Ali Wentworth–actress, comedian, wife, mother–is most of all a genuine riot. The former Fly Girl on “In Living Color” and current spouse of “Good Morning America” news anchor George Stephanopoulos shares her insights on female friendships, reveals the secrets of a happy marriage and mainly just cracks us up.
You’ve written a new book, “Go Ask Ali,” so we’re asking–what advice do you get from your friends?
I didn’t realize how important your women friends are until I was older.
I think they get more important.
Well, yeah, then they become everything. I think it’s a very helpful and freeing thing to realize your spouse is not your best friend. I have a lot of friends who want their husband or wife to be their best friend, and it’s better to not. It puts too much pressure on the relationship.
From what I’ve gathered, you and George have an amazing relationship and it was kind of love at first sight.
It was! It is! But I wouldn’t say he was my best friend. I would say he’s my life partner. Anyways, the book came out of me understanding things like your husband doesn’t have to be your best friend. And my women friends became the people I call all the time and I feel like I have the best information from them. I surf the web and read magazines, but really if I need a good dermatologist or a question about my daughter–these are the people I go to. We have a group text.
I keep hearing about this. A couple people I know in LA do the same thing, with maybe 15 different people of all different ages.
Oh, we’re all the same age.
It’s like a modern day knitting circle.
Stitch n bitch!
Yes! In the old days, women would get together and they’d be doing things, but now because of technology…
You don’t even have to be there!
But the other thing is, I think we’re so impatient now as a society. We want information right away. Like sometimes it takes a long time for your doctor to call you back. So my girlfriends all have specialties. I’ll text a friend who should’ve been a doctor and say, “What do I do about this?”
I have a friend like that too! Any medical question–she’s a dental hygienist–but she’s always right!
There’s something about women friends–I have a friend who just snapped at her husband. Just snapped. I mean, the punishment did not fit the crime. And a couple of us were there and saw it and we literally pulled her into the bathroom and were like, “What’s wrong with you?” The texts continued the next day, “Just be careful. Don’t lash out at him like that. Is there something going on with you? With your hormones?” There are checks and balances with it.
That’s great. Give us another piece of advice.
I wrote a chapter on this, and I can’t believe I have to say it, but don’t hire a hot babysitter. I don’t understand that. I’ve had three friends who have lost their husbands to the babysitter. We have had a Filipino 90-year-old with no teeth and I was still like–watch it, lady! But listen, there’s a weird dynamic when you’ve just had a baby and you’re not feeling sexy and your husband sees this younger, more fit, evenly tanned girl with the kids, and it’s almost in their DNA. It’s something very Neanderthal.
There’s a lot of magic in your relationship and this has been a little off-putting to some of your friends because you’re always, shall we say, engaged with each other.
I’d go to lunches with women who weren’t my close friends and they’d kind of bitch and moan about their marriages. He does this, he doesn’t do that, I’m having an affair. And I would sit there in silence because I didn’t have anything to add. I wasn’t going to say, “Oh George won’t do the dishes. He was a dishwasher in high school and won’t do the dishes.” So I’d be quiet, and then I realized that, wow, the woman who’s having an affair–they all had so much to say. I had nothing to say, which I’m very uncomfortable with. I started to realize that if you’re happily married, it’s very uncool. There’s nothing to talk about and it’s not interesting anymore!
People are probably envious.
They’re envious about the sex. That’s when people start to get…men don’t do this but women ask each other how often you have sex. And I’ve been in a situation where I say whatever it is–three or four times a week. The women got angry at me! They were like WHAT?! So I’d be like, “I’m joking…never?” I don’t know what to say. Then I started to realize there are a lot of relationships that don’t have sex, maybe once every few months. Then I had a friend whose husband was cheating on her and I said, “You should get tested” and she said, “We haven’t had sex in 15 years.” So I was like, “What? That wasn’t a red flag?”
Relationships get a little tricky when you’re raising a family. It’s tough to keep that spark alive. Any tips?
One thing about my marriage is that we’re so different. Really, really different people. For him, he’s never bored because I joke around a lot. And I learn so much from him–what the hell is going on in the Middle East? Do we need to get a bunker? So there’s a constant interest in each other. And also, we’re both very attracted to each other–that’s either there or it’s not. I think it takes work. You have to make an effort.
Relationships are work! They take a lot of time. That’s why I think a lot of people could hear this and think, Oh she has it all. But I’m sure you work super hard…
No, I have it all! No, no, of course I work at it. And I’m not saying I have a perfect marriage. He makes a lot of mistakes. But…I’m perfect. I’m just saying, it’s not like it is in the movies. Valentine’s Day, tie yourself up in a ribbon and be naked. People like that!
And social media hasn’t helped with all of that.
I don’t think social media has helped anything.
You were late to Instagram. You were encouraged by your friends. Are they happy now that you’re on?
I think my close friends are. My kids are like “You can’t post that of me!” I’m like, “Then what’s the point?” I have a public account and a private one and even on the private one, it’s just my close friends and my parents. I’m still trying to figure Instagram out because I work a lot with the Child Mind Institute about social media and its effect on our kids because I see a lot of sexualizing of our girls. All that stuff about fear of missing out or not feeling pretty or not feeling liked, that’s all real.
I don’t think it’s just teenagers either.
Completely! I’ve confronted people saying things like, “Looks like you had a really nice dinner party. Where was my invitation?” And they say, “Well, I posted this a week later, remember you were in LA?” And I grumble. But everything’s curated! I say this in my book–Nobody Instagrams a picture of themselves on the toilet with food poisoning. Or having a fight with their husband.
Don’t you think it’d be a fun thing to post all bad things?
I want to do that so badly!
You could do it and be really funny. And make everyone feel better about themselves.
One thing I really want to do is a bikini shoot, you now, #NoFilter, with my gut hanging out. But I feel bad for George because I feel like someone will take that and run with it.
Since you’re a comedian, I’m curious what makes you laugh?
I laugh a lot watching my husband laugh at really stupid things. Any poop or fart joke…this brilliant Rhodes Scholar thinks is the funniest thing he’s ever heard in his life. And that makes me laugh. A lot of the late-night guys make me laugh. Pretty easy right now, with what’s going on in the world. I like slapstick humor, physical humor a lot. Even though I could see it coming a mile away, if Melissa McCarthy falls down, I laugh.
Let’s switch gears. One of the things we’re trying to change with In the Groove is the conversation about aging. I don’t know about you, but I’m 62 and I don’t feel it.
I don’t believe in ageism because I think we now live longer lives with different chapters. None are more important than the other. And I also think when you talk about menopause or the whole stigma of “you can’t have children so you’re not worthy, and your job is done you can go off, get fat in the middle, and die…” that’s all changing too. I read that Rachel Weisz is pregnant at 48. It’s all different now. I actually met a woman, her name was Mona, she was in her mid-60s, and she died of cancer, but she was always so full of life that she was like, “Let’s do this, let’s go to the Nile! Let’s have Trump over for dinner, I’m going to talk to him!” I learned so much from her. I know for a fact that when I’m lying on my deathbed at 110 that I’m going to wish I took advantage of every year of my life.
You have to remind yourself!
You do! I always say this to my friend, who’s married and has a fantastic life–choose happy. There’s no reason for you to be blue! You’re on meds, you have an amazing life. Choose happy! So I always try to tell my daughters to say yes, don’t say no.
Unfortunately, we fall into this thing of reminding ourselves of this only when bad things happen, so having this mantra is great.
Totally agree. That’s one of the things that’s different between me and my husband. I’m a big believer in celebrating the good. He just won’t. “I don’t want to do anything on my birthday,” he’ll say. Here’s another silly example–he won a Peabody award a few years ago and he was all “Don’t talk about it, it’s nothing.” I was like, “It’s a big deal!” And he just wouldn’t celebrate so, it was just the four of us, but we made dinner, we made a cake. I said, “If you don’t celebrate the good moments, then it’s just all bad all the time.”
Sheryl Sandberg wrote in her Plan B book, especially with birthdays, as you get older, the tendencies are like, “Oh no” when it should be “Oh yes.”
Our instinct as women as we get older is just, let’s shut it down. Let’s not make it about me. But last year George was like, “What do you want to do for your birthday, do you want a cake?” I said, “I want to go to that Greek restaurant with all my girlfriends and their husbands. I want a table for 26 people with little candles. I want to eat Greek food and laugh.” It’s not in his wheelhouse, but I made everyone Greek honey and little place cards because that to me is fun! My instinct a few years ago would’ve been, nothing I’m fine.
Thinking about what it meant to be 50 or 60, even five years ago, I feel like it’s so much different today than what it was. There shouldn’t be any shame in saying how old you are.
I have friends who run kind of early 40s to late 60s and I don’t ever think “Isabelle’s only 46.” We’re all just grown women.
It’s the outside world.
Completely and I mean, think about being an actress. There’s a reason I have to create my own material. Even when they hear it, when I say, “Oh I can play an actress in her mid-40s,” they know how old you are and that’s what you play.
It seems to be getting a little bit better.
I do feel a shift in the entertainment industry. I’ve seen more women sell shows about women our age where they wouldn’t have before. I sold “Nightcap” and the lead was me. There’s nothing young or sexy or diverse about me. I have a friend who just sold a show about a group of 50+ women whose kids have gone to college and they’re divorced and they all moved in together in New York. Sex and the City–Geriatric.
I have a few final questions for you. If you had one superpower what would it be?
To be invisible.
Really? I always say to be able to be in two places at once.
Oh my god, you’re such a business woman. I never would’ve even thought of that! I’d want to be invisible which would be painful because I’m sure I’d hear a lot of mean things.
If you had a warning label what would it say?
Something like, “Laughter could result in incontinence, diarrhea, and thoughts of suicide.”