Pop Culture Personality Test: Danny Pellegrino yells at The View and once wrote a fan letter to James Cameron
Danny Pellegrino is a man full of stories. On his hit podcast Everything Iconic, he hosts comedians and actors to discuss the most pressing pop culture and in his new memoir How Do I Un-Remember This? he opens up about poignant (and hilarious) tales from his own past — embarrassing teen mishaps, growing up closeted in the suburban Midwest, and discovering all of the movies and TV shows that made him who he is today. Here, he talks to EW to share even more stories about his best pop culture memories.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When do you yell at the television?
DANNY PELLEGRINO: I yell at the TV when I'm watching The View, which I do every night. Depending on who on the panel I'm agreeing with, I'm either yelling in support or yelling at them. I was very fired up when they moved back to Zoom panels. I, of course, want everyone to be safe, that's first and foremost, but the show just doesn't work as well in that format and it was a surprise to all the viewers to see them back on Zoom. But also, I feel very protective of all the gals and feel like I can complain about them ... but if I hear on the news that they're dragging a host, I get very defensive.
What is your favorite item of pop culture memorabilia?
I love a 90's McDonald's toy. I also have the plush Rosie O'Donnell doll in my office. And the Fran Drescher Barbie. She had multiple Barbies come out around the time of The Nanny. I also recently found a Pizza Hut puppet of Casper from the 1995 movie. I recently interviewed Devon Sawa, who played the human version of Casper and got to show him this toy, which was a thrill.
Who is your best celebrity sighting?
I was at an event for a friend's kid's school and Jamie Lee Curtis was there giving a speech. Later, we were both going to the restroom at the same time. All I could think about was her Activia commercials. I thought, 'it must really work.'
Have you ever written a fan letter?
I just moved recently and discovered a copy of a letter I had sent James Cameron's team when the first Avatar was announced. I was 15 or 16 years old. I loved Titanic at the time and was like, I'd do anything to work on Avatar. It's so cringe-y. I also wrote Sherri Shepherd at some point — she was in a show called Less Than Perfect and I thought she was so funny and I got her email address from a message board. She actually wrote me back and was really nice.
What's a favorite recent moviegoing experience?
I saw the Scream reboot in the theater, which I really enjoyed because I love the originals. And I just saw Marry Me and it was insane. It's what I like to call both five stars and also just one star.
What's an R-rated movie you saw too young?
The original Scream. I was 10 or 11 when it came out and my brother rented it, and after he and his friends watched it I took the VHS tape to my room. I did something similar with Boogie Nights. I also remember buying a ticket to something else and then seeing Brokeback Mountain because I wasn't out of the closet yet. I went to a theater in downtown Cleveland, a long drive from my town, because I thought maybe no one will know me in that part of town. I sobbed as young teen watching Brokeback.
What is your favorite celebrity memoir?
I loved Casey Wilson's The Wreckage of My Presence. I thought it was brilliant. There is also a book called Swish by Joel Derfner that was very influential to me — I read it before I came out of the closet, and he writes openly about being a gay man and sex and relationships.
Is there a book you read over and over again?
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, which I read when I was young, is the one I go back to. I'm a collector of that book, so whenever I'm at used bookstores I look for different editions. For this book I reread a lot of essay collections: David Sedaris and Phoebe Robinson and Casey's again.
Which comedians do you admire?
I'm newly obsessed with Abbott Elementary and one of the stars is Janelle James — I just watched her standup on Netflix and loved it. I also love Naomi Ekperigin, her standup on Netflix (part of The Standups series) is so funny and she just cracks me up.
Who is a podcast guest that you've been nervous to interview?
Jennifer Love Hewitt and Rosie O'Donnell. I had a poster of Jennifer in my room as a teenager, and she came to my house for the podcast episode with a new puppy she had just gotten. It was a pinch-me moment. I also recently interviewed Miss Piggy. That was a lifetime achievement.
If you're at a party, who is the first celebrity you're going to name-drop?
It's not a name-drop, but I'm always going to talk about Meg Ryan. I love her, and I think she needs justice. I miss her onscreen, and I think the media and public at large treated her incredibly unfairly in the early 2000s. I think if people re-examined that era we'd think about her looks, her relationship, and her performances in a whole new light.
Are you nervous for anyone to read your book?
I was most nervous for my mom to read it, because she can be a little buttoned-up and I didn't want to offend her or make her upset. I was very uncensored in the book, and didn't shy away from writing any of the gay stuff or my depression. I was nervous it would be too much for her, but she liked it.
Which Real Housewives franchise is your current favorite?
Season 2 of Salt Lake City is just delivering on a different level. It's phenomenal television. I don't know where we go from here.