'Ally McBeal' breakout Greg Germann talks about the pain of being funny

Being funny hasn’t always been a hoot to Ally McBeal‘s Greg Germann. ”When I was a kid I’d write notes to girls that said, ‘Do you like me: More than a friend, less than a friend, as a friend, check one,”’ says Germann. ”Invariably I would get ‘As a friend,’ which is heartbreaking enough. Then underneath they would write ‘But you’re funny.’ I loathed it. I felt like, God, I want to be something besides funny.”

Keep trying, buddy. Germann and his pesky comedic talent have made the most of potentially forgettable supporting roles, first as the dim Eric for two seasons on the Fox sitcom Ned and Stacey, and now on Fox’s McBeal, where the actor steals scenes as the tact-impaired wattle-fetishist lawyer Richard Fish. ”I’ve heard that this is my breakout part,” says Germann, 34, whose character’s Fishisms (e.g., brushing off someone he’s offended with ”Bygones, people”) are quickly establishing him as a fan favorite. McBeal takes an aggressively female slant on everything from breast size to cappuccino, but Germann doesn’t mind getting noticed on what many consider a chick show. ”If you had that many men [in the cast] and it was called Billy McNeal, people wouldn’t say it was a guy’s show,” he reasons. Still, Germann is attracting fans of the fairer sex—notably fellow TV standout Kristen Johnston (3rd Rock From the Sun). ”He’s this strong presence who’s also insanely funny,” says the actress, who knows Germann from their New York theater days. ”I’ll watch anything he does.”

Even stroking Dyan Cannon’s neck wattle (as Fish did in an early McBeal episode)? ”I loved that scene,” says Germann. ”It doesn’t feel safe.”

Germann’s taste for the unusual is also on display in Pete’s Garden—a short film the actor wrote, directed and stars in, about a father and child who bond while killing a sick pony (it will be shown at Sundance later this month). Such an off-kilter sensibility is a plus on a show where characters do much of their emoting in a unisex bathroom. ”I think it’s great,” Germann says. ”One week, you actually heard peeing!”

Ally McBeal
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