By Lynette Rice
Updated April 27, 2010 at 12:00 PM EDT

Image Credit: Adam Larkey/ABCNow that the 10th season of Dancing With the Stars is half over, asked host Tom Bergeron to weigh in about the show’s stellar ratings, the departure of Kate Gosselin, and the strange obsession with the word “bazooka.”

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It’s been a great season for the show. Would you give the credit, in part, to Kate Gosselin?

TOM BERGERON: No, clearly it’s because of me, Brooke Burke, and the judges. I don’t think there is any question! [He laughs.] I don’t think it was solely Kate. I think it’s been a really good cast and the numbers on Monday speak to the fact that even with Kate not being with us, the numbers are still holding up. In our last half hour, we were averaging 22 million people. We were wondering about that – with her off, would the ratings take a hit? And yet we still averaged over 20 million. There are a lot of good stories. You have Erin, Jake coming off The Bachelor, and Chad – an active player in the NFL. And Pamela Anderson, who we have been trying to get since season one. It’s just a very colorful lineup of people. We also went back to some basics. It looked like a spray-tan bus stop around here last season, there were so many people. I think we were a lot smarter with casting and tweaking the production this season.

You’ve been particularly great with the impromptu bons mots this season.

It’s a much happier sandbox when we’re all surfing these kinds of ratings. It’s easier to be in a really great mood when you come to work. And I love to improvise on the air.

Talk about the decision to keep the camera on Kate last week rather than go to her goodbye clip.

Well, it was a joint decision. I have an earpiece, so the producer was in my ear and said we didn’t have to air the piece – which was a great call, because we had really good television going on there, so why go to a videotape package if you’ve got something happening organically and live? I’ve had really good interactions with her. I have not met the Kate that I’ve read about in some places, the real difficult Kate. That’s not been my experience. When you saw her break down there, we got a little bit of insight into how she really cared about the show. It’s hard for her to get out there and perform the way Nicole and the others do.

Have you ever angered Len for teasing him after he just aggressively criticized a contestant?

We’re really good friends. I tend to pick on the people I’m closest with because I know they know it’s not personal. There will be times when Len will give an eviscerating review of somebody – he’ll honestly feel that he’s making valid points – but he’ll really go at someone. So then we’ll go to a commercial and he’ll look me with a little twinkle in his eye and say, `That was good, wasn’t it?’ Not to say that he doesn’t mean everything he says, but he knows – as we all do – that we are on a TV show.

Is there extra crew around to restrain Bruno if he climbs too high on the table? Or is that your job?

That’s pretty much my job, and I love it. It’s such a perfectly modulated trio, those three. Bruno is just all drama and flying metaphors.

Has Maks ever gone too far with his handsy treatment of you? He always finds a way to swat at your butt.

I know. It’s become a running joke. I gave him a copy of my book recently and I signed it, ‘Thank you for encouraging gorgeous women to grope me every week.’ If I have to endure his groping as a price for that, then I guess it’s the cross I have to bear. When it started with Mel B, my wife would be watching with her girlfriends, they’d say, ‘Do you want your husband to be groped by a Spice Girl?’ And she would say, ‘He is a professional and he knows what he’s doing.’

Do you feel sorry for the dancers who clearly can’t move as well as someone as trained as Nicole or Evan?

I think it’s gotta be tough. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. If I were one of the other stars, it would be tough because even when Nicole seems to be groping for the style – like this week when she thought it was going to be a salsa instead of a samba – when she came over last night I said, ‘You certainly seemed to have gotten over your anxieties.’ Because it was just an amazing dance. On the one hand, it sets the bar. And I think Maks and Erin really pulled out all the stops and came very close. If Len didn’t have that little British hair across his ass, it probably would have been even closer. They got two 9s and Len stuck up the 7 paddle. I think Erin and Maks have a real shot at an upset. I think as we get deeper in the competition that will be true of any of the remaining couples.

How’s it been working with Brooke?

It’s been great. She was part of the extended family anyway. That’s a tough gig, trying to elicit things out of the couples while their attention is elsewhere. They are either licking their wounds over having gotten beaten up by the judges, they are waiting for the scores, or they are just exhausted. I have the easy job. I can crack jokes and send them off. I don’t envy Brooke.

The dancers seem to catch Brooke off guard with their crazy comments. Pam quipped Monday night about wanting to always be on top.

Yeah, what are you going to say to that? `Well, you should try being on the bottom! Flip through Kama Sutra, there are all kinds of places you can be. Don’t get in a rut, Pamela!’ You can’t say that on the air!

There’s certainly been a lot of talk about bazookas this season.

It started when Len said something to Niecy about moving your bazookas, and I ad-libbed, ‘Why don’t you head over to Brooke’s bazooka boutique?’ I thought, ‘I’m gonna hear about that again.’ But it’s hardly a bazooka-free zone here.