Dan Cortese is certainly no stranger to seeing people perform odd physical feats for the amusement of others. Having gotten his start fronting the proudly offbeat MTV Sports back in the early ’90s, along with being a fixture at various MTV Rock N’ Jock contests where celebrities liked to pretend they were athletes, Cortese has made a steady career for himself as an actor and TV personality. The former Melrose Place and Veronica’s Closet star is now hosting truTV’s Guinness World Records Gone Wild, — premiering Thursday at 8pm — which features everyday folks trying to forge their name in oddball immortality.
He brought his affable charm — he is the original “mimbo” from Seinfeld, after all — in answering our “7 Questions.”
1. You’re standing at a magazine rack and can only pick three titles. Which do you choose?
Sports Illustrated, Time and MAD.
2. Your DVR can only carry three shows. Which ones do you want?
Modern Family. Love that show, and I have some good friends who are writers on there. I’m actually still upset by the fact they haven’t gotten me on there. Sadly enough, any sporting event that has either the Pittsburgh Steelers or the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. I was born and raised in Pittsburgh. I used to do American Idol, but not so much anymore. I don’t know what’s going on there.
3. What has been your strangest fan encounter?
When I was doing MTV, and was also on Melrose Place at the time, I was at an appearance in Chicago. It was in a mall, you know, one of those silly things that you do. You go and you’re signing headshots and it’s young girls and guys who watch MTV, but there was one woman who was quite a bit older. She would always send fan mail to my manager’s office, and it would always be bizarre but loving things about me and then how she hated my manager because she felt how he would never forward anything to me. It just so happened that she showed up with her husband at the signing, and my manager was actually there with me, too. He got freaked out about it because the guy was like 6’8″. So we left, and never actually saw the woman, but we knew what she looked like because she had sent pictures of herself hardly wearing anything with these snakes that she would collect. We go back to the hotel and she happened to be waiting for us in the lobby. She kept saying, “Just come outside. Take a photo with my husband.” It was quite bizarre. I’ve never turned anybody down for a photo, other than that time.
4. Tell me about a time when you were starstruck.
This past year, Kirstie Alley — she’s a friend of mine, we did Veronica’s Closet together — invited me to come see Dancing With the Stars when she was on it, and Hines Ward was there. Troy Polamalu was actually sitting in the audience watching Hines dance. I was sitting there with Kristin Chenoweth, and after the show I was so starstruck because I’m sitting across from Troy Polamalu. I couldn’t believe it. She’s like, “Just go talk to him.” I’ve never been like that, because I can talk to anybody, and I just thought, “What am I going to say to him?” Long story short … we go outside to leave and he’s standing there, so I went up and approached him and told him that I was from Pittsburgh and I was proud of the way he handled himself as a professional on behalf of the city. Couldn’t have been a nicer guy. Asked me my name again and the next morning, like a teenage girl I was so excited because Troy Polamalu was following me on Twitter. I woke up my son and went, “Hey, buddy, look at this. How cool is your father? Right there. Troy Polamalu.” Yeah, watch me completely abuse that power and start direct messaging him.
5. What are three things you must have in your fridge or pantry?
Water, Fuji apples and Balance bars.
6. What Guinness World Record would you like to set?
I want to set the Guinness World Record for hosting the most game shows about Guinness World Records. Let’s do 300 of these things. But seriously, I’d like to attempt a record on the show. I don’t know if any host of any show has actually gotten that involved in something. I’m not sure what that would be, but how about seeing how many consecutive shots with a Nerf gun I could take in a minute? I could do that.
7. Who’s the best celebrity athlete you’ve come across?
I hate to say this, because I don’t want to give him any props, but George Clooney is a really good athlete. When he first started ER and he did Rock N’ Jock, that’s where I first met him. Then when I did Veronica’s Closet we were also on the Warner Bros. lot where they shot ER, and the shows would get together and play hoops. He’s a good athlete. Unfortunately a lot of actors like to think they’re good athletes, but they’re not. As far as actors go, you’re a good athlete, but as far as real world goes not so much. It’s like when you work out, people go, “You’re in great shape.” You’re like, “No, it’s actor shape.” You basically go and you work out the glamor muscles. You’re not really in good shape, you just have to physically look good on camera. When you go for a run, yes, your lungs burn after a quarter of a mile. That’s not good shape.
Photo: TM & © Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc. A Time Warner Company. Credit: Mathieu Young