John Melendez (a.k.a. Stuttering John) has been punched by some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Making an art form out of the stuttered guerrilla interview, Melendez has the balls of steel necessary to walk up to anyone and say just about anything, as his fourth-grade teacher noted on his report card: "Johnny asks some unusual and sometimes penetrating questions."
Melendez says he got his big break when a friend was interning for Howard Stern. "Thank God he got in a major car accident." Melendez's friend wasn't hurt, but his father got upset with him about working for no money after he totaled the car. The friend recommended Melendez for the job. The misfortune of one intern became the star turn of another, as the gig on Stern's show quickly blossomed into a cult celebrity career asking terrifically unaskable questions.
"At first it was very scary -- you never know if someone is going to punch you or not," says Melendez. "But I am never mean-spirited. I just ask the questions." Questions like one to Debbie Gibson at the Grammys about whether a Wilson Phillips win would lead to "the fat girl" eating the statue.
Melendez had a brief deal with Atlantic wherein he released some moderately successful comedy song albums, but his foray into recording fell a bit flat. "I released an album of serious songs, not like the comedy albums. Although the critics thought it was a comedy album," he deadpans.
Melendez would eventually like to go into acting more seriously, possibly on a sitcom. "I loved The Carol Burnett Show and SNL. That was what I always wanted to do," he says. Melendez has appeared in several movies (including Stern's Private Parts) and recently did a stint on the ABC reality show I'm a Celebrity -- Get Me Out of Here, where he came in third. Chris Judd won, and Melendez says he saw it coming. "I was reading a love letter from my wife, and he starts crying over J.Lo," says Melendez. "I was like, I know he's going to win, because every girl in America was going to vote for the guy who got dumped by J.Lo." He adds, "Yeah, and Bruce Jenner was crying because the camera wasn't on him."
It's one-liners like that one that spurned Melendez into trying comedy. "I always wanted to do standup. But I never had the guts to get on stage," he says. Now that he's overcome his stage fright, his show features himself and veteran comedians Artie Lange and Greg Fitzsimmons, both regulars on the Stern show. "I've only been doing it three years, and Artie's been in like 15. I guess that's why I go first," laughs Melendez. The show, which features a beer-guzzling contest at the end, led a harried club manager in Ohio to write a memo that Melendez has posted on his Web site (www.stutteringjohn.com), stating: "This show is probably the craziest show I've ever managed." But the memo also reads, "Dave, I think you will be very happy with the numbers."