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Critic McCarthy: Asking the Right Questions

He’s been to Cannes, Rio, and Hollywood. He’s worn Elton John’s eyeglasses (and he his), been slapped by Steve Carell (twice), arm wrestled with Sugar Ray Leonard, sang with Jack Black, got Matt Damon to admit to crying, and helped Russell Crowe meet Harrison Ford via Twitter. Steven Spielberg loves him.

Surely Kevin McCarthy [1], the film critic for Fox 5-TV and WJFK-FM (106.7), knew when he was a communication major at Mason what he wanted to do for a living, right?


Kevin McCarthy posed with filmmaker Steven Spielberg. Spielberg art directed the photo shoot. This was the fourth photo and the award-winning director finally decided this one was acceptable.

“I had no idea,” McCarthy says in his usual urgent cadence. “I kind of knew I wanted to do something in broadcasting or the movies, or something to do with editing or shooting (film), and my ultimate goal was to be a director, but really, I had no idea when I was at Mason.”

McCarthy, 28, graduated with a BA in communication and a concentration in media production and criticism in 2006; he credits an internship at a Fairfax radio station while he was still a student with launching his on-air career. The school helped get the internship, but both of McCarthy’s highest-profile gigs resulted when he simply asked to do the job.

The first was in 2005 when he asked the morning sports quartet at WJFK, collectively known as the Junkies, if he could be their movie reviewer. Despite the merciless teasing of McCarthy’s trusting, high-octane personality by the show’s more jaded hosts, the former station intern continues to be a Friday feature. (Their nickname for him is BDK, Big Daddy Kev.)

The second was two years later when, dressed as a cheerleader for a bit of on-air shtick with a cheerleading team, he asked the television reporter covering the stunt if they needed a movie critic. As it happened, they did. At first, he was on-air intermittently for the major releases “but I e-mailed every single week, pushing and pushing and pushing to get on the air more, and after a year or so it turned into an every Friday thing,” he says.

He used the same perseverance to represent the TV station as a regular on the Hollywood junket circuit, in which reporters are flown to various locales to interview actors and directors regarding their new films.

“That came from just asking as well,” he says “They’ve built this whole thing around me now.”

McCarthy wouldn’t stay on the air as long as he has if he wasn’t informative or amusing. As it happens, he’s both. He’s an unabashed fan-boy who goes to great lengths to ask celebrities questions they’ve not likely encountered, and more often than not he induces a bit of “brain freeze” in the stars as they ponder their response. (For an example of McCarthy’s style of questioning, check out the piece he did called “Awkward Tommy Lee Jones Interview for Men in Black 3.” [3])

“He’s doing great,” says Tony Perkins, the Fox 5 weather personality/anchor who McCarthy first asked for a job. Perkins recalls him as a “scrawny little kid, he seemed kind of quirky. I’m a big Kevin fan not just because I helped get him in there but because he has this great enthusiasm and knowledge about the movies; he’s different from everybody else who does this kind of thing.

“He always comes at it from a different angle and you can see from the response of the people he’s interviewing, they get into it, it’s not the same old thing they’ve been asked 20 times. He gets some great moments out of them. At Channel 5, we really like what he does.”

As for meeting Steven Spielberg, who clearly was taken with the young interviewer’s intensity and energy, “that’s a heck of a moment,” McCarthy says. “I’ll never forget the date, December 4, and it was for the movie War Horse. He told me I had to stop doing interviews and start making movies. I said that’s my dream! Then I asked for a picture, and he decided the first one wasn’t good enough so he was directing the guys in the room about the lighting to fix the picture for me. He approved the fourth one.”

A week later, during the junket for The Adventures of Tin Tin, McCarthy again encountered his best-known fan. “I walk in the room and he’s like, ‘Kevin! What’s going on?’ I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God, Spielberg knows me.’ The interviewer after me told me later Spielberg said, ‘He’s going to be a filmmaker, he’s got the stuff.’”

But wait, there’s more: “I met him again a month later at the Critics’ Choice Awards, and he said it was really good to see me in the two interviews–and he told me to ‘make a movie and send it to me.’ He told me to shoot it in color and silent. Who knows if he’d ever really see it, but I’m trying to figure out what that story’s going to be about. I hope to see him in December for Lincoln.”

It can’t hurt to ask.

To see clips featuring McCarthy and his celebrity interviews, visit his website at www.nerdtears.com.