If those who can't do, teach, then Richard Curtis has really messed up the formula. Curtis, the television teacher at Souderton High School, won Live with Kelly's "Live With Kelly and You" contest in October. His prize? The chance to cohost alongside South Jersey's own Kelly Ripa. Then, in a surprise move, producers asked him back to host again, once in November, and now for a three-show run through Wednesday.
Curtis, of Perkasie, will sit beside guests Bryan Cranston and Scream Queens' Billie Lourd (Monday); Marion Cotillard, animal handler Peter Gros, and Norah Jones (Tuesday); and Michael Fassbender and Gavin DeGraw (Wednesday).
Curtis chatted with us Friday about his pump-up song, why he won't sign autographs, and whether he'd take a full-time hosting gig alongside Ripa.
So, are you teaching today?
Yes, all the kids are just staring at me. [Yells] Kids, get back to work! No, I'm just kidding. I'm at lunch.
You have a lot of natural charisma for a guy who hasn't been on TV before.
I have to keep these kids engaged everyday. I have to be cooler than Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter combined. I have to bring the energy every day, so I'm used to it.
You teach TV, but were you the kind of kid who pretended to host his own show as a kid?
I did a lot of dumb stuff. If I was that kind of kid, if I was close to any TV show, it would be [MTV's] Jackass, from some other local Philly guys. I didn't realize that I loved doing it this much. The seven years in my classroom and teaching this to kids has been a huge, huge help. I wouldn't be as natural without teaching this class.
How have your students reacted to your newfound fame? Do they think you're cool now?
I was cool before this happened! I think we hit a high point when I first won, and now they're tired of hearing about it. Their parents and relatives keep asking about me, and they're like, "If I have to answer any more questions about you, Curtis. ..." I was like, "I'll give you talking points."
How did you decide to submit to the contest?
When you're at school every day, you don't get to watch as much as Kelly Ripa as you'd like. That's why you get married. My wife was the one who made me do it. She said, "Greatest idea ever." Lindsay was like, "I have no question in my mind you'll win." It comes down to the last day, and I didn't send in my audition tape. Lindsay called me at noon, and she never calls me at work unless it's an emergency. I was like, "Honey, is everything OK?" She said, "You're not coming home until you send in that video." I taped it in a half hour.
And then they asked you to keep coming back.
They gave me a sense of belonging on the show. They want their show to succeed. Sitting in that chair is so easy. The show isn't scripted, it's what comes natural. I'm sitting in these preproduction meetings, and I could bring stuff up, and they were open to my ideas.
So at what point does this feel real? When you get to actually enjoy talking to Sarah Jessica Parker or Elijah Wood?
The first show, it was such a whirlwind. I found out I won at 6:30 in the morning in a text. I had no time to process. You're in this whirlwind and it's over and this depression sets in because it's over. But then I got the call to go do show No. 2. Now I get to enjoy it and remember some moments from it. It's funny you mention SJP [Sarah Jessica Parker]. I'm sitting across from her, and she's saying nice things about me, saying I'm killing it. I know the producers wanted me to move on from that part of the conversation, but I didn't mind her continuing [laughs].
How have you improved?
The whole thing is be yourself. I consider myself a pretty good person. Show No. 2, I got to be myself, but now for 3, 4, and 5 even more so. I asked the producers for notes, and they just said, "Keep being yourself."
How do you get yourself psyched up?
You can't make fun of me right now. I didn't realize I'd have a preshow ritual. I was with my wife, my sisters, I was with people all the time, but I took 10 minutes to myself. I listened to Mac Miller's "Knock Knock," and "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen. It just gets me so hyped. So I'll do that again for the next shows.
How do you deal with the fame?
I have no problem taking as many as selfies as are asked of me, but I refuse to sign autographs, because you don't want my signature! I grade papers every day. Grab one of those from my students. It's been so humbling. The city of Philadelphia, I wouldn't be on the show if the city hadn't rallied around me.
What happens next? Do you try to continue this?
Look, this has been awesome. I love teaching, I love my students, and my main concern is making sure these kids are getting into their colleges, and their recommendations are getting sent in.
OK, dream scenario: They ask you to host full time. What do you say?
[Laughs] I've got to ask my principal. I don't know if he would give me that long of a vacation.
Live with Kelly, 9 a.m. weekdays, ABC.