When Mews Met Kimmel

When Mews Met Kimmel

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From the little-engine-that-could clip that spawned a media storm for the town of Dildo, Amanda Mews recalls her whirlwind adventure to L.A. and back again

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The summer of Dildo is coming to a close. In a year dominated by politics, crime and socio-economical turnover, the saga of a little town with a tongue-in-cheek name that made international headlines has been water-cooler convo in every office and business island wide. And NTV’s Amanda Mews was at the heart of it. 

Beginning with a now viral video clip from Mews and cameraman Glenn Andrews that was spotlighted and spoofed by late night king Jimmy Kimmel, a firestorm of publicity descended upon the town of Dildo.

A skit-ready Kimmel mayoral campaign, complete with a visit from Kimmel’s unsung mascot Guillermo and Mews jet-setting across the country for an exclusive interview with the talk show king and appearance on his red hot late night series followed. Yes, the puns have been used and reused in this good news story that we Newfoundlanders and Labradorians seemed to need exactly when we needed it. 

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The Herald sat down with Amanda Mews to discuss the entire Dildo saga, her whirlwind trip to L.A., meeting Kimmel, her impromptu appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live and the genesis of the story that continues to dominate headlines.

Now that you’re back from L.A. and have finally begun your well-deserved mini-vacation, I imagine you can now find time to take some of this in. Has the reality of the entire experience begun to sink in?

This past weekend I finally got the chance to let it sink in. I don’t think I actually digested it until now. Being home on vacation now for a few days I can actually think about it. When I was in L.A. and leading up to L.A. and coming back from L.A. I was very much in work mode. There were goals I had to attain, so I never had a chance to really think about it or enjoy it until now. 

So now I’m looking back at the pictures and looking back at the Jimmy Kimmel appearance and I’m like wow, that was pretty neat. Now I’m finally getting a chance to appreciate it and also just see the scope of how big this Dildo, Kimmel story has gone. I was sort of away from the Dildo aspect of it. 

The story really took on a life of its own and made Dildo the center for tourism for the entire province for a time. 

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I went live on (August 15th) with part of my exclusive interview with Jimmy Kimmel and I was in Dildo for the first time since it all happened and I was amazed at the buzz in the community versus when I went there just a month prior to do that initial your community segment, which is the one that launched the whole Jimmy Kimmel-Dildo love affair. It was such a different vibe. There were cars lining the roads, people so excited, and there were kids everywhere, signs and water bottles with vote Jimmy Kimmel on them. 

I think now that I’m back and I kind of can see the whole scope of it and it’s sort of come to this conclusion I feel really really good and really happy about it. I felt like it could have gone either way, which I was really nervous about until now. I think there was always this part of me that was afraid it was going to take a negative turn somehow, but the fact that it didn’t, I think now I can actually enjoy it. 

At the end of the day I think the entire setup of the joke really revolves around the alternate meaning of Dildo. It can’t be seen as a slight against Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. 

Absolutely. And I think the way that Kimmel’s crew handled it and the way that the Dildo people handled it made all the difference because it was always just about the name. It was always everyone laughing together, not being laughed at. There was a respect there and I think a pride from Dildoians … When I set off to go to L.A. I had no idea how it was going to turn out. I remember thinking to myself if I’m never taken as a serious journalist again will it be worth it? Probably. I had to prepare myself going into this that it could backfire horribly, but it didn’t. So that makes me very happy.

From the international attention of the series of Dildo clips on Kimmel and then you actually interviewing him and being in that sketch, have you felt that added level of attention or celebrity?

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It was one of those things that I never really grasped until I got back. Going through customs one of the customs agents recognized me, which was really funny. And then getting back to Dildo and having all the people recognize me. With social media, all of a sudden there was just this explosion. I felt like I was sort of on my phone constantly. It was definitely kind of jarring and it kind of shakes up life a little bit I think. 

I just want to add too that NTV has been awesome. I pitched this as a pipe dream idea to go to L.A. Mark Dwyer, my boss, believed in me enough to get the job done and said let’s make this happen. 

Having your story spotlighted on national television, and then interviewing one of the biggest names in television must feel like a different thing entirely. Not to mention getting the chance to make it to L.A. It all must seem surreal in so many ways.

It’s also serendipitous because it started with a clip that didn’t even go viral. We ran into the guy who found the clip (Chris Allport), and he came and introduced himself to me and Glenn (Andrews) when we were at the Kimmel show. He just stumbled upon it basically and showed it to Jimmy and Jimmy loved it. 

I was talking back and forth with one of their producers, just basically feeding footage. That’s kind of how it started and it all happened so quickly. I got the full go-ahead probably noon-ish on Saturday and I was on a flight at 7:00 pm, myself and Glenn. The interview wasn’t nailed down till I got there. I pitched and I told the producer I wanted to do a feature. I said can I get a tour of the studio? I want to get the footage. He called me back on Friday night and said can you be here by Monday? And I was like yes I can!

Getting to shoot footage in L.A. would have been great on its own, but locking in that exclusive interview must have been amazing as a journalist. 

That was the icing on the cake. I can’t say enough about the people who work there as well at the Jimmy Kimmel Live ABC studio. They were so unbelievably helpful. I put my request in and when it got approved we did it in between when he goes to announce the musical guest and when he goes back. It was in that 15 minute window that he could do it with me. 

Everyone’s asking, what was he like? Kimmel appears so personable on screen. 

When I interviewed him he was so professional. Interviewing comedians can be a tricky thing, because you’re interviewing a comedian and you want to interview the person and sometimes all you get is the persona. So I was a little worried about that. 

He did say some things about ‘I want to work for the people of Dildo’, so there was still a bit of that. But he also said that, all jokes aside, ‘I think Dildo is a beautiful place’.

He mentioned how he loves being on the lake, that he goes to his friend’s cottage north of Toronto, and he loves outdoor life and could see himself there. He made mention of the place, not just as a funny name, but as a place he’d like to visit because of its beauty and its people. I really thought that was neat.

He told me how it all came to be, that in rehearsal they watched the clip and everybody laughed. He was a bit jealous that his crew got to go to Dildo and he didn’t. But he did in that interview promise me that he will come to Dildo and he has to because his mayorship is conditional!

From the interview to appearing in the sketch with the under-attended press conference, that must have been equal parts exciting and nerve-wrecking. 

It was a whirlwind. Of course I didn’t have much time to pack and I had thrown in a couple of shirts that I have that are dark. I get a call and they tell me they don’t want me to wear black because it’s going to be up against the black backdrop and I was like I’m gonna have to go buy a shirt! And then I get a call from someone else, ‘Forget about buying a shirt, what size are you? We’ll get you up in wardrobe.’

 So it was like a whirlwind when I got there. I went right up to wardrobe and they fitted me in that pale blue suit and then a seamstress actually took it in and made it my size. Then I went to hair and then I went into makeup. I came down and got to sit in the seat and the floor director asked if I wanted to go through it with him. I was like is there no rehearsal? What’s happening here? 

So I sat there thinking there would be a rehearsal. There was not a rehearsal because Jimmy wanted it to be real, in my opinion. There was no rehearsal and I also didn’t get a chance to meet Jimmy until that moment. So yeah, it was pretty wild. 

And you certainly held your own in the sketch. It’s been amazingly well received here at home.  Take me through the entire process and your mindset around that. How nervous were you?

I remember sitting in that chair in that empty little press room that was there, which was a hilarious setup. So I’m sitting in the empty press room and I think it wasn’t until I was sitting there and it was kind of quiet for a minute that I actually realized what was happening. And then all of a sudden it was kind of like OK, so here I am. 

I’m about to speak to Jimmy Kimmel for the first time in my life. And it’s going to be in front of millions of people. And it’s gonna be live. And that’s kind of when I got a bit nervous and then I had to just swallow it. I told myself you are not freezing on international TV. So I told myself to smarten up. He walked out and then I just tried to pretend he was any other person. That’s how I got through it without getting starstruck I think.

Aside from his hopeful trip to the province, this wild story seems to be coming to a close. There will always be some detractors, some who say that a story like this “isn’t news,” but at the end of the day it feels like a type of feel good news story that Newfoundland needed. What’s your take on the entire experience, now coming full circle?

You nailed it right on the head. It’s incredibly rewarding seeing all that, and you’re right. I think we needed a good news story. We needed something fun and something light and just something else to talk about around the dinner table instead of politics, instead of Muskrat Falls, instead of oil. 

Not that those things aren’t important. They are very important but it’s the lighter side and that’s just as important. You know, people need that. And I think this story seemed to happen at the right time and that’s why it’s so well-received because we really just needed a good light news story.

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