By Yash Egami
Even among sportscasters, ESPN personality and former Dancing with the Stars contestant Kenny Mayne scores high on the sarcasm meter. Which makes him the perfect host for an advertising-industry event like the One Show. Along with his regular anchor duties on ESPN's SportsCenter, he has appeared in movies and commercials and has a forthcoming book titled An Incomplete and Inaccurate History of Sports. We spoke with the mind behind the sports desk about his life in sports and advertising and what it was like hosting the 2007 One Show.
So what did you think of the
One Show winners?
I was impressed. I had done a limited amount of advertising—in fact, when I was in what I call my "blue period" now, when I had quit a TV job in Seattle and there was a four or five year gap before getting hired at ESPN, one of the first things I tried to do was get into advertising. I still have some aspirations about that because I think I can write.
But there really is a wide gulf between what's pretty good and very good, and we were seeing the cream of the crop. I hadn't seen a lot of those commercials. A few of them I think I had but sort of forgotten about. But when you see them again with a more critical eye, they really are impressive.
Do you pay any attention to advertising?
Absolutely. I'm pretty aware of it because it's what drives the bus. But I think sometimes bad advertising stands out more than good, which is kind of sad. It's like seeing a bad movie where you're flipping through the channels and you're just shocked that somebody actually bought that script and produced that movie. But obviously [the One Show] was a different room because it was the very best.
I loved the comedy but the one commercial that struck me the most was the one—and I think it only won a Bronze—that had the line, "Children see, children do" [by DDB/Sydney for NAPCAN.] It was the most powerful thing I had seen in a while.
Do you have any all-time favorite ads?
It's hard to remember a single one. It's kind of like movies, you forget what's your favorite. There is one with a pay it forward theme that I like where one guy picks up a wallet on the street and then gives it back to him and then the next guy sees a child running in the street and grabs him back. And then the Coke spot that aired during the Super Bowl was fantastic with all those things going on inside the machine with a kind of Willy Wonka theme.
Talk about your own experience in advertising.
It's been fun. Part of it is that it's a departure from what you normally do. I do SportsCenter and make up stories and go to horseraces and all those things are very fun, but I do those things because that's what I do. People can never understand that. They're like, how could you ever say your job is mundane? Well, it's because they're doing something else. Some guy who's riveting airplanes at Boeing looks at what I do and thinks I have the greatest job in the world. And even though I'm grateful, I'm not blown away that I get to go to a football game anymore, because that's what I do. So when I get to do commercials or a TV show or a movie, it's more fun because it's such a departure from the norm.
And I also think—and this isn't to put down what they do at all—but I think it's remarkably easy. I've had some pretty good people who have hired me who picked me for a reason and wrote things for me and things on the set were comfortable, which is pretty rare. But I just mean the doing part of it is easy, you only have to remember a sentence and a half or something. It's not like you're a real actor where you have to memorize pages of dialogue, you just have to nail in one line and a lot of times they've given me the leeway to do it my way. The best example is the Top Flite series that's running. I would say that's 50/50. The writing was real good, but on the other hand they also said do what you want, so they used a lot of my own takes and even some of the non-verbal stuff where I was just clowning around. I don't consider myself a real actor, but at the same time, I'm not daunted by it by any means.
Do you get typecast?
Well, the Progressive insurance ads that I'm in right now didn't have to be sports related, although they did one or two of them where they had me in a stadium. But Top Flite is obviously a golf company and it's sports, but they didn't make it about statistics or anything serious, they just had me screwing around. They had an e-mail campaign where my voice is in a million names and sequences and I don't know if you play golf, but let's say you have a golf buddy who's always the dork of the group. You know the guy who picks up and doesn't count puts and never pays up on bets? You can send him what they call an "e-insult" where you hear my voice calling the guy out for being such a wuss. I thought it was a pretty creative campaign.
Talk about your job at ESPN.
There's some conventional guys who just want their sports. They just want to know who the Giants play and if Strahan's hurt and they just want their sports facts. They don't want us clowns out there trying to take over and make the show about us, which I don't really think I do, I just deliver it the way I deliver it. But if you just went out there and simply said, "The Giants have a game this week and Michael Strahan's suffered a hamstring injury," it's just regular news. So a part of it is, we do things the way we do to entertain ourselves and the people in the room and the guy sitting next to you and the cameraman and the audio guy because it's 2AM. You just hope it plays well somewhere else.
But my job is split up between SportsCenter, which is real news, and then most of the other time I do these little parodies where we take a real story and kind of run off the cliff with it. Like I'm going to England because the Queen just came here, so I'm going there for my own royal visit like it equates to what she did here. We had Paul Rudd the actor doing a Broadway adaptation of [football player] Terrell Owens' really lame book called "Little T Learns to Share." So we have people who look forward to that because it's a departure, but then there probably are some fans who are like, if we want comedy, we'll watch Ben Stiller, just give us our sports. But you can't worry about everybody, you just do your best.