And Just Like That actor Mario Cantone is speaking out about a canceled appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1986, claiming that he was cut from the show because he is gay.
The actor is well-known for his role as wedding planner Anthony Marentino on the HBO shows Sex and the City and And Just Like That. He played Stanford Blatch’s husband (Willie Garson).
In a recent episode of the podcast Allison Interviews, the comedian and actor, 62, told host Allison Kugel that he had been scheduled to appear on the popular talk show back in the 1980s, but it was scrapped for concern that some of the actor’s comedy routine would make talk show host Johnny Carson “nervous.”
Mario also mentioned the cancelation was not an isolated event.
Why was the appearance canceled?
On Tuesday, the actor and singer went on the podcast Allison Interviews in which he discussed the canceled appearance on The Tonight Show.
The actor had originally been booked to perform on The Tonight Show in October 1986, he told Allison Kugel on her show on Tuesday.
The actor stated that he was booked on The Tonight Show by the talent coordinator, Jim McCauley. “When he saw me he was just ‘Oh my God, you’re amazing, I don’t know what we’re gonna do, we’re gonna shape six minutes and we’re gonna do this and you’re gonna be amazing,’” Mario recalled to Allison.
But the talent coordinator scrapped the decision shortly thereafter.
“Then he looked at the video again because he filmed it that night and he just said, ‘You know what, your comedy has a gay edge to it and I think it’s going to make Johnny nervous, so I’m going to cancel you,” Mario recalled.
“And that’s just one,” he added. “That happened a lot.”
Allison couldn’t hide her shock as she raised her eyebrows and she breathed, “Wow.”
The conversation then turned to LGTBQ in the stand-up comedy community, when Allison wanted to know if he ever tried to play off as a straight man to get work.
In response, Mario stated, “No. I was me, I was doing Bette Davis and, you know, Joan Crawford, and Judy Garland, and so, you know, I didn’t care. I was doing Katharine Hepburn, I just kept doing what I did, but I had a lot of fear, I still have a lot of fear.”
Mario Cantone says there were other incidents of discrimination in his career
According to Mario Cantone, the canceled appearance on The Tonight Show was not an isolated event.
Mario told Allison that when he first started out his career, which began approximately thirty years ago, he didn’t tell anyone he was gay, but he also never lied about it, either. He was known for many LGBTQ impressions, including Bette Davis, Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, and Katharine Hepburn.
“I remember being told, ‘Don’t tell anybody you’re gay,’” Mario said to Allison.
Mario stated that one of his fears was that while on stage, someone would start yelling slurs from the back of the room. “Which did happen once in a while. Happened in Princeton one time in the Hyatt Regency, and they did nothing about it.”
Later in the podcast, the topic turned to LGBTQ representation in television and movies, specifically with gay actors playing gay characters. Mario agreed with the idea, but his experiences in Hollywood gave him some perspective on the business side of these decisions.
“This is the thing, if it’s an independent film, or a television show, or a low-budget film, yes, I think a gay person should play a gay person, I think a trans person should play a trans person, I think all of that. But if it’s a major motion picture from Warner Brothers or 20th Century Fox, or, you’re not going to get that movie done unless you have a major movie star. It’s just the way it is, it has always been that way,” Mario shared.