[Nameplate] Fair ~ 79°F  
High: 91°F ~ Low: 72°F
Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

Sikeston native nabs guest spot on new talk show

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Ben Johnson
SIKESTON -- What happens when a guy from the Midwest -- who grew up in Sikeston -- moves west and dives headfirst into the Los Angeles dating scene?

If that storyline sounds interesting to you, you're not alone. And you can tune in to a brand new WGN (Channel 21) talk show this fall to see what Ben Johnson, a 1993 graduate of Sikeston High School, learned about "Dating in Cali, and how to go from first dates to the ever important second dates."

"The Greg Behrendt Show" will begin Sept. 12. A former stand up comedian, Behrendt's claim to fame is his book, "He's Just Not That Into You," which led to his collaboration in writing an episode of "Sex and the City" that followed the same theme.

"It kind of took off from the book," Johnson said of the show. "It's funny and humorous."

Since moving in January to take a job as a company vice president, the acting bug has bit Johnson.

"You don't think about it until you get out here and you're smack dab in the middle of it," Johnson said. "I just thought it would be crazy not to at least try it -- you never know where it may lead."

A fan of stand up comedy, Johnson said he kept up with comedians coming to the L.A. area. So when he came across Behrendt's site with a casting call for people to write in their stories about dating for an episode in the new talk show, he had to apply.

"I thought 'What the heck' and went ahead and wrote my story of growing up in a small town in Southeast Missouri to moving out here," he said. "And he liked that -- it was different."

Johnson had two tapings for the show. The first taping -- the actual date -- was on Friday. Then on Tuesday, he went back to the studio where the dates were analyzed and interviews were conducted.

Out of 20 couples, Johnson was half of one of the three featured. "We'll be the ones with the on-screen time," he said.

Of course, the date wasn't traditional. "It's really hard to relax with a camera mike under your shirt," he said. Additionally, some scenes may be taped more than once, with Behrendt, who Johnson called "the guy on your shoulder," telling the couples "this is good" or "don't do this."

But after awhile, the eye of the camera lens grew less intimidating. "You kind of forget the camera is there and get to know the person -- typical first date stuff," Johnson said.

And thanks to what Johnson called "the magic of editing," viewers will only see the high points of the date. "They piece it together to where we look the best," he said.

Before taping, Johnson also had a few questionnaires to fill out, which surveyed his dating life since moving to L.A. -- the frequency, his likes and dislikes, and how dates were different from the Midwest.

"Out here, life is definitely in the fast lane," he said. "Life is one big party."

In fact, Johnson is usually exhausted by the end of the workweek, from going out at least three nights a week plus weekends. "I've gone out more during the week since I've moved out here than I ever have -- even in college," he said.

And the old adage that Southern and Midwestern girls have charm and are more polite is true, he said. Plus, West Coast girls are wealthy and were brought up with money, versus the blue collar, working class families that comprise the Midwest.

Now that he's gotten his foot in the door, Johnson plans to see where acting may take him as a hobby. "It's all about who you know," he said. After taping, he roamed the hallways and made connections and passed out business cards to those involved with "Deal or No Deal" and "Las Vegas."

Luckily, his job is flexible for that and he has support of his co-workers. "They've been really great," he said. "It's almost normal for people to (start working in the acting business when they move here.)"

Johnson is the son of Doug and Teresa Johnson, formerly of Sikeston. There is no specific air date for his show yet, but he speculated it will be one of the first shown in September.

To learn more about the show, visit the official Web site: www.GregBehrendtShow.com.