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INTERVIEW: Pat Sajak Takes The Odd Couple For a Spin

The Emmy Award-winning television star discusses starring in Neil Simon's comedy, the success of Wheel of Fortune, and his future plans. logo
Pat Sajak
For over four decades, Pat Sajak has been a constant presence on television, best known for his Daytime Emmy Award-winning work as host of the long-running game show Wheel of Fortune. However, for the past decade, he has periodically reunited with his old friend, Joe Moore -- a news anchor in Hawaii -- to do theater.

On June 21, the pair will once again co-star in Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, this time for a three-week run at the Connecticut Repertory Theatre. Sajak recently spoke to TheaterMania about the show, his future theatrical aspirations, why he hates reality TV, and the continuing success of Wheel of Fortune.

THEATERMANIA: You're playing Felix Unger in The Odd Couple. Was there any real discussion about which of you would play which role in the show?
PAT SAJAK: I think either of us could have done either role, but Joe is a bigger guy than I am and his demeanor better fits the character of Oscar Madison. We toyed with the idea of flipping roles during the production, though.

TM: Would you really want to have to memorize two different parts?
PS: It's true, memorizing lines is different than what I do on Wheel of Fortune -- although we have a fair amount of memorization on that show -- but it turns out I do have my own method of memorizing lines. Last year, we did The Boys in Autumn, which is a two-hander and even more challenging than this show. I'm not getting any younger, and since we hadn't done this show in about 10 years, I was wondering if the play was still in my head. It turned out it was nowhere in my head, but I was sure if I knocked on the right synapse, it would all come back. And it did.

TM: Did you ask your Wheel co-host, Vanna White, to play one of the Pigeon Sisters?
PS: No. She's never expressed interest in doing this sort of thing. And one of the battles you face with doing something like this is when you're a familiar face on TV, the goal is how quickly you can get people to forget it's me and see Felix. So casting Vanna would only exacerbate this problem. And I'm thrilled to be working with real theater people on this production.

TM: Would you be interested in doing a serious drama?
PS: Not really. I know my limitations and I think I have a good sense of comic timing. If I had started acting younger, I might have aimed in that direction. We actually were ready to do an original piece this summer that Joe had written about Will Rogers and H.L Mencken, and maybe we can resurrect that soon.

TM: Any chance you might do a musical someday?
Not really -- although I can hold a tune and move a bit. When I was a kid, I took tap dancing lessons and I hated it. Now, I wish I had kept it up, because dancing gives you comfort with movement in your whole body. I took some lessons a few years ago from Danny Daniels and I could really see the difference with how I looked on television afterwards.

TM: So would you go on Dancing With the Stars?
PS: No. I am not interested in doing any reality shows. I do get invited sometimes. But talk about a misnomer; it's not reality. Plus, the real Pat Sajak is much more boring than the guy on Wheel of Fortune.

TM: You spent about 10 years as a TV weatherman. Do people still ask you to predict the weather?
PS: It is amazing the impact that job had. For about 10 more years after I finished that job, people stopped me on the street every day and still thought I was a weatherman. Maybe I can go back to it when I am through with Wheel.

TM: When do you think that day will come?
PS: I have no idea. Every show gets cancelled eventually, but I believe Wheel will continue on the air after I'm dead. On some level, I have no clue why. But I do know somewhere along the way, it's became part of the popular culture. Almost every day someone comes up to me and say they watch it every night with their family or it's how their kids learned the alphabet.

TM: Do you think it's also because the show really lives up to its tagline as "America's Game"?
PS: It's true, our show looks like the rest of the country. Our contestants are all different shapes and sizes. And I try very hard not to embarrass anyone and treat everyone with respect. It bothers me that so much of TV today is about embarrassing people.

TM: You must have a lot of great stories from your career. Will you be writing your memoirs?
PS: I like to write and talk, but I'm not sure my life is riveting to anyone else but me. I also wouldn't want be to troubling or hurtful to anyone. I think I'll just wait for someone else to write the musical version of my life.

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