Fran Drescher is maybe best known for playing the title role in the sitcom “The Nanny,” which ran for six seasons and earned her two Emmy nominations, but she’s also had memorable roles in movies, including “This Is Spinal Tap.” She’s written best-selling books for adults and kids, and spearheaded cancer prevention efforts via her organization Cancer Shmancer. Last year, she made her Broadway debut as the (gleefully) wicked stepmother ‘Madame’ in the musical “Cinderella.” Now she’s reprising the role, through April 26th, at the L.A.’s Ahmanson Theatre. She joined us in the studio with her dog, Samson. (Yep!) Lots of laughter–and some life advice–ensued.
Rico Gagliano: Fran, it is great to have you.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Yes.
Fran Drescher: Thank you. I’m happy to be here.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Fran, can you make Samson introduce himself to us?
Fran Drescher: Samson, you want to say something?
Rico Gagliano: Apparently not.
Fran Drescher: He’s finally quieting down. I don’t want to get him stirred up.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Alright, let’s not get him all stirred up.
Rico Gagliano: He’s very polite, Samson.
Fran Drescher: Yeah, no, because I’m just weaning him off of the Prozac, and I’m hoping that I can teach him not to go nuts every time someone comes to the door.
Rico Gagliano: So, you decided to take him off the Prozac right before bringing him to our studios? Thank you.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, great idea.
Fran Drescher: Exactly. As the test, ultimately. I knew I was doing this show, and I said, “Well, that will be the test.”
Rico Gagliano: So, Fran, this “Cinderella” you’re starring in is just one of the happiest, un-cynical things ever. It is full of relatable, upbeat characters trying to make the world a better place, and here you are, playing the meanest person in the world.
Fran Drescher: Yeah, I gave wicked stepmother, you know, the reputation, my character.
Brendan Francis Newnam: So, how much of a challenge was that for you? Because you’re known to be a pretty — you know, you’re a selfless advocate for gay rights and women’s health…
Fran Drescher: …Affable gal. Well, when I took over the role on Broadway, I really wanted to infuse glamour and humor to the character. They designed new costumes for me, and headpieces and wigs. I found areas to add a little comedy.
Rico Gagliano: So, but it sounds like you were uncomfortable with the character being too mean.
Fran Drescher: The thing is, I didn’t originate this role on Broadway. They kind of brought me in after a year to help fortify ticket sales, and so I think that if…
Rico Gagliano: …Wow. If you do say so yourself.
Fran Drescher: Well… it worked.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah. You’re like Harvey Keitel in “Pulp Fiction.” You’re like, “We need glamah and we need humah. That’s how we’re going to sell seats.”
Rico Gagliano: I often compare you and Harvey.
Fran Drescher: But, so I said, “If we’re going to try and entice my fans or ‘The Nanny’ fans more specifically, we got to give them what they’re used to seeing me as.” I’m not, you know, it’s…
Rico Gagliano: You’re not true evil. That’s not your thing.
Fran Drescher: No, and I am glamorous, and I am funny. So, let’s just kind of round out the rough edges a little bit.
Rico Gagliano: Well, speaking of glamorous musicals… well, maybe not so glamorous but certainly great musicals, I have to tell you a story. The other night I, for some reason, decided to watch “Saturday Night Fever” on Netflix.
Fran Drescher: Yeah, I heard that was on.
Rico Gagliano: And my girlfriend suddenly squeals, “Oh my god, it’s Fran Drescher!” And there you are disco dancing in a character role with John Travolta.
Fran Drescher: I know. You didn’t know I was in that?
Rico Gagliano: I was not aware of it.
Fran Drescher: That was my first job. I was a teenager. So, I was already a fan. I was very excited to be working with him. And, he was a little sad because the gal that he was with at the time had been diagnosed with cancer or she had… I don’t really remember.
Rico Gagliano: And you’ve got to dance with joy.
Fran Drescher: Yeah, he was sad. And I said, “Just do it. Just do it and then it’ll be done.”
Rico Gagliano: So, you’re arguably the reason “Saturday Night Fever” succeeded.
Brendan Francis Newnam: You’re like Forrest Gump.
Fran Drescher: Listen, I’ll tell you every story and how I spun it around me. Don’t worry.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Can you tell me about…
Rico Gagliano: How about… now, “Gone with the Wind.”
Brendan Francis Newnam: The assassination of McKinley.
Rico Gagliano: How did you pull those two things off?
Fran Drescher: I was there. I was the one that shouted, “Duck!”
Rico Gagliano: …and America remained great.
Brendan Francis Newnam: There we go.
Rico Gagliano: Thank you, Fran Drescher.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Well, Fran Drescher, you clearly have wisdom, and are you ready to share that wisdom with our audience with their etiquette questions?
Fran Drescher: Sure.
Rico Gagliano: Alright, here we go.
Brendan Francis Newnam: This first one comes from Diana from Brooklyn, and Diana asks: “How do you tell your waiter/waitress you did not like the taste of the food you ordered?”
Fran Drescher: You know, they’re not my partner in life, their not my best friend, so, rather than me sit there, wait for them to do the right thing, and then walk out in a huff because they didn’t, I’d rather just tell them. And just today, I was making that point to someone. I wasn’t in a restaurant but I was saying how sometimes you just got to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t eat this. It’s not what I expected and please take it away.”
Brendan Francis Newnam: Just be straightforward is what you’re saying.
Fran Drescher: And do not charge me for it, either.
Rico Gagliano: And do not charge me for it.
Fran Drescher: Yeah, don’t leave any stone unturned.
Brendan Francis Newnam: But this is the question: is that fair? I mean, they made the dish the way that they make it. It doesn’t sound like the service was bad. This was just a matter of taste.
Fran Drescher: Yes, I think that in this particular case — this is not something you should do devil may care.
Rico Gagliano: Yeah, you’ve got to be cool.
Fran Drescher: This is something that you really have to weigh and measure. But if it’s something that you absolutely cannot — you know, sometimes they’ll list the ingredients but they’ll leave out, like, raw onion, and it’s like, what? I can’t eat raw onion, thank you. If push comes to shove, you can always say it’s tough or something.
Rico Gagliano: Yeah, right, it’s overdone.
Fran Drescher: If you feel like you don’t want to own that you just don’t like it. You thought you would, and you don’t.
Rico Gagliano: And maybe you can tip a little extra if they’re nice about it.
Fran Drescher: I’m a big tipper, regardless.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Alright, well, I can’t wait to find out what our tip is after this interview.
Rico Gagliano: Yay! Alright, here’s something from Eva in Indianapolis, and Eva writes: “What is the best way to respond when someone comments on your laugh?”
Brendan Francis Newnam: I wonder why they asked you this?
Fran Drescher: Well, most people say, “Would you do your laugh for me?” And I call that my seal act.
Rico Gagliano: What a weird life. That’s crazy.
Fran Drescher: You know,I decided on my tombstone, it should just say, “Her laugh made us laugh.” Period.
Brendan Francis Newnam: There you go.
Fran Drescher: But they want me to laugh on command. I had to go to therapy to learn how to not be so willing to do everything anybody requested of me and put myself in the equation.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Do you send Samson to school so he does do things people tell him to do?
Fran Drescher: OMG. You don’t know how many… how many dog trainers have come to the house: trainers for the stars, trainers in New York, and the vet actually said, “You got a lemon.” Can you imagine a vet telling the owner. I’m the mother! “You got a lemon.”
Rico Gagliano: The vet needs a trainer.
Brendan Francis Newnam: So, there you go. There you go, Eva. If someone comments on your laugh, laugh for them but then go do something for yourself.
Rico Gagliano: Yeah, take it as a compliment.
Fran Drescher: Oh, I do. I do.
Rico Gagliano: Here’s something from Susanna via Facebook. Susanna writes:”If you were currently touring in a Broadway musical…” — she just throws that out there as a hypothetical.
Brendan Francis Newnam: A lot of our listeners are.
Rico Gagliano: Yeah, “…And one of your cast-mates keeps using hideous red eyebrow pencil instead of brown, should you say something to them or just let it go?”
Fran Drescher: Now, this Susanna actually knows somebody in the cast because this actually happened to a wonderful actor, Branch Woodman. I looked at him one night, and he had reddish eyebrow pencil on his eyes. I didn’t say anything. Then the next night, he had brown on. Now, I am a cosmetician.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh, yeah!
Fran Drescher: And I have been putting on makeup on myself for many, many years, and so I had to say something. I said, “Okay, now what is the eyebrow pencil you’re wearing tonight and how come it’s different from what you wore yesterday?” And he said, “Is it different? I’m colorblind.” I said, “Whatever you wore tonight, put a little piece of tape around that pencil. Only use the brown one. It’s perfect.”
Rico Gagliano: Alright, so there’s the answer. Tell them straight up.
Fran Drescher: Yes. I’m not a shrinking violet. I do give my opinions to people, but I will never talk about them behind their back, ever.
Rico Gagliano: Yeah, sure.
Brendan Francis Newnam: But as far as discreet, it took us 30 seconds to learn that Samson is on Prozac, okay? So, you might want to extend that courtesy to your pets.
Fran Drescher: Well, I’m an open book with myself, but I apologize to Samson if I’ve actually compromised his privacy.
Rico Gagliano: You better because he could blow at any time.
Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s right.
Fran Drescher: I know. I don’t need to advertise that he’s on prescriptive drugs.
Rico Gagliano: You have Cujo underneath you right now, so let’s hope it all works out.
Fran Drescher: I do call him Cujo. Part of his problem is that he was biting.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh my god! Fran Drescher, thank you so much for telling our audience how to behave. Let’s get out of here.
Rico Gagliano: Yeah.
Fran Drescher: Well, thank you. It’s been delightful.