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Celebrity Apprentice Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

This is an interview with finalists Adam Carolla, Lou Ferrigno, Penn Jillette, and Aubrey O'Day on January 4, 2012 about appearing on the show Celebrity Apprentice.

Penn Jillette

Question:
You've done a few shows now. Can you talk about what you have found be your strong suit when you're competing?

Aubrey O'Day:
My strong suit is that I'm able to manipulate all the boys.

Penn Jillette:
I would say my strong point is simply not die. I mean if I do deep breathing, stay alive, let the ego depletion happen, not dying is all you have to do, the same as being shipwrecked. Your only heroic is not to die.

Adam Carolla:
It is about survival more than it's you're not there to thrive. You're there not to be eliminated and not to have a stroke. And I don't want to give away too much but I was one of those things during the course of the show.

Question:
Lou can you talk about the experience was different than what you expected when you first signed on?

Lou Ferrigno:
First of all I was on the show with a bunch of great talent, great people, great friends. It was very difficult and very challenging. I learned a lot but I really had a lot of fun. And it's tough. But basically it's like a chess game.

Question:
For the other guys since everybody was so recognizable who surprised you the most?

Penn Jillette:
I was a little surprised by Paul Senior. Paul Senior was a guy of a stupid show that just yelled a lot and meant nothing to me. And he turned out to be a very good friend and really smart and really savvy and really, really kind and measured. And I appreciate all those things. And that was kind of a shock. A lot of the other people on the show I knew before I went in. And a lot of the people on the show acted the way that I could have predicted. But Paul Senior was a real surprise for me.

Adam Carolla:
I was surprised that Clay Aiken was as gritty as he was. Like I knew Clay Aiken had the competitive spirit because he did another show that we won't mention that involved the competition. But I didn't know the guy other than is his huge candy consumption had a lot of just roll up his sleeves and well you don't normally associate Clay Aiken with that kind of guy you'd want on your football team but to me it was Clay Aiken.

Question:
Could you all just touch on how you chose your charities?

Penn Jillette:
My charity was Opportunity Village, it's a charity for intellectually disabled result adults in the Las Vegas area. And it's a real important paradigm. It's a new way of thinking of getting people back into the culture. And you take wonderfully successful things that people for whom tying their shoes and cooking breakfast is a difficult thing to not be warehoused to be a part of society.

But all of that is just the intellectual justification. The real reason in my heart is that it was an Elvis charity and all those scarves that Elvis gave out from the stage were made at Opportunity Village. Every time Elvis kissed one of those scarves and threw them out in the audience that was something made by Opportunity Village. So I was on Celebrity Apprentice fighting for the charity that Elvis Aaron Presley would have fought for.

Adam Carolla:
For me it was Catholic Big Brothers not even because I'm Catholic, just because I was part of the program many years ago. And I just saw what a positive change it could create in a young child's life. So for me it was pretty simple. I just picked a charity that I myself was a Catholic Big Brother way back in the early and mid-90s. And it just seemed like a logical choice.

Aubrey O'Day:
I chose GLSEN which stands for the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network because I experienced bullying growing up. I'm sure a lot of the celebrities on the actual show experienced not fitting in at one point or another. It's also something that is very relevant now in pop culture and something that we've seen a great deal of. And as someone that's experienced it and someone that's involved with a lot of charity I felt like it would be the strongest representation of what's popular now to stand up for and defend and really have a voice for.

Question:
You all are part of social media. How did that help you or did it affect you at all while you were participating on the show?

Aubrey O'Day:
We weren't allowed to use our social media here.

Penn Jillette:
I was supposedly blacked out during that. I didn't tweet at all about anything which is tough because I have a few followers and I also tweet three or four times a day. So it was a big change for me.

Question:
Is there anything that you've been surprised to learn about yourselves through partaking in the show?

Aubrey O'Day:
I learned that I was a lot better at being like real-world jobs than I thought. I think when you're in entertainment long enough you get used to the hustle and bustle of what it takes to survive in this world. And although it is a reality show and it's something in an entertainment world, the jobs that we were doing were for actual companies and we were building products and branding and really creating a name for a company and it was a serious job and they were looking for serious results.

Adam Carolla:
I found out that I was basically a puss who couldn't handle 6-1/2 hours of sleep six days a week and needed a TiVo and/or DVR apparatus not more than 3 feet away from me no matter where I was. So for me I found my weaknesses instead of my inner strengths.

Penn Jillette:
I found that if I really focused and the stakes were really high I could stay in a room with Clay Aiken without swallowing my own tongue.

Aubrey O'Day:
I don't know how you did that.

Penn Jillette:
It's a miracle. I look back on it my friends are just gob smacked that I didn't just run out screaming.

Question:
Penn, why not just use mind games or magic to win?

Penn Jillette:
Because no one knows what game you're playing. It's an arbitrary game without rules. I can't tell you the rules of Texas Hold ???em. I cannot tell you the rules of Celebrity Apprentice. It's an arbitrary capricious thing. So if there aren't rules you can't cheat. If there were rules I would have cheated.

Question:
Does that mean you didn't use any magic or mind games?

Penn Jillette:
It turns out I did do magic, I did do juggling, I did do fire eating. But in terms of mind games it was mostly just being in a tiger cage and numb.

Question:
Penn, you're a very politically outspoken person. What was it like working with Mr. Trump on the show?

Penn Jillette:
We don't really work with Mr. Trump. Trump just kind of sits and pontificates and you listen to him. And it wasn't really any political discussion with Trump although I don't think even outside of the game there's any real political discussion with Trump. But that didn't really come up because it's a very odd artificial situation. There isn't really any conversation that takes place. So although I think that Donald Trump and I disagree a lot on politics it really wasn't the forum for that to come up.

Question:
We're very disappointed that Bullshit! is not coming back. What are you going to do about all the other bullshit in the world?

Penn Jillette:
That was the thing. We stopped it because we got rid of all the bullshit in the world. Are you saying that people are still lying somewhere? Because we may need to start it up again.

Question:
I was wondering if reality TV might've been a topic you would've covered on Bullshit!?

Penn Jillette:
Reality TV was a topic that I brought up every year of the eight years to do. But the problem is that everybody's signing these heavy nondisclosure agreements and everybody is copywriting all the material. And the contracts are so sophisticated that you have to pretty much go back to the Loud Family on PBS in 1971 to get any footage that's available.

So we couldn't do a show because we were locked out of information. So it would've been simply a talking head show with obscenity and naked people and no video that had anything to do with the show. But I certainly wanted very much to talk about how the word reality has been distorted and what you're seeing on shows like Celebrity Apprentice is not any sort of documentary that you have and you're seeing a improvised soap opera by professionals.

Question:
Well last year Meatloaf and Gary Busey were so volatile. Who were the volatile ones on this year?

Aubrey O'Day:
Arsenio Hall. Arsenio Hall.

Question:
The show became so well-known last year for being so volatile for having so many fights and such every week how does it compare to last season on sort of the volatility index?

Aubrey O'Day:
It's 1000 times better. This is the best season of Celebrity Apprentice there is. I've watched every season and I've never seen anything like it. And I've been on enough catfight dramatic shows to be someone that can say that.

Adam Carolla:
I think it's really just ego that keeps you moving sort of like having a staring contest or a push-up contest. I was out of gas about three days in. But your ego and looking around and by the way seeing guys that are 20 years older than you who have more energy than you sort of keep you moving along, seeing George Takei with a skip in his step sort of forces you to stop complaining.

Penn Jillette:
I think that's kind of a lie. I didn't think it was that hard. There's such an incredible amount of time spent doing nothing it's forced upon you.

Adam Carolla:
But Penn doesn't that drain you? To me that's awful.

Penn Jillette:
It's a little bit draining.

Aubrey O'Day:
It was a lot of draining.

Penn Jillette:
Not compared to when you're doing something that you get done.

Aubrey O'Day:
Penn's too intellectual for these comments.

Penn Jillette:
It's so unpleasant was just how little you get to get done. There's a lot of waiting around and putting television into task slows everything down a lot.

Question:
Are you guys allowed at all to share any little tidbits of what we can expect in the season as far as the types of casts or any way that this season might be a little bit different from the others?

Aubrey O'Day:
Well this season we had a bigger cast. We had the biggest cast we've ever had. I think we started off with what, 18 people guys, nine and nine? And usually they start off I think with six and six. So we had a much bigger season. We had. I think crazier challenges in a lot of ways than I've ever seen on other past seasons.

Aubrey O'Day:
You're talking about a reality star and two intellectual men that are incredibly funny, not that I'm not calling myself intellectual but they take it in a different way than I take it because I've been on reality TV my whole life and they've had real jobs.

Adam Carolla:
Your whole life you've been on reality TV?

Aubrey O'Day:
I would say. I mean since I was 17. That's like my entire adult life. But it's just different perspective. In relation if we're talking rowdy TV and you guys are asking us questions about that this in relation to other shows that I've been on this was the most real show that I've been on. Now what Penn says about having to deal with camera time and the manipulation of the way that television works, that exists on every reality show. We all know that. That's not a secret anymore to society.

But this definitely when what happens in the board room is very real. I mean it's a bunch of Type A personalities that think they are the biggest star in the room and think that they know everything and think that they're right and you're watching all of them fight to stay in that night. So it's interesting TV started off I think with a lot of really great stars. I think there is a bigger star power on the guys cast than there was on the girls clearly. And I think that it was really interesting to see everything go down. I definitely think that the girls need much better TV than the guys and will be the reason why everyone tunes in besides Penn and Adam Carolla who are amazing.

Question:
Did you guys have a particular strategy kind of going into this or did that change over time?

Adam Carolla:
I did not personally other than, you know don't get everyone to hate you the first week. But you learn.

Aubrey O'Day:
Well you failed on that one.

Penn Jillette:
That failed.

Adam Carolla:
Thank you. You learn pretty quick that whatever you had planned at the beginning is probably only good for a couple of days and then it just becomes a kind of Chinese fire drill at least in my opinion. If you're too rigid in your plan it's not going to be able to fully apply it to whatever it is you're doing. So for me half a plan to start with and that quickly went out the window.

Penn Jillette:
My plan was actually from the philosopher Mike Tyson who said everyone has a plan until they get hit. And everybody does have a plan until they get hit. And the instant that something doesn't go the way you planned especially with this particular group of people all plans go out the window.

I believe that some people that what is a little bit depressing about working on the show is that even people who suspend their morality completely and are willing to do anything don't do it well enough to do damage. I saw people who were willing to do anything to win and you could see that clearly that they had let go of their morality completely and they still didn't win. I mean it's like a guy who decides to rob a liquor store with a shotgun and everybody looks at him and goes get out of here and he goes okay. He's already done the moral transgression and he still failed at his task.

Aubrey O'Day:
I agree with Penn and Adam. I don't think that this is a show that you really can be strategized with. And I think more importantly if you're smart and you trust that you don't need a strategy. I mean this show is about how good your ideas are, how well you can execute them and how well you can sell them. So at the end of the day whenever we can control as contestants you really can't control that with a strategy. The strategy is be good at what you do and have the best idea.

Question:
Was this idea something that kind of was presented to you or did you have your eye on this show like I really want to do that show one day?

Aubrey O'Day:
I always wanted to do it.

Penn Jillette:
It was my goal since I was 6 years old growing up in and Greenfield, Massachusetts. That's all I've been working for and living for.

Adam Carolla:
I originally wanted to do P Diddy's show but when I was turned down for that I quickly set my sights on Celebrity Apprentice.

Aubrey O'Day:
If you struggle with Donald you would never have made it with Diddy let me tell you.

Adam Carolla:
Don't give away too much Aubrey. For me personally and maybe I don't know how this was for Penn but people always say like what made you decide to do Dancing with the Stars or what made you decide to do Celebrity Apprentice? And I never decided. I just got a phone call one day saying would you like to do it? As a matter of fact I spoke to Mark Burnett about it and he you said you'd be great at it Adam. And I said yes all right and that was it. I'd always enjoyed the show. I'd always watched the show and I'd always thought it would be a great challenge but I never thought about doing it until I was asked.

Penn Jillette:
Yes that's the same thing it's my job to do stuff like this to sell our Las Vegas show. And someone just calls me up and says you're supposed to do Celebrity Apprentice. And then the Rio Hotel carves out that time from the Penn and Teller's schedule and all of these machinations go into place. And I don't think I was ever asked by anyone if I wanted to do it. It just happened.

Adam Carolla:
But Penn you had a very I thought poignant observation when we were sitting down in one of our many quiet moments together awaiting for lunch and waiting for Paul Senior to complain about his lunch which would arrive moments later where you said that you thought, something to the effect that you thought reality shows would sort of define this period in our culture and that you wanted to take a look at it firsthand I thought was interesting.

Penn Jillette:
It was fascinating because unlike the other people I don't watch these shows. It's just not part of my schedule. And so I had never really seen a reality show. And but everybody talks about them all the time. And there's a great deal I mean I mentioned it earlier, but since the Loud Family 1971 when TBS kind of invented this format and found out that people did not act better on camera than they would in regular life but rather acted worse on camera which is a fascinating thing.

And I've done some reading about it since but it's a fascinating thing that happens. And I wanted to kind of see it. It's really nutty to feel that as opposed to just watching it. It's really funny to see people that you know acting unpleasantly just because there are TV cameras on.

Question:
Could you tell us about some of the wildest moments that happened that we can look forward to seeing?

Aubrey O'Day:
I think that this season is definitely the most wild season of Celebrity Apprentice that there has been. There's a lot of fights early on. There's a lot of fights throughout. We have the biggest cast we've ever had in Celebrity Apprentice history. We start out this year with 18 people.

There are obviously a lot of really big names on the men's side. The men's side definitely started off with a stronger name representation then the women's side. And I think that probably the women delivered the show this year in regards to the drama because we were definitely acting like females which I hate to admit that.

And there's a lot of shocking language. There's a lot of shocking accusations. And there's a lot of shocking fights that go down. And I think that it will be the best season in Celebrity Apprentice that there ever has been.

Adam Carolla:
I'll tell you I know we're not supposed to give away too much but somewhere around Episode 5 Clay Aiken announces he's straight. And I know he just shocked the world there. But he went into the closet and announced he was straight. So look forward to that.

Aubrey O'Day:
And then Clay Aiken and I also made out in the finale too and Penn danced. He did the jig.

Penn Jillette:
The other thing is that the really interesting thing that's way out of character for Trump and for NBC is that one of the tasks actually involved getting rid of mosquitoes in sub-Sahara Africa and curing malaria. We kind of crossed over into the Bill Gates area and we're doing a lot of epidemiology and biology on this. But I thought was fascinating that from the first time in history celebrities actually got together and cared about another person. But that was just for only like four hours.

Question:
Can you tell me about who you worked with the most throughout the season on your teams or just maybe at the challenges?

Aubrey O'Day:
I worked with Lisa Lampanelli the most. And I respect her the most out of everyone. I think that she has an amazing mind, she's incredibly talented. And I think that you will see a really great relationship form and be tested on the show.

Adam Carolla:
For me Paul Senior and I seem to spend the most time together because we both have the background his front round and his background but we both had the background in building and construction and the sort of mechanical end of things. So we always ended up teaming up on that side of it.

Penn Jillette:
Here's a sentence that I thought I would never say. I spent most of my time working with Clay Aiken. And let's leave it at that.

Question:
Was there any tension or table flipping between Teresa and Victoria Gotti throughout the season? Did you guys get to see any drama unfold between the two of them?

Aubrey O'Day:
No those two were pussycats and all we're about to do is show the world that those two definitely weren't of the stars of the show and that people were crazier than them.

Question:
Adam, I read your book about how no one's good at what they do anymore. Is doing jobs on TV a good way to show people how to do things right?

Adam Carolla:
You know, for me as a guy who used to work at McDonald's and clean carpets and swing a hammer for a living I had not had a real job in over 15 years. And it was sort of nice to do it albeit if I did it for more than a day and a half at a time I'd kill myself. But it was nice to actually roll up my sleeves and act like a civilian for a change.

I was impressed how good people think celebrities are soft because they live a lifestyle where they have a lot of leather and air-conditioning and luxury automobiles. Celebrities are some of the hardest working driven competitive human beings on the planet. And you have to be because how the hell are you going to get to this place if you don't have that fire in your belly and that motivation?

I mean you can have a laugh about Clay Aiken wearing eyeliner, but that guy is a very motivated, very competitive very hard-working guy or he wouldn't have gotten as far as he got in his last reality competition show. I'm always surprised and impressed by just how driven and how focused the celebs are. And as far as the question of showing America how to work I was pretty impressed by everyone's ability to really roll up their sleeves and get to work.

Question:
How about society as a whole?

Penn Jillette:
It's very, very complicated because I agree with Adam when you talk about the being driven and the ambition and all of that but at the same time there's also incredible incompetence. It's a really weird combination of people who have drive but lacks skills. And I think that's perhaps where the entertainment comes from. Because although I'm also impressed by how focused people in show business can be I'm also always amazed that we can't really do anything.

I can't do anything but I work hard at it. And I think that the people come into the category of me more than they come into the category of Adam who I've always been impressed is one of the only people in show business who actually can do something.

Adam Carolla:
I would argue that juggling and fire eating is something.

Aubrey O'Day:
It's not as severe as Penn is and I don't think it's as simple as Adam said because there are celebrities that do nothing and are famous for it. But then there's an argument to say that they are able to take the criticisms and play the game well and manipulate society and its weaknesses while and I think that that's an art form. And if everyone could have the money or the whatever makes that life appealing and some of those people who do nothing but are very famous and probably make more money than all of us on Celebrity Apprentice combined could do I can't say that they wouldn't want that.

So it's just as difficult as any other life. There's great things about it like the cars and the nice things, the luxuries that we get to experience and there's bad things about it too like it takes your soul away a little bit in the sense of having to deal with the bad parts of the things that we all deal with. I mean I think that I think every life is hard and every life has ups and downs and there is no easy way or easy journey. And it's kind of about who you are as a person and like can you sleep with yourself at night.

Question:
Adam, what about society as a whole?

Adam Carolla:
I think nothing to do with Celebrity Apprentice but we will we're working in cycles and I think we're getting to the point where everyone's getting fat and everyone's getting lazy and everyone's getting allergic or claims to be allergic to something and people can't walk from their front door to the car without a bottle of water in their hand because they have to hydrate every 3-1/2 steps. It'll come full circle and we'll get back to building bridges and skyscrapers soon.

Question:
What did you think of the Iowa caucus last night?

Penn Jillette:
I believe that for all the nonsense on Celebrity Apprentice, for all the insanity and the desperation with absolutely nothing but ego under it I don't think we can't touch the Iowa caucus. And although I was appalled at the idea that Donald Trump might have anything to do with our political system, having watched it now seems like he probably was the perfect person and maybe that's a reason to put a bullet in our heads.

Adam Carolla:
I think he would have been great at moderating one of those things. After being on the business end of Donald's soup cooler for a couple of those board rooms I think he would've done a fine job.

Question:
Which cast member had a personality that wasn't what you expected?

Aubrey O'Day:
I think Adam said this already, Paul Senior. I think he comes off as kind of like a grumpy, strong, opinionated man on his show. And he's the nicest, lovable like teddy bear there is. He's very capable and very honest. And I think that he was a fun nice person. He was a very enjoyable person to have around.

Penn Jillette:
I would say Paul Senior too. I mean he's also wicked smart. And I'm not sure you see that on his other appearances on TV. But he's very, very smart and very balanced and very measured. And I enjoyed being around him very much. I mean I knew Adam before the show so I knew I'd enjoy his company. But Paul Senior I didn't expect to enjoy and enjoyed every second.

Adam Carolla:
I was most intrigued to find out about Arsenio Hall's 3-1/2 personalities. I only knew the pussycat side of Arsenio Hall. I did not know the other 2-1/2 he had lurking deep in his psyche.

Penn Jillette:
Yes, there's that.

Aubrey O'Day:
Right. I third that.

Adam Carolla:
Yes.

Question:
Adam this question is for you. So Donald Trump is notorious for being intimidating. How did you butter him up as your supervisor?

Adam Carolla:
I didn't. I thought it would be fun to make some jokes and crack lines and have try to lighten the mood a little at those board rooms. So probably not the greatest strategy but there's two strategies that you play for if you're doing this or you're doing any reality show. There's two winners. There's the guy who wins the reality show and the guy who wins the most for his or her charity.

And then there's the person who wins the popular vote in terms of America, you know what I mean? Like my feeling was it was more important to be funny for the people that were watching at home than it was to impress Donald Trump because there's more of them and they come to my shows.

Penn Jillette:
Yes, that's a very good point. And everybody is very aware of playing games. And one of the games is insane which is Celebrity Apprentice. And the other game of entertaining people is a game that we all have a huge amount of experience with and all of us really enjoyed and worked hard to be able to do that. So to games go on simultaneously. And with Adam it was very, very clear which game he was playing because he was winning it.

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