BY Brandon Voss
February 09 2010 2:45 PM ET
You might not know his name — though it’s a pretty hard one to forget — but you’re definitely familiar with Sam Pancake’s face and talent. A fixture of Los Angeles’s sketch comedy scene and “Real Live” stage spoofs, Pancake has spent the past two decades playing gay and stealing scenes in beloved sitcoms like Friends, Will & Grace, Arrested Development, and Curb Your Enthusiasm plus underrated gems like Lovespring International and Kitchen Confidential. In Pretty, a mockumentary Web series on PrettyTheSeries.com and FunnyOrDie.com, Pancake now stars as a dim-witted pageant dad to a precocious 5-year-old daughter (played by adult actress Stacy McQueen). Next seen on the big screen as a strip club DJ in Barry Munday, Pancake retraces his rocky road to recognition and revisits his most memorable roles. Rip Taylor, be warned!
Advocate.com: How did Pretty come about for you?
Sam Pancake: I had fallen down a flight of stairs and gotten a concussion, so I was laid up in bed for about a week. Steve Silverman, the writer-director-producer, e-mailed me the script during that time. I read it and I was like, “This is funniest thing ever! I’d love to do it!” A few days later, I was like, “Wait a minute. Was that just my concussion talking?” So I read it again, and it was still really funny.
Tell me about Michael Champagne, the pageant dad you play in Pretty. We know from the first episode that he loves everything Disney — including Zac Efron.
He really loves sparkle, glitter, and glitz, but according to Steve — and I don’t know how this will play with your gay magazine — Michael is supposedly straight. We find out later that he and his wife do have sex, even though she’s cheating on him with his brother. If he is gay, he’s in deep denial or doesn’t have the self-awareness to understand that he’s gay. He’s a Christian, he’s a little bit racist, and he’s not very smart. In the second episode he says, “I’m a doer; I try not to think,” which I think sums up everything about him. We’ve chosen to make him from southern West Virginia, as am I. He moved to L.A. to make it as an actor, but that didn’t work out. Now he’s delighted to be entering his daughter in pageants because, you know, it’s what she really wants.
What was your experience growing up gay in Romney, W.Va.?
I knew fairly young that it was Burt Reynolds for me and not Suzanne Somers. I also knew everyone around me would not be cool with it, so I tried to keep that under wraps as much as possible, but I just couldn’t. I was a pretty theatrical, high-strung little boy, so anyone with half a mind could figure out why I loved the show tunes and wasn’t so great at basketball. My mom was always trying to butch me up, telling me not to say certain words, but my stage debut was ironically in the Romney Women’s Club Minstrel Show, where I had to dress up as Minnie Pearl and do numbers from Hee Haw. Like Michael Champagne, I wanted to be around sparkly things like Hollywood.
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