Actor, Maine native John O’Hurley talks about hosting Thanksgiving’s National Dog Show

Posted Nov. 27, 2013, at 4:05 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 27, 2013, at 4:31 p.m.
John O'Hurley
John O'Hurley

Actor John O’Hurley knows there’s truth to the old Hollywood adage “never work with kids or dogs.”

But, no matter how many times he gets upstaged, he keeps coming back to co-host the annual National Dog Show airing Thanksgiving Day on NBC. The event, broadcast nationwide at noon Thursday, will include more than 1,500 dogs competing to win the title Best in Show and the $20,000 in prize money.

“I remember several years ago when David [co-host Frei] and I were seated at the NBC booth during the group competition, and this Great Dane just came in and just passed by David and then just stopped in front of me, squatted down and left what I will refer to as a ‘critical donation on my performance.’

“Yeah, that was probably the largest and most significant.”

O’Hurley is co-hosting with Frei, the American Kennel Club-licensed judge, host of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show since 1990 and co-host of the National Dog Show since its inception in 2002. They both participated in a recent teleconference to promote the latter event.

Most TV viewers will remember O’Hurley playing Mr. Peterman on “Seinfeld,” a role the actor said was offered at an opportune time.

“‘Seinfeld’ literally was just an absolute happenchance moment, that the series that I had on ABC was canceled on a Thursday morning and I was out, literally, crying in my beer that night trying to take the cancellation as personally as I could. Then, David’s office called and just said they has this guest-starring role and were starting the next day. They knew that my show was canceled. So, they said ‘Would you like to come over and do it?’ It’s this kind of wacky cataloguer named J. Peterman.”

At first, O’Hurley turned it down. But, by the time the production company finished writing the first episode, they had included the character of Elaine working for J. Peterman Catalogue.

“That began the last four seasons of my venue there on ‘Seinfeld.’ And it was, if I looked back over my shoulder at it, I remember it was kind of like playing with a championship team in the championship season. You always had a sense that what you’re doing was something that was going to be part of television history.”

The Maine native has appeared in numerous TV series and voiced many, many roles in animated series, films and videos in addition to guest-starring in six episodes of the daytime drama “All My Children.” He also voiced the role of Skipper Skelton in “Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated” and has starred on Broadway.

He has spent much of 2013 in nationally touring theatrical productions, playing King Arthur in “Spamalot” and Billy Flynn in “Chicago,” and has authored three books — “Before The Dog Can Eat Your Homework First You Have To Do It: Life Lessons From A Wise Old Dog To A Young Boy,” “It’s Okay To Miss The Bed On The First Jump” and his latest book for children, “The Perfect Dog,” released last month.

He is a dog owner and said he enjoys working with the dog show even if, he said, this year it was particularly hard to pick out who was going to win. The show was taped last Saturday in Philadelphia.

“I remarked about this to David, this is the first time he’s not been able to point me towards a potential winner because we had so many great dogs this year. It’s an absolutely incredible lineup that we have this year.”

The competition features 190 breeds shown in seven groups with one being named top dog at the end of the competition. Three new AKC-sanctioned breeds will compete at the event — the Chinook (working group), Portuguese Podengo Pequeno (hound group) and rat terrier (terrier group). The show will encore at 7 p.m. Saturday on NBC.

The televised dog show is an event designed to draw people in and teach them about the various breeds, some that are dwindling in numbers, O’Hurley said.

“I think it underscores the importance of a show like this and also the visibility of a show like this that not only does it engage the country with 175 plus breeds that they don’t normally see but it also give the opportunity for the people that are there, in person, to have an opportunity to be interactive with these breeders. So you may find a dog that you wouldn’t ordinarily know,” said the actor who owns, with his wife and son, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Sadie and a Havanese named Lucy. “And sadly, most people grow up with a working knowledge of maybe five breeds because you have them in your neighborhood.

“But I think it underscores the importance of the dog show world.”

The National Dog Show will be shown at noon Thursday on NBC.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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