Jenny McCarthy knows what it’s like to be singled out. In our recent interview, and before she emcees the “Dirty, Sexy, Funny” show at 8 p.m. on Oct. 17 at Sound Board at MotorCity Casino Hotel, the former MTV game show host revealed why she almost wasn’t one after she posed for Playboy.
The 41-year-old shared her unique perspective on other wide-ranging topics: identifying as non-feminist, relating to trans people, how she deals with haters and the potential advantages of having a gay son (“We can shop! Do my hair!”).
It’s been a long time since you’ve been to Detroit, Jenny.
It has been a long time, and I hope you come to the show. I hope everyone comes! It’s so great. Everyone has been walking out of the show saying, “It’s one of the best nights of comedy ever.”
Just how raunchy does it get up there during the show?
I don’t wanna say “raunchy.” It gets really real. It gets dirty. The fact that it’s an all-girl comedic troupe – I just didn’t want guys to think it’s gonna be fluffy, no. It’s just as entertaining for guys as it is for girls. The humor is what girls are really thinking about – dirty sex – and the guys can really laugh and relate to it.
So a better word would be “raw”?
Yeah, exactly. It’s raw.
Like “Bridesmaids” raw?
Yeah, and “Sex and the City.”
You recently said in an interview that “chicks are funny too,” but isn’t it such a sad reflection of society that we actually have to defend women as if they’re not funny? Do you think it’s still a struggle for women in this industry, and do they still have to prove themselves?
I do. I think a lot of it has to do with women, basically, in society thinking they have to be a perfect way or a certain way, or act kind of ladylike and keep certain thoughts to themselves. But there are a few women out there, like the Chelsea Handlers and myself – I’ve written some very raw books – with a really funny point of view. So, I think the more that women come out and speak the truth, it’s gonna get easier and easier, but there’s no doubt that we’re still fighting for that comedic platform.
When in your career did you feel like you had to prove yourself?
I remember when I first posed for Playboy and they said, “What do you wanna do?” and I said, “Get into comedy.” They laughed and said, “Now that’s funny.” Then I got on (MTV’s) “Singled Out” and kind of proved that girls could be goofy and funny, so it was a constant battle. I think it always will be, but sometimes, like they say, the journey is the funnest part, and it really has been.
So doing “Singled Out” was your way of proving yourself to people who weren’t taking you seriously?
Yeah, it’s weird. Right after Playboy I literally said to myself, “How can I show people my personality?” Because if I got into acting, I’m only playing roles. I really wanted to show – I guess you’d call it a unique sense of humor. I was in my manager’s office when I saw a piece of paper come out of the fax machine and it said, “Audition for MTV; looking for a female game show co-host.” I said, “That’s it. I wanna go out on it.” (My manager) said, “You don’t wanna be a game show host, no.” (I said,) “You don’t understand what I can make of this. I can show my personality.” They called to get me an audition for “Singled Out” and they rejected me – they said there was no way they’d ever hire a Playmate on a network. I wound up crashing the audition, and after 14 or so callbacks, I got the job.
Besides the show being dirty, sexy and funny, are you trying to make a feminist statement with it?
You know, I’ve never been one of those people. I just haven’t. I feel like female and males should be adored and respected equally, but I’m not going to try and go and make some kind of statement. Even posing for Playboy, (people were like), “You think that was a feminist move?” “I don’t know; I just needed to pay off college!”
When you say you’re not “one of those people,” are you saying you don’t see yourself as a feminist?
Correct. Yeah, I don’t.
Recently on your SiriusXM radio show, “Dirty, Sexy, Funny,” you talked about everyone being kind of gay. You said you’ve been thinking about this topic for a long time. How did you come to this conclusion? How did this topic come up?
I love talking about things that people might not want to talk about but know they secretly do. I know it’s something that girls, and my girlfriends, have talked about when dating, going like, “You’re not quite sure which team he might be on.” I really do feel like, with sexuality being more open and people coming out, there might be a little bi in everybody; it’s just a matter of who acts on it.
You’ve been open about making out with women previously. So, where do you fall on the spectrum?
That’s a really good question, and I feel like everybody falls exactly in the middle. You just kind of go toward the one you want the most at the moment. Love is love. Period.
Have you ever dated a gay man?
(Pauses) Probably. You know if an ex-boyfriend says, “That’s my type (while) looking at a guy on a commercial.” It’s like, “Oh. Ohh! Okaaay.”
Looking out at the girls, who are you currently crushing on? Do you have any girl crushes?
Not anymore. I used to, but as you get older and you’ve done all that kind of fun stuff, I can appreciate women now, but I don’t really have any super girl crushes. I had a crush on Donnie Wahlberg, and then I married him.
I didn’t know Donnie Wahlberg was a girl, but whatever works.
(Laughs) Back in the day when everybody had a crush on Angelina Jolie, I was probably part of that group.
There weren’t a lot of transgender characters on TV a decade or two ago, but you actually played one in the early 2000s. You co-starred as David Spade’s best friend Brandi, formerly Burt, on “Just Shoot Me.”
It’s my favorite role ever!
Oh? Why’s that?
Yeah, because I feel like that inside. I always felt like one of the guys wearing, like, a Playboy bunny outfit. I was David Spade’s buddy to begin with, so I was a natural fit, and I always felt like his brother. To play kind of the dude was almost too scary natural.
So much has changed for the transgender community since then. I mean, Laverne Cox made the cover of TIME magazine earlier this year. Do you recall the response you received from the trans community when you played Brandi?
I don’t. I just remember having everybody respond positively to it, and that to me was a sign of, “Wow, we’re not in 1970 anymore.” So I do feel like there was a shift, and obviously we’ve become much more of an accepting community. We still have a way to go, but look at the cover of TIME magazine.
And look at how gay marriage is sweeping the states.
Yeah, I have two gay men who have helped me raise my son for the past five years and they’re getting married next year. They’ve pretty much been live-ins for the last five years of my life as a single mom when I was on the road raising Evan. Evan loves them dearly, and I love seeing through the eyes of an innocent child: He loves them for them and has no issue. It’s wonderful.
What if Evan were to come out to you one day? How would you respond? What would you say to him?
Oh my god, I would be so excited. We can shop! Do my hair! (Laughs)
Because you’ve been quiet on the autism front, where do your passions lie at the moment?
Without a doubt this “Dirty, Sexy, Funny” tour has been a passion of mine. I came up with the idea three years ago and, really, I went across the country looking for these girls. We put it on its feet and we’ve been on tour all summer working it and building it, and now Sirius has given me a full-time job with the brand of “Dirty, Sexy, Funny.” Just to have a vision and then to be able to manifest it is such a beautiful goal and dream right now. Besides that, still helping the autism community, especially with the bullying that’s going on. So those are really two important pieces of my life.
Do you read your own press?
No, god! I learned a long time ago not to do that.
How do you deal with backlash when you take a stance on a topic that might rub some people the wrong way?
I just stand my ground. Stick with your truth. It’s what you know and it’s what you lived, and that’s that. You just keep pushing forward.