Tom Bergeron may be the hardest working host in show business.
On any given weeknight during the past 12 months, you could find the Emmy Award-winner making mirth with the motley judges on “Dancing with the Stars,” cuing up the laughs on “America’s Funniest Home Videos” or hosting his own green Hollywood dinner party on “Supper Club with Tom Bergeron” on the Discovery Channel.
Before Bergeron achieved household fame as the host of “Hollywood Squares” from 1998 to 2004, the Haverhill, Mass., native was a fixture on Boston media, hosting everything from talk shows to the nightly lottery drawing.
In his new autobiography, “I’m Hosting as Fast as I Can!: Zen and the Art of Staying Sane in Hollywood,” Bergeron surprisingly credits his silent years as a street mime for his ultimate success as a quick-witted host. Here’s what he told Bankrate recently.
Bankrate: First, let’s address this mime business.
Tom Bergeron: Yes, I can get very quiet (laughs). I trained with a very gifted teacher in mime and improv theater. In a lot of ways, what he taught me I use in broadcasting, as paradoxical as that might sound. Prior to meeting up with him, I actually did the standard street mime — the kind of guy who annoys you in public parks. I was a lover of silent film comedy growing up — Buster Keaton and Chaplin — and this was the closest I could find to those techniques I so admired.
Bankrate: Was it difficult to follow Peter Marshall as the host of “Hollywood Squares”?
Tom Bergeron: Going into it with Whoopi (Goldberg), we knew we were never going to be better than them because Peter and Paul Lynde were the guys that made that show an iconic show. The best that we could do was put our spin on it. I don’t think any of us thought that it would be quite the phenomenon that the first one was because that was just lightning in a bottle.
Bankrate: You once were offered Charlie Gibson’s slot on “Good Morning, America.” Do you regret not taking it?
Tom Bergeron: No. The hours are the real killer on that. It’s a very intense schedule, and you really are cramming for your finals every night just to keep abreast of what you’re covering. I certainly enjoyed it for the time I did it up to a point, but I’m much happier now.
Bankrate: When did you first realize you could make a living in show business?
Tom Bergeron: I remember the first time I landed a real salary. I was working at WBZ-TV in Boston and they had just offered me a contract to host three different formats: a kid’s show on the weekend, daytime programming on the weekdays and the lottery drawings at night. The total for that was like $70,000. I remember calling my wife and saying, “Seventy thousand!” We were making like $18,000 each; she was a producer-director for New Hampshire Public Television and I was doing a radio show. It was incredible.
Bankrate: Were you prepared for that windfall?
Tom Bergeron: We’ve always been very conservative with money. Yes, as the income increased as I went national and things turned into hits and franchises and the paychecks got bigger, I think we’ve always treated it with respect and understanding that this too could go away.
Bankrate: How difficult was it to adjust to “Dancing with the Stars”?
Tom Bergeron: That was a format that I needed to find the right way to host it. The first season and into part of the second season, I wasn’t really happy with how I was doing it. I was using a lot of scripted material like they did in England with the British show “Strictly Come Dancing,” and I just work better improvisationally. I finally said to the producers that I need to get rid of all this stuff, I need to just react honestly, and it will be organic. And that was a big change.
Bankrate: What’s your most memorable moment on the show?
Tom Bergeron: Probably when Marie Osmond fainted. That was one of those moments where I was confident that I was completely centered and present, and the approach I was taking to hosting the show was the right one because I was able to just react in the way I want to react, which was immediate and properly.
Bankrate: What is the hardest thing about what you do?
Tom Bergeron: I think pacing, in terms of energy, particularly with a live show. We go live on the west coast at 5 p.m. on Monday and 6 p.m. on Tuesday. Just making sure that I’m aware of how I expend my energy so that in that hour or two hours of live television, that’s when I peak for the day and that I haven’t had my most creative energetic spurts like five hours earlier.
Bankrate: As the hardest working host in show business, is there still a challenge you’d like to tackle?
Tom Bergeron: Well, I’d better figure out a hobby because at some point when they send me to the old host’s home, if I don’t have a hobby, I’m screwed.