Hey, Sinbad, where you been?
That’s the question the comedian’s new reality series – “Sinbad: It’s Just Family” – has been designed to answer. It’s not that the 55-year-old funnyman has gone missing. On the contrary, for the last 10 years, he’s worked steadily as a standup, but he’s been seen only sporadically on TV (most notably on “The Celebrity Apprentice” last year).
And for us Sinbad fans, that’s been difficult to deal with. This was a guy who was all over TV for about 15 years, ever since he broke through as a “Star Search” finalist in 1985 and went on to perform all over late-night TV, headline a handful of HBO specials and star in “A Different World.”
Now he’s back in an unscripted series – premiering Tuesday night at 10/9c on WE – that co-stars his wife, Meredith, daughter Paige, 25, and son Royce, 22. Here’s the backstory: Sinbad and Meredith were married, divorced and then remarried eight years ago. For most of their second marriage, they maintained separate houses near each other in Los Angeles. In 2009, the IRS informed Sinbad he owed the government back taxes. As a result, he lost his house and the whole family was back living under one roof. And that’s where “Sinbad: It’s Just Family” begins. Xfinity.tv met up with Sinbad in New York last week and he sounded off about a number of subjects close to his heart. Here’s what he had to say:
On his family: We’re just a funny family. There’s no one theme [to the show]. I did my life in a crazy way. I’m a different kind of father. I’m a different kind of husband. Look, being married to an entertainer, let alone a comic, is a different world, and I’m not a conventional kind of person. But my son and daughter and my wife – they steal the show.
On his marriage and what derailed it the first time: I just got to Hollywood, just got kicked out of the military, was makin’ it in this business. You know, makin’ it in this business is a very selfish business. We had two kids, I was on the road. I had two lives. That’s the thing that happens. You have a life on the road and you have a life at home. And the life on the road probably gets more real than the life at home. I wasn’t ready to be married. I became a great father, but I wasn’t a great husband. I had no tools to understand how to be a husband.
On marriage in general: I found out why men don’t make it the first time – we give up all rights to anything. And no one wants to talk about that. Men silently let things go when they get married. They never talk about it. Then they call it a midlife crisis because when the kids get grown, he tries to re-collect all the stuff he wanted, like the Porsche, the two-seated car, but now you’re bald-headed. You don’t look as sexy, but you don’t care. You look insane to people, but it’s not insane to you. It makes perfect sense to you.
On reality TV: First, I didn’t believe in reality shows, I thought they were crazy. I think celebrities have to be very careful because say you were a successful singer or whatever. You know what? It’s better to go out that way than to come back desperate and do a [reality] show and look insane. We look at Ozzy Osbourne – yeah, he’s known again, but he’s known as a bumbling idiot, not as the Prince of Darkness.
On why the comedy industry is doing so well these days: [Comedians] are all over the place. You know why? During these rough times, who’s still workin’? All you need’s a mike. Who doesn’t need an entourage? Comedians. Vaudeville – when was vaudeville hittin’? In the Depression. When people are down, they need to laugh. It’s cheap to go to a comedy club, cheap to go and see a comedian. And we’re not untouchable. You see us hangin’ out. We’re like the court jester, right? We’re still around.
On his first talk-show appearance: My first show in L.A. was ‘Merv Griffin.’ The guy that booked me said, ‘You’ll never do this show. I don’t like your style.’ [Then later] he called me. He said, ‘Man, get your butt over here.’ He said a guy died. I said, ‘What – he wasn’t funny?’ He said, ‘No, he died.’ A comic actually died, physically died!
On why he never did the Carson show: The guy that booked Johnny Carson didn’t like me. I don’t know why – I was kind of belligerent, I think. What happened was the Carson booker came out one night to look at comics in one of the clubs [where Sinbad was working]. He brought two young girls with him, so I did my routine and when he was walkin’ out, I stopped him. I said, ‘Man, what you think?’ He goes, ‘What? I don’t know.’ So, I say, ‘Well, I saw your two daughters were with you so I didn’t know if you were too busy.’ And he looked at me, and I’ll never forget, man, Kevin Nealon was there and he looked at me and the guy goes, ‘You’ll never do Johnny.’ And I said, ‘Yes, I will. You’ll die because you’re an alcoholic and you’ll probably have problems with your liver and the new guy will put me on.’
On what happened then: You know what happened? Arsenio Hall happened. It changed the whole game.
Sinbad made about a dozen appearances on “Arsenio” and his career was made. And now it continues with “Sinbad: It’s Just Family,” premiering Tuesday (April 12) at 10 p.m./9c on WE.