By Betsy Rothstein - 03/09/09 07:25 PM EDT
Alexandra Wentworth, wife of ABC “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos, isn’t the namedropping kind. Oh, but she could be.
Forget about Stephanopoulos — one day a week she’s on the dais of the “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” yukking it up with the likes of Oprah; Oprah’s best friend and O magazine Editor-at-Large Gayle King; one of their best friends, comedian Tyler Perry; and host Mark Consuelos, husband to Kelly Ripa, of “Live with Regis and Kelly.”
On a recent show Oprah introduced her new puppy, Sadie, and then looked straight into the camera and counseled Stephanopoulos to get Ali a puppy. The couple already has two pooches.
The Washington-born and -bred Wentworth has a new unscripted show coming out on Starz on March 20 in which she gets to play therapist to faux patients such as Rosanna Arquette and Jerry Seinfeld.
On the show, she decides what their problems are, not the other way around. Taping can be rough. She admits she and Seinfeld had to do many retakes because they were laughing so hard.
You are the daughter of Mabel Cabot, Nancy Reagan’s social secretary. Did you hear a lot of stories from those days?
A fair amount. I saw a lot of stress. My mother was always running around.
So you got to meet Nancy.
I met her. I thought she was very sweet. I thought she was very little. She was much smaller and [more] fragile than I envisioned. He [Ronald Reagan] had a great sense of humor. He looked like he wanted to have a lot of fun.
I understand you attended boarding school. What did you think of that?
I hated it. It was an all-girls boarding school, which was like being in a women’s prison. I was 13 and had a roommate who midyear was taken away in a strait jacket. It was “Girl Interrupted.”
So what’s it like being a friend of Oprah’s? Does she give you any of her famous “favorite things?”
God, I wish. Well, I haven’t been to her home or anything like that. She’s very generous. The biggest thing is she is what she appears to be. She doesn’t change.
You seem very natural on that show.
As soon as you get past “I’m sitting here with Oprah,” it’s incredibly fun to do. Even when we go to commercials we’re still laughing.
Do you travel to Chicago each week?
On your new show, “Headcase,” in which you play a therapist named Dr. Goode,
Jerry Seinfeld is one of your patients. How was it to work with him?
Jerry Seinfeld had a hard time getting through because we kept cracking up.
You played Schmoopie, his girlfriend, on “Seinfeld.”
In the Soup Nazi episode.
What was it like being on Seinfeld?
So I walk on the set and it’s kind of a surreal thing. One of the first things I had to do was make out with him [Seinfeld]. I was teasing him and popping Tic Tacs. His wife [Jessica Seinfeld] says she gets to make out with George. I said, “You can make out with George, but you have to do it on television in front of millions of people.”
Describe your character, Dr. Goode.
She’s a very neurotic, unhinged, repressed, unorthodox therapist who makes the session about her. She thinks she is always right. In real life she’d have her license taken away.
Is she anything like you personally?
Some people might say Ali is out of her mind, which she is not [rolls her eyes and smiles]. Probably the only one I think that’s true is in my marriage, the part about always being right.
Beyond this show, do you believe
Yes, I do. I’ve had it. This character is exaggerated bits of horrible therapists I’ve seen in my life.
With all the different famous patients, any favorites?
I love Janeane Garofalo. She’s in two episodes. Isaac Mizrahi was very funny. Each one is surprisingly different. They were all enjoyable.
Do they bring real stuff to you?
No. In the first minute or two I decide what their problem is.
What kinds of things do you find funny and not funny?
I find relationships funny. I find the mundane, everyday things funny. I don’t find war or terminal disease funny. I know standup comics have [addressed those topics]. It’s hard to crack up over cancer.
Name your three favorite comedians, living or dead.
Richard Pryor, Jerry Seinfeld and Lenny Bruce.
What is it like being married to George Stephanopoulos?
Well, that’s a pretty loaded question. We are different enough so it’s always interesting. He has a much bigger sense of humor than people give him credit for. He loves to laugh. He is a great audience for me. He is a fantastic father. You never know when you marry someone.
Do you and your husband get recognized a lot around town?
He does, definitely. I’m an
Is that annoying?
It’s not annoying. There’s a stronger sense of “Thank God we’re working.” People say nice things. It’s not like they stop and say, “You suck.”
He does seem pretty serious on his show.
I think you can’t be married to me and not like a lot of yukks.
On a recent show you admitted that you and your husband cried over President Obama and his wife, Michelle.
We cried at the sight of the ball and their first dance. It wasn’t a political thing, it was a romantic thing. He [Stephanopoulos] is very romantic. He took my 6-year-old to “Enchanted” and he cried.
Does it ever affect him negatively that you are clearly a Democrat?
I’m not outspoken. I didn’t campaign for anybody. I think it would if I wore T-shirts and screamed and yelled on Chris Matthews.
Chris Matthews would likely do the yelling.
Oh, then Fox News.
I understand you two met on a blind date.
We met at Fred’s at Barneys [in New York City]. My choice. That way I figured if it was a complete disaster I could go up and get my Kiehl’s.
But it went well, obviously.
I was living in Los Angeles at the time. I really thought, “I’ll go and it’ll be a good dinner party story.” I thought I’d marry [“Friends” actor] Matt Perry. He [Stephanopoulos] said he Googled me. I just knew [he was the one I’d marry]. Two months later we were engaged.
To recommend a political personality for 20 Questions, call Betsy Rothstein at (202)628-8516 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.