How Wayne Brady Went From Being Fired at Disney World to Winning The Masked Singer

Seth Rudetsky   How Wayne Brady Went From Being Fired at Disney World to Winning The Masked Singer
 
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth shares high school and early career stories from his interviews with Jason Alexander and Brady.
Wayne Brady
Wayne Brady Layne Dixon

Every few columns usually begins with me writing about what flight I’m on or to where I just flew. It’s so weird that I’ve been in the same place for more than two months! The best part is that I get to spend every day with all four doggies and our cat. After this is over, I want to be one of those people who travel everywhere with their dog(s). It’s going to be difficult, however, to carry them in a bag like Paris Hilton because Mandy alone weighs almost 60 pounds. Let the bicep curls begin?

Anyhoo, there was a lot of Broadway this week on Stars In The House (our twice-daily fundraiser for The Actors Fund), Seth Speaks (my talk show for SiriusXM) and Seth Rudetsky’s Back-To-School, my new podcast for SiriusXM/Pandora!

First my podcast: It’s an entire show just dedicated to celebrities’ high school years and my episode with Jason Alexander just “dropped.” When he was 14, a local children’s theatre group in New Jersey was asked to do a TV pilot of a children’s musical. In the group was Ken Jennings, but he couldn’t do the TV show because he just got cast as Tobias (“Not While I’m Around”) in Sweeney Todd. He had recently been a judge at a high school theatre festival and saw Jason perform and recommended him to be in the pilot and that’s how Jason joined SAG-AFTRA. The pilot didn’t get sold as a series, but it was aired on a local CBS channel and was seen by some managers who called Jason and asked to represent him. Jason signed with them and soon started doing commercials while in high school…including this one!

While he was in high school he was definitely bullied, but what the bullies didn’t know is that he was secretly studying martial arts! Hear the classic kid-who-gets-sand-kicked-in-his-face-but-finally-stands-up-to-the-bully story here!

This week on Stars In The House we had the multi-talented Wayne Brady. He performed at our Concert For America in September at UCLA’s Royce Hall. He had very limited time and we assumed it was because of him hosting Let’s Make A Deal. What we didn’t know is that he was also filming The Masked Singer! I thought he would have hinted a little to us while he was doing it, but he didn’t because when he first went to film an episode a bevy of lawyers came to his dressing room. He had to sign something saying that if he revealed he was on the show, he’d be liable for $100. Wait, let me correct that; he’d be liable for five million dollars. He kept his trap shut! And…he won! Take a look! Watch every one of his performances in this supercut.

Wayne got his professional start as a teenager at Disney World in Florida. His first job was as Tigger. Apparently, having to perform in an all-encompassing costume/mask helped prepare him for singing and dancing in an all-encompassing costume/mask on The Masked Singer. However, he did not begin (or end) well at Disney World. His very first time as Tigger was during a parade and he really wanted to give it his all. He was running around, breakdancing etc and, unfortunately, “giving your all” in an all-encompassing costume/mask in blazing Florida heat led to him passing out! All he remembers is dancing and then he wasn’t. And then was screaming because he couldn’t see anyhintg! Was he blind? No. When he fell, he broke his chin strap and his mask turned around so there were no eyeholes! He basically had heat stroke and passed out. There were no long term effects, but he said he feels bad for the kids who are now adults and have sever issues from what he calls “seeing Tigger die on Main Street.”

His inauspicious ending happened after he had been promoted. Wayne’s big dream was to perform in Rap’n Roll where you got to sing, rap, and do “awesome choreography.” He finally got cast and was waiting to make his debut. On that same day, Chris Judd (who later on to marry JLo) asked Wayne to sub for him. Chris was scheduled to do Tigger and he never liked wearing a costume. Wayne thinks it’s because Chris had great hair and didn’t like it ruined!

Well, as a favor, Wayne took his shift! He was on Main Street, smiling and posing for photos and suddenly he got aggressively tapped on his shoulder. He turned around and a woman told him that her son wanted a photo with him. Right now. Well, there was a line and Wayne didn’t feel it was fair to do a photo with someone who hadn’t been waiting. So, first he waved at the kid and hugged him and then he indicated (through mime, because he was not allowed to talk) that she should wait in line. He turned around and she tapped aggressively again. He turned around and she told him that she was a bigwig in the park in the park and therefore he should do the photo. Well, Wayne had memorized the rulebook and this woman, while indeed a bigwig was, in fact, not allowed to get preferential treatment. She then angrily pointed at him in a “I’m going to get you” way and sassed away. Hilariously, as she stormed away, she realized she forgot her own child! She ran back, grabbed her kid and left.

After Wayne’s shift, he was called into his boss’ office and written up for pinching a child! Not only did it not happen, but it would have been impossible because Tiger’s hands are basically oven mitts. They cannot perform the function of pinching! Regardless, he was suspended from Disney World. Through tears, he asked if he could still start rehearsing Rap’n Roll… and he was told NO. Wayne was suspended and then fired! Three years later, he was cast as an improviser at an in-house Disney theatre in Florida. Before he begins, they tell him that they checked his records and he’s a “no rehire”! That’s right. Just like they threaten in high school, his fake pinching incident was on his “permanent record”!!!

He got other jobs and finally rises to fame on Whose Line Is it, Anway?’ on ABC. Because Disney is the parent company of ABC, he got invited back to the park for a big millennial celebration (it was 1999). When he arrived, he was presented with his guide…the woman who got him fired! It was like a revenge movie! She was completely friendly and acted like nothing happened. Instead of trying to get him fired again, she talked about how proud everyone was of his success!

Wayne was cordial and finally decided to say something. With a big smile, he reminded her of the time she was fired…and thanked her. She asked him why and he told her that, at that point in his life, his big goal was to do the Rap”n Roll show…and that was it. He had a very small view for his career, but because he was fired, he had no choice but to broaden his goals and that led to him being hired by Universal, singing more, doing more improv and all of that paved the road to his television success. If he hadn’t been fired, he felt he may have been a 40-year-old Rap’n Roll star and that’s it. It was a delicious end to a horrific beginning!

Speaking of Whose Line Is It, Anyway?, Wayne remembered the first season when he was having lunch on Hollywood Boulevard with Colin (one of the other stars). A woman recognized them and told them she was very excited to see the show that day with her church group. Cut to: The host of the show picked her to be onstage for Wayne to sing a song to. The host randomly picked a style…and it was “strip-o-gram”. Wayne immediately looked at Colin because they both realized Wayne was going to have to be all sexy and come on to the kindly Christian lady who spoke to them at lunch. You can see that he keeps looking back at Colin! Enjoy the sexiness and then peace out!

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