Melissa Peterman Cracks Up on CMT Comedy Stage

Reba Actress Considers New Show "Grad School for Funny"

“I like being around funny, and this has just been a couple of days of being around some of the funniest people in the business,” said comedian-actress Melissa Peterman during Nashville rehearsals for CMT Comedy Stage, a new stand-up series she’s hosting. “With a lot of these comics, it’s like going to grad school for funny. I can just watch and learn and soak it up.”

You can watch and learn, too. The first episode of CMT Comedy Stage premieres Friday (Feb. 2) at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT.

CMT: Because comedians are always on the road, is everybody enjoying the chance to hang out together?

Peterman: Well, I invited them all over. Like, “Hey, want to hang out in my dressing room?” “We’re busy.” You know, or “Hey, what are you guys doing after the show?” and they’re like, “We’re not going out all together, if that’s what you think,” or like, “Wait here, and we’ll be back in an hour,” and they’re just hilarious that way, those stand-ups, because they’re like, “Melissa just wait here. We promise we’re coming back to get you,” and it’ll be like six hours later — and I’m still waiting. But that’s just who they are. They’re funny that way.

That’s awfully cold of them, don’t you think?

No, I’m kidding. We’ve gotten to hang out. What’s been so fun about this show is that you’re getting to see the stand-ups on stage doing their great stuff, but we have cameras backstage and we’re doing some improv and catching all of these moments that you don’t always get to see. There’s been some really hilarious stuff behind the scenes that I think that you’re gonna get to see too on CMT.

A lot of our audience may know you from playing Barbra Jean on Reba, but this might give people a chance to see a different side of you.

I think it will. It’s a great opportunity for me because the fans that we have from Reba have been the greatest, most loyal fans, and through that, I’ve been lucky enough to do some stuff with CMT, like the Giants show. Every time they ask me to do something, I jump at it because they just put on such great shows. I told Reba, “I’m going to Nashville! I get to do something for CMT!” But she wasn’t going to be here this weekend … or maybe she is. Maybe she’s out with the stand-ups, and I don’t know. She was excited when I told her about the show. She said, “Oh, that’s perfect for you. You’ll have such a great time.” It is nice to do some different stuff and I love being around funny people.

You’re rehearsing in an empty theatre. What’s that like?

That’s hard. It’s the worst thing in the world. All comics feed off the energy and feed off the laughs. Everything happens because of that, so to rehearse is the worst thing in the world — to stand up and have nothing, a vacuum. And as someone who thinks of herself as kind of funny, you know we have a little bit of low self-esteem, so we just try harder. Like I don’t care if there’s no one in there, I’m gonna make someone laugh. Your best stuff is always in front of audience.

But if you can make crew guys laugh, that counts for something.

That has always been my goal. If you can get one crew member to laugh, that’s gold — because they’re bored, they’ve seen it all and they’re waiting to clock out and have a beer. If you can get a crew guy to laugh, you’re golden.

Terry Bumgarner is a producer for CMT Insider.