Actor hopes to bring back the ’80s sitcom feel
By Lie Shia Ong
Jerry Trainer may be known for his role on the Nickelodeon “iCarly.” Now the actor is starring in a new comedy on the network, “Wendell & Vinnie,” which premieres Saturday, Feb. 16, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
MSN TV spoke with the actor about the new sitcom he says parents and their kids can watch together.
MSN TV: What can you tell your fans about your new show?
Jerry Trainor: It premieres tomorrow night, Saturday night, at 8. I play this 30-something dude who can’t be tied down in life, and all of a sudden, he finds himself tied down with his nephew, who he’s now the main caretaker of, because he lost his parents. Now Vinnie’s a dad. He never wanted to be a dad. He doesn’t know how to be a dad. Not only that, but Wendell is his own person. He’s already 12 years old and is kind of a nerdy guy, so it becomes an “Odd Couple” situation.
I read you’re hoping to bring back the 1980s sitcom feel with this show.
Yeah, I feel like comedy, especially sitcom, has become really niche. You’ve got this comedy for this narrow demographic and this comedy over here for this and then people make it very personal. It’s like, ‘Why this type of humor and not this kind of humor?’ … When I was growing up in the ‘80s everybody watched “The Cosby Show.” Everybody watched “Family Ties.” You sat around. You ate and you watched sitcoms. And they were for grown-ups, but there was nothing inappropriate for a kid. We kinda want to take that back. It’s got a similar aesthetic. The writing is very smart. It’s very clever, but there’s definitely stuff in it for a kid.
You mentioned “Family Ties” and “The Cosby Show.” Is there a show from the ‘80s or a character from the show in the ‘80s that gives you inspiration for your role on “Wendell & Vinnie”?
Wow. That’s a good question. Maybe not from the ‘80s, although, I mean, the way Michael J. Fox played Alex P. Keaton was just incredible. But maybe Cliff Huxtable. Maybe Bill Cosby’s character. I don’t know it’s kind of a household out of control and I want to be in control, but I’m not.
Nicole Sullivan from “MADtv” is one of your co-stars. With both of you being so funny, I bet you have the rest of the cast laughing off-camera.
She is hysterical. As soon as she auditioned, I knew she was the one. Our rapport was good from the get-go. She cracks me up. We just have so much fun working together and it’s a blast. I’m lucky that she’s there.
She and I find each other hilarious to a probably irritating degree. We have what I’ve termed to be a never-ending bit. We have an uncanny knack of finding a bit, like a comedic bit, that really could just go on forever, indefinitely, that we will find funny but nobody else will.
We were just doing this thing the other day where one of us was dry heaving and that made the other one dry heave and we could just easily look away, but we don’t. It just goes on and on. It gets worse and worse. And everybody else is like, “OK, we’re real bored of this. Can we just get back to work?” But we’re cracking up.
You’re also the producer for this show. Do you find it hard working behind and also in front of the camera?
No, it’s actually, I feel like it’s a symbolic process. I like having the ability to speak up and say, ‘Well, what about this?” Or, ‘I think this.’ And people have to at least pretend to listen now. It’s fun. It invests me more in the project. I really kind of enjoy that process.
You’ve been in the Nickelodeon family for 10 years. Fans may recognize you from “iCarly” and being the main voice for “T.U.F.F. Puppy,” but is there something they may not know about you?
I think fans probably would be shocked to know that I am not an insane person. When I get home I’m very low key. I like to sit with my dog by the fireplace and read a book, watch a movie, you know? That kind of thing.
Any message you want to send out to your fans about “Wendell & Vinnie?”
Thanks for the support, because a lot of the fans, I don’t know how they found out that we were taping already, but I’ve had fans come to the show every week, and the fact that they would support, be there for me in this transition from one show to the next… It’s very easy for people to go, “Oh, look he’s doing something new.” Or, “Forget it. I only like his old thing.” But I feel when I got the part in “iCarly,” the plan was this would be a great thing to do because I can be on the show for a little bit and when I do something more grown-up, the fans they will be growing up as well, and I think that’s really working out. I just really appreciate it.
The premiere of “Wendell & Vinnie” airs Saturday, Feb. 16, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Nickelodeon.