker’s other main job is constantly putting out fires, something I have a lot of personal experience doing. George is someone who’s very public but also very private. Early in our marriage, there were a few times I’d make a joke on the red carpet or in an interview not realizing people would misconstrue it. I remember the New York Post printed a story saying that George and I were getting divorced. Another journalist called me and said, “What do you think about this story?” I said, “You show me a couple that has sex twice a day that’s about to get divorced!” George was like, shut up! I like to say he has pushed my nose in enough of my crap that now I’m housebroken.


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