Today’s TV Addict Top 5: Questions with THE MARRIAGE REF Host Tom Papa

Tonight on NBC (CityTV in Canada) marks the return of what NBC is calling the “new and improved” MARRIAGE REF. But just what is “new and improved” about Jerry Seinfeld’s revealing comedy series that sees celebrities and comedians weigh in on real-life married couples quirky disputes? We recently had the chance to catch up with host Tom Papa to find out just that. See for yourself, after the jump.

According to an NBC press release , the new season of THE MARRIAGE REF promises to be both “new and improved!” Raising the slightly obvious question, what’s new and improved about it?
Tom Papa: Well we made some changes from last season. The biggest change which kind of led to a bunch of changes was that after the first season I realized we’ve got to start treating these married couples as big as our celebrity guests. because they’re just as important. So unlike last season that saw these couples connected via satellite feed — where you kind of got the feeling that the celebrities were just popping off on these regular people — we decided to bring them into the studio and sit them down directly across from the celebrities. It’s a comedy show, not a victim show, so by bringing these couples into the studio, where Joel McHale can call a husband crazy and you see the husband laughing with the opportunity to say something back, you realize that everybody is having a good time here.

Having interviewed countless personalities both in person and over the phone, one imagines that the show is a completely different experience now that the couples and the celebrities are in the same room.
Yeah, it makes it more human, more personal and in a comedy context much more fun. Another big change was that we wanted a way to kind of tie all the couples together. So at the end of each show we ask the studio audience to vote on which of the three winning spouses is the “rightest” of the right. And whomever that person is, doesn’t just win $25,000, but a billboard in their hometown declaring that they’re right!

Why do you think couples seem so anxious to air their dirty laundry in front of millions of Americans?
You know, there’s two parts to it. One, there are of course people who just want to be on TV. And two, when it comes to married couples, the heart of the show is having someone from the outside decide a life long argument between the two people. As a married person myself, it’s a very refreshing idea because you know you’re just involved in these fights that never end. Quite frankly, I was surprised by the number of people who showed up really wanting to win and know that they’re right and I think that’s where the billboard comes in. People don’t care about the money as much as the billboard.

Some of the second season’s celebrity panelists include Jerry Seinfeld, Ricky Gervais, Tracy Morgan and Julianne Moore. Honestly. Can people that “big” even relate to regular folks anymore?
Absolutely. When Jerry and I are on the road together we’re backstage talking about our wives. His problems have nothing to do with success, they have to do with two people living in a space until the end of time. There’s no money that can make those problems go away.

And finally, knowing that Tracy Morgan is among the show’s first panelists, we can’t let you go without getting your perspective on his recent troubles. As someone who has made a career out of touring comedy clubs across the globe, what’s your take on what happened?
You know I know Tracy pretty well from doing our show, and just knowing him as a comedian and I think that he’s an outrageous comedian. So he tends to throw everything out here sometimes without thinking just to shock people and from what I understand that’s more what he was going for because I know he’s not a hateful person in his heart. When it comes to comedy, if you’re funny, you’re funny and when you’re not you’re not. It’s a very minute to minute evaluation of how you’re doing. Other groups should not be coming in and condemning what comedians can and cannot say on stage.That being said, if the audience all disagrees with you, they can get up and walk out. The stand up comedy environment is probably they most fair environment for being accepted or not.

THE MARRIAGE REF returns Sunday June 26th at 10PM on NBC (CityTV in Canada)

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