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New Tony Awards host Sean Hayes gets a bit snippy with the press, declines to talk about Newsweek

Promises-promises So former Will & Grace co-star Sean Hayes gets on a conference call with journalists today to talk about hosting Sunday's Tony awards for CBS.

There's some buzz over the timing: He's nominated for a Tony and hosting the awards not long after a controversial column in Newsweek magazine asserted that gay men can't play straight characters on film, TV and stage -- using a brutal pan of Hayes work in his Broadway debut, Promises, Promises, as its central justification.

Co-star Kristen Chenoweth lept to Hayes' defense after the article came out, and Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy called for a boycott of the magazine (one of his actors was also criticized in the column).

Betty-white-hot-in-cleveland And there's more: Hayes is a first-time host who has never led an awards show before. He's following two immensely popular past hosts, Neil Patrick Harris and Hugh Jackman. And the following Wednesday,  a new sitcom he's executive producing about three friends who move to the midwest, Hot in Cleveland, debuts on TV Land starring Valerie Bertinelli and Betty White.

So why did he spend 30 minutes not talking about Newsweek, not spilling any details about the awards show and acting as if hosting a major awards ceremony is exciting as putting on a matinee performance of Promises?

Promises SeanHayes "If you don't mind, I'd rather just focus on the Tonys and Promises," Hayes told me, the writer who got to ask the first question, stuck with broaching the subject everybody really wanted to hear about. I even tried to point out that his Tony nomination might feel like vindication after the article, but all that sparked was lots of compliments for Chenoweth's talent.

I consider myself lucky. When another writer asked if he would make history as he first host to win, Hayes noted Jackman already did that, adding a retort that may have been intended as a joke, but sure didn't sound like one: "You should do you research; I don't have time to do it for you."

He did say he's not nervous about the hosting gig: "I’ve never hosted anything before. I’ve never had any ambitions to host anything. It takes the pressure off whether I’m going to kill or don’t kill.”

Even though Hot in Cleveland has a lot of connections to '90s sitcoms (co-stars Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick starred in Frasier and Just Shoot Me), Hayes isn't hatin' on modern network comedies:  “I think funny is funny no matter what. This is a show no network would greenlight because of the demographic. We all kind of thought there is no representation of that age range of women on television everywhere. So why not take advantage of it?"

And Poison singer Bret Michaels, who famously conked his noggin at last year's Tonys show, won't be returning, despite renewed fame for continuing health problems. "It was so far away, i think a callback joke would be lost," Hayes said.

After 30 minutes or so, it was obvious Hayes was so guarded he wasn't going to say much, making him an awfully awkward ambassador for a show which is trying hard to get average viewers jazzed about productions they will never see.

At least I got this blog post out of it.

[Last modified: Thursday, August 12, 2010 2:15pm]


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