John Henson -- stand-up comedian, quirky TV host and Los Angeles Dodgers fan (occasionally) -- seems to be comfortable with the cameras rolling, no matter where he is or what he's talking about. Henson proved that during his recent stint as a guest broadcaster at a Dodgers-Giants game, where he temporarily shifted the discussion to basketball and outed himself as an irrational New York Knicks fanatic.
That's not an exaggeration. Henson once took his fandom of the NBA team to such an inappropriate level that the cops were called.
Granted, it was 18 years ago and one full year before he hit it big and gained fame as the host of E! Entertainment's "Talk Soup."
"Reggie Miller scored about 175 points in six seconds," Henson embellished, remembering a particularly painful playoff loss to Miller's Indiana Pacers. Henson was, at the time, doing a standup gig at a college in Ohio. He was staying in a facility on campus, and as he watched that game, "I had a meltdown that was so biblical that police showed up at the door and ... thought I was in a heated argument with a student."
Fearing violence had occurred, the cops did a thorough search of his room. Henson ended up having to write a letter of apology to the school.
"I realized I almost went to jail because of Reggie Miller," Henson said.
Henson's stint as a broadcaster at Dodger Stadium went significantly more smoothly. His time in the booth was part of an innovative MLB.com venture called "Express Written Consent," where the goal is to bring nontraditional broadcasters into the booth, to have a go at the pastime that's evolved alongside the national pastime: calling the game.
Henson, partnering with MLB.com's Jeremy Brisiel, called an inning or so during a Dodgers-Giants matchup earlier this season. The rivalry between the two California teams is historic, but Henson, who like so many in the entertainment business, is a transplant. A Dodgers win or loss wasn't going to change his mood either way.
"These are inherited rivalries for me," he said. "There isn't a lot of fire behind them. This isn't a Yankees-Red Sox rivalry to me. I feel like I respect it as a fan of the game, but I'm not going to be breaking anything at home tonight if we lose."
Although "Talk Soup," and, to a lesser degree, the white birthmark on this side of his head, first made him a recognizable figure in the entertainment business, Henson is best known these days as the host of ABC's "Wipeout."
He grew up in the "gritty underbelly of Connecticut," as he described it. More specifically, Henson grew up in Stamford, a city that is known for lots of things, including its low crime rates (Stamford was named the ninth-safest city in the United States in 2006).
Henson jokingly painted a different picture.
"Don't kid yourself, my friend," he warned. "We're 45 minutes from New York City. We're a train ride away from danger."
Back to the Dodgers. This game happened to be Fernando Valenzuela Bobblehead Day, and gazing at the likeness on the box, Henson couldn't help but admire the roundness of the celebrated Dodgers legend's midsection and thickness of his glasses.
"You know what you have to feel good about, when you see this picture of Fernando, you think to yourself, 'You know, maybe I can be a professional athlete,'" Henson said. "It's kind of inspiring. It's a regular guy. You look at him and go, 'I think I was behind this guy in the beer line.'"