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Valentine’s Day nightmare
Newsflash! "Big, Fat Obnoxious Fiancé" is just acting!
By Jim Fester
Fort Wayne Reader
The entire purpose of reality television shows is to make you cringe, but Fox’s My Big, Fat Obnoxious Fiancé kicks the flinch-factor up a few notches. The scenario is this: Randi must convince her family and friends that she is going to marry a randomly-chosen guy named Steve in order to win a million dollars. She thinks Steve is also trying to dupe family and friends for the prize money, but Steve is actually an actor playing an obnoxious, crude goof-ball.
We had a chance to talk to the obnoxious fiancé himself, Steve Bailey, who proved to be entirely normal and more than willing to talk about the kind of work that goes into improvising for the cameras on a reality TV series. The most obnoxious part of the whole interview came beforehand, with the Hollywood publicist patiently explaining to the Indiana rube that Steve was actually playing a character on the show, and he wasn’t “that way” in real life.
FWR: How did you get this gig?
SB: It was a pretty standard audition. The only unique thing about it was an improvisational audition process.
FWR: So what did they say? “Do something obnoxious?”
SB: The brought in some other actors to work off of, and they’d give us different scenarios to see what we’d do, and we just worked off each other. There were some instructions, like be rude or be inappropriate, that sort of thing.
FWR: How much input do you have in writing the gags and jokes? Whose idea was it for you to imitate a moose, for example?
SB: (laughs) Well, “assisted improve” is the way I’ve been describing it. I would have a series of objectives or jokes that the producers would come up with that they wanted in the show. I would go into a scene with, say, three of those. During the time I would be with Randy, I’d be improvising like crazy, and I would try to improv into those jokes, hit them, and improv out, all the while trying to come up with things on my own that would be as funny as the jokes we already had planned. The moose? I’m proud to say that that one wasn’t me.
FWR: So, for any particular situation, you’d have these objectives they wanted you to get to…
SB: It usually wasn’t a joke as in line or something they wanted me to say. It was usually more of a visual gag they wanted me to get to, like the moose. The comments and everything around them would be mine. It was an interesting way to work with these people behind the scenes who would come up with these great ideas. If I didn’t think they were funny, or if they didn’t fit in with the moment, I wouldn’t do it.
FWR: Did you ever feel that you went too far?
SB: I think there were times when we definitely pushed the envelope of what it means to play a practical joke, and there are times later in the series that’ll the audience will see we were feeling uncomfortable with certain things. But we had confidence that no matter what happened we knew everyone involved would be psychologically okay (laughs).
FWR: Do you feel weird at being portrayed as an obnoxious icon?
SB: I guess there are different people that would think that, but most people I run into are fully aware that I’m an actor playing a role. They like what I’ve done to create that role, but I don’t think anyone that I’ve run into thinks I’m going to belch in their face (laughs).