Alfonso Ribeiro just wants to go to the bathroom in peace. Is that too much to ask? Apparently so, because people keep coming up to him in the bathroom and asking him to do the Carlton.
Men of America, are you freaking serious?!
We talked to Alfonso about the dance that changed — and continues to affect — his life as well as his new gig as the host of ABC Family's "Spell-Mageddon." Oh, and if you are wondering whether there will ever be a "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" reunion, we learned the answer to that one, too.
So, are you the world's best speller now?
No. The show, unfortunately, doesn't teach you how to spell.
That's probably why it will be popular.
Exactly. It's not an instructional show. It's a fun show. We shot all eight [episodes] in a matter of two weeks. Obviously, if it does well, ABC Family will pick us up for more. It was a grind for two weeks but still so much fun.
Can you break it down for us? A spelling bee with physical distractions.
We start out with seven contestants and work our way down to finally one. People get eliminated in each round as they're trying to spell these words, not super-difficult, not the easiest words, but words that you should know, and as that's happening, we have major distractions.
Do you distract them by doing the Carlton dance?
(Laughs) Um, no. That would be too easy. Our distractions are a lot better than that. We have one game where we put the dog collars — the ones you put on dogs when they bark — around each leg and we're able to control the electricity and shock them as they're trying to spell, while dumping icy slush on their head, and fire extinguishers at their backs, and water shooting in their faces. We have a dunk tank in another game, filled with ice-cold water, all kinds of crazy stuff. It's pure mayhem that is awesome to watch. What's great about it is the comedy that comes from people having things done to them while they're trying to concentrate and be serious.
Ribeiro explains the inspiration behind the Carlton dance:
Kind of like when other actors try and get you to crack up for the blooper reel on, say, "Silver Spoons" or "Fresh Prince," yeah?
Absolutely — constant bloopers.
Any fun memories about those days on your mind lately?
I'm one of those people that, once I'm done with a job, I move on. I don't really stay in the past. So my days of "Spoons" and "Fresh Prince" and all that, they're behind me. You gotta remember, "Fresh Prince" ended 18 years ago.
It's good to move on. Makes it possible to have a true reunion, the way you and Will Smith did on "Graham Norton."
We never really had a reunion. Everyone loves that word. It's a funny thing to me how "reunion" is used. When I get together with Will or Karen or Tatiana, it's not a reunion. If you've ever worked with someone in your past and remained friends, it isn't a reunion every time you guys get together to hang out. That's really what [we do]. We get together all the time; not all of it is in front of the camera. I have this thing about the word "reunion" because I get asked a lot, "You guys had a reunion?" and I'm like "No, we didn't, we just got together." A reunion would be if we did another episode or a movie of "Fresh Prince," and that would never happen. There will never be a "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" reunion.
See Ribeiro's non-reunion with Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff:
The closest we get is you doing the Carlton.
Yeah, and that's not a reunion. That's Will promoting "After Earth" and having Jeff and [me] there. We hang with them all the time; it's not like that's a new occurrence. He just asked me to come out and have fun and do a little something for the show. But it certainly wasn't a reunion. I think it's not a reunion unless everyone is there and we're shooting an episode.
That's a good point. People are so obsessed with nostalgia, they love to cry reunion, like crying wolf.
Yeah, it's not a reunion if we go to dinner and don't tape it.
You mean your whole life is not on YouTube?
We try not to have it all there!
Before "Graham Norton," when had you last done the Carlton?
I get asked to do it at different promotional appearances. So I'm sure it wasn't that long ago, but it's been a while. But I get asked literally every day of my life.
What is that like?
The worst is when you're at a urinal and someone taps you on the shoulder and asks you to dance. It is a wonderful curse. I'll say it like that. It's wonderful that people remember me in that way from something I did so long ago, but at the same time, the idea of being constantly asked to dance for them is certainly not fun.
You would think the urinal would be safe haven.
I always say another man shouldn't touch another man in the bathroom, not even to tap him on the shoulder. It's a little unacceptable. A lot unacceptable.
Yeah, it's like that book "Everybody Poops." We all need alone time.
I was just talking urinals; I wasn't taking it there, but it has happened there too!
That's so wrong. OK, let's get out of the bathroom and return to hosting. How is this gig different for you?
I'm obviously used to scripted television, I'm not an ad-libber. And this allowed me to utilize a lot of different areas I haven't ever used before. It's a completely different hosting experience. You just let it come out of your mouth, and you don't overthink it, and you go with what you're feeling in every moment.
In other words, it's behavior that's appropriate for the stage, not for the restroom. Got that, America?
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- Alfonso Ribeiro