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Q&A: Jonah Ray On Finding Hidden America and Hosting Mystery Science Theater 3000

Jonah Ray has made a career out of poking fun at pop culture. In the past decade, the stand-up comedian has worked behind the scenes (as a writer and/or producer) on hit projects like The Rotten Tomatoes Show, SuperNews!, and The Soup. He also co-hosts the weekly live comedy show-turned-Comedy Central series The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail with Silicon Valley star Kumail Nanjiani. But he’s just getting started.

On June 2, Ray’s new travel show, Hidden America, made its streaming debut on Seeso. Except it’s not a travel show at all. Well, not really. A send-up of the “dude travels to a new city, meets some locals, and eats strange food” series that now seem to occupy half of every channel’s programming schedule, the comedic series sees Ray traveling all across the country to uncover untrue facts about each new city he visits.

While viewers are already raving about Hidden America, which is produced and directed by Troy Miller via Dakota Pictures, Ray is hard at work on his next big project: taking over hosting duties on the upcoming Mystery Science Theater 3000 reboot. mental_floss chatted with Ray about fake facts, drinking beer with Kim Jong Un, and what we can expect from the new MST3K.

So let’s talk about Hidden America: It’s a fake travel show, but its foundation lies in what is a very real moment in travel television programming right now with shows likes Parts Unknown. How and when did the idea for the show originate?

I kind of had this inkling of an idea of a travel show, because I was obsessed with Anthony Bourdain. I love Bourdain’s shows so much, both No Reservations and Parts Unknown. I watched those shows all the time and I loved that they took such a cinematic approach to making these shows. And then, of course, there are all the other ones that are just no good.

Bourdain kind of nailed it and yet there are all these other guys who think they can do the same thing and that’s what I love. I love the narcissism of these guys who think they can also do what Bourdain does. And that’s kind of where I had this idea in my head. And then I saw the Alan Partridge special Welcome to the Places of My Life, which is this brilliant special Steve Coogan did under the character Alan Partridge. I was just kind of like, “I should do like a travelogue-style show.” I loved the idea of a guy that’s no good at something trying so hard to be cool and be intellectual.

So many of these travel shows are doing the same thing, which isn’t really even traveling so much as sending some guy to a city and forcing him to eat elephant testicles.

Exactly. I would like it more if they shot it well. Just give us some nice deep focuses on those elephant testicles.

For you, what’s the absolute worst trend in travel television right now? The thing that you really wanted to replicate with Hidden America?

I wanted to replicate the personality type that does the travel show more so than the specific travel shows. I do like the idea of someone going, “To find out about a place, you need to talk to the people.” Because any time you go to any city, every person you talk to is going to have a different take on that city. 

And I hate the idea of, “We’re going to go here and we’re going to have a disgusting meal because it’s what real people eat!” Fried food and this and that, and it’s always so condescending.

You really did travel to each of the places you showcase in the show. How did you prepare for each episode?

We wrote as many fake facts as we could with what we knew. I didn’t want any of the writers really digging deep into any actual facts. I wanted to have a real surface-level amount of information and then just drive it home as if you’re an expert on the topic. That’s my favorite kind of stuff. Like in the New Orleans episode we say Fat Tuesday started as the eradication of overweight residents, but has since grown into this celebration of sorts. I like fake facts a lot. I’m a big fan of that stuff. We knew these real surface-level things, but we didn’t want to know much else than that.

Are you someone who likes to travel? I imagine you do a lot of it for your work, but is it something that you enjoy doing in your free time?

I love traveling. I grew up in Hawaii, which is a travel destination in itself, but I never got to go on road trips growing up. I never got to really see a lot of what we call “the mainland,” so the ability to see these small towns or small cities—it’s stuff that I saw on TV and movies growing up that look nothing like what I was used to in Hawaii. So I love being able to travel. But I don’t like the process of flying, because I’m 6-foot-5 and it is a huge inconvenience to get on a flight. It’s not comfortable at all and if I want to sit in a seat that has room for me I have to pay extra, which seems to be kind of insulting and discriminatory, but what are you going to do?

For you, who’s the worst kind of traveler? There are the obvious ones, like the chair kickers and the person who leans back and crushes your laptop and inner organs. Who’s the worst person on the plane?

Chatty people. The people who don’t know when to end the conversation, or they start the conversation right when you sit down and they kind of keep it going. For me, plane time is a time to just shut down and catch up on some movies. I don’t like not being able to just walk away from a conversation. I mean, you’re on a plane and you can’t go, “Oh, hold on. I’ve got to make a phone call.” You can’t do any of that stuff.

Unless you want to be in the bathroom for six hours.

Exactly. The only time I really liked someone who was talkative with me was when I had just gone through a ridiculous breakup the day before and was just in complete emotional distress. And this old lady asked me how I was doing and I just told her about the entire breakup, and she talked to me about it the entire time. So, in that case, I was what I hated.

She’s probably still telling people about it, and hasn't flown since.

Yeah. “These hipster nerds are just going to talk about their breakup.”

What’s the one American city you think everyone should visit at least once during his or her lifetime?

Oh, man that’s a tough one. It’s a toss-up. Austin is my favorite city, just because it’s fun and it’s a great little area of the country. And I have an affinity for Seattle. But I would say New Orleans, because it’s essentially our Montreal. It’s our kind of “foreign city” existing within our continent in this country. I’ve never seen or heard or even smelled anything like New Orleans.

How did you decide on which cities to feature on the show, or did the location itself not really matter so much?

A lot of it was that it had to have a lot of visually stunning things we could catch. What’s kind of got these big things that everyone knows about that we can then subvert or comment on within our ideas for scenes and sketches. We also didn’t want any of the cities to be too similar; we had Nashville on our list, but it was a bit too similar to stuff we would probably do in New Orleans or Austin, so we wanted to avoid it for this season. We wanted everything to have a different feeling.

We almost did San Diego, because it would’ve been really cheap to do L.A. and San Diego, but they would’ve been too similar. They’re too sunny. And we wanted each episode to have a stark contrast from the one before it. I also really wanted to do Reno because I think it’s the most depressing city in the world, but none of the writers had really been there before and it was kind of hard to describe how sad it is.

What’s the atmosphere like when you’re shooting? The show is obviously very carefully produced and scripted, but do you leave a lot of room for improvisation or happy accidents?

Oh, yeah. I think that’s really key when you’re shooting comedy. You want to do two cameras. You want to do cross-coverage. Because when an idea is in your head it’s perfect, and then you start writing it down and, every step of the way, it gets ruined a little bit more from what it was in your head.

We had a scene written for our New Orleans episode that was completely different from what we ended up improvising and finding within the scene because we had such a great improviser, Chris Trew, in there … You never want to expect that to happen though, because then you’ll really run into some dangerous territory.

Since the show is being distributed online, did that give you a lot more freedom in terms of how far you could push things in what you can do and say?

Seeso was really great. We didn’t really have to worry about sponsors or commercials pulling out or anything like that because it’s a paid service. So, like HBO or any other paid network, we were able to kind of do what we wanted. They only backed out on a couple of things and that was a little kid having a semi-automatic weapon and me wearing a Nazi uniform, which are totally understandable and very separate bits.

When it comes to comedy, for you personally, where do you draw the line between what’s funny and what’s over the line? Do you have any rules or parameters for yourself?

I try not to. But I’m not the one to say where the line is. I’m an upper middle class straight white male. It’s not my place to say that something is too offensive. I just kind of have to go as far as I think is funny and wait for the slap on the hand, which could easily happen in our L.A. episode, where I say a couple of horrible things. But it’s one of those things where it’s not for me to say. I’m the man. I’m the problem. I’m not allowed to say what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable.

You started your career as a musician, correct?

Well, to say “career” and “musician” is a misnomer. I was in some punk bands where I lost a lot of money and brain cells. But yeah, I started playing in music—punk bands—growing up until I was about 19.

Which audience is a tougher crowd: a comedy audience or a musical audience?

Comedy, because a music crowd can be there and not pay attention, and so it doesn’t really matter how you do. Some people are just going to be there drinking and talking with their friends. The comedy crowd is there and they’re paying attention. And if they’re not giving you anything and they’re paying attention, that’s the most hurtful blade of them all.

Who are the comedians who first or most inspired you?

Mel Brooks, Joel Hodgson, Weird Al Yankovic, and Norm Macdonald.

Because you brought up Joel, I get to talk about Joel.

Believe me, all I want to do is talk about Mystery Science Theater. Even if I didn’t have the job, it’s all I’d be talking about anyway.

I’m sure there’s a lot you can’t tell me, which is exactly the stuff I want to know. Tell me everything you can and cannot tell me about Mystery Science Theater.

Well, right now we’re in the writing process. And there are a lot of amazing writers and we’re just kind of flying through these just horrendous movies. You’d like to think it was easy. Growing up and watching the show, it’s like, “I could do this,” but there are a lot of things you realize they never did and how clever they were with the opportunity to riff on movies. Because you can’t just go, “Boring,” or “This sucks,” or anything like that. When a guy is walking across the field for these 20-second shots for the third time in 10 minutes and you’ve done your first joke about a long walk, then the second time he’s doing it you’re like, “Oh, here I’ll just sing a song,” as if he’s singing a song. And then, for the third time he’s just like, “Oh, God. This movie is so incapable.”

You have to pay attention to every detail, including the stuff that people aren’t noticing.

Yeah. And you have to come up with new angles, because it’s so easy to be repetitive. That’s why everyone that works on that show is an absolute comedy genius. The way they’re able to keep it fresh throughout one movie and throughout a season, where you’re not just hearing the same references and jokes all the time. It’s always new and it’s always another angle, and sometimes it’s callbacks or a similar style joke, but man, they really do such great work and it’s been really neat to be in that process, too. Sometimes you’ll have the perfect line to say after someone’s line, but it just doesn’t fit. It just won’t fit because the other character starts to talk too soon. Me and Baron Vaughn, who’s the new voice of Tom Servo, were talking the other day and he’s like, “Man, I think we underestimated how much work this was.”

How many times, on average, do you have to watch a single movie to finish the writing process?

The way we’ve been doing it is we get together and we just kind of slowly trudge through about 10 minutes and that’ll probably take us about five hours. And that’s kind of going through it, writing riffs for 10 minutes, going back and fitting them in, and then going back and trying to pick the ones that we like and that are also different enough. You can’t have a bunch of jokes in a row where it’s us doing one of the character’s voices. Sometimes it has to be a comment joke.

And you’ll be at the MST3K reunion show this month?

Man, I’d be there even if I wasn’t performing. That thing is going to be so crazy … RiffTrax just put out a shirt with my name on it and I started to cry.

Going back to Hidden America: People keep comparing you to Anthony Bourdain. He just drank beer with Obama in Vietnam for his show. How are you going to top that?

We’re going to drink beer with Kim Jong Un in South Korea. How about that? Can’t wait to do that next season.

Hidden America is currently streaming on Seeso.

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23 Things David Letterman Invented for Our Amusement
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This week, nearly three years after bidding farewell to Late Night, David Letterman is making his triumphant return to the small screen via Netflix with My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman (where he'll interview two people who need no introduction: Barack Obama and George Clooney). If the series is anything like Letterman's career thus far, you can expect plenty of innovation.

Here are 23 recurring bits, features, and moments that the former Indiana weatherman (and his writers) invented for our amusement.

1. THE SHORT, NON-TOPICAL MONOLOGUE

Carson Productions, as in Johnny Carson’s production company, co-produced Late Night with David Letterman, and as the upcoming lead-out programming for The Tonight Show, it was important to Carson’s people that Letterman not copy Carson. Letterman’s people were told that among other things, they couldn’t have a sidekick sitting next to the host like Ed McMahon, a band with horns like Doc Severinsen’s, or a monologue. So instead, Letterman opened his show by standing in front of the audience and viewers at home with “opening remarks,” a monologue consisting of just one or two jokes with weird imagery, like tattoos melting in warm weather.

2. POST-INTERVIEW INTERVIEWS

On February 3, 1982—his third-ever broadcast—Late Night conducted two interviews with baseball hall-of-famer Hank Aaron: One was a standard talk show back-and-forth between host and guest. The other occurred after that conversation ended, where NBC Sports reporter Al Albert (son of Marv Albert) asked Aaron how he felt his last few minutes with Letterman went, with the idea that it was the equivalent of a post-game interview.

3. STUPID PET TRICKS

“Stupid Pet Tricks” began on Letterman’s short-lived but Emmy-winning morning show, and was a consistently popular segment on both Late Night and The Late Show. The idea came from original head writer Merrill Markoe, who "remembered how in college my friends and I would be hanging around in the evenings, talking, and drinking. One form of constant entertainment was to put socks on this one dog. Everyone I knew did some version of a silly thing like that with their pets, so we ran an ad to see if we could pull a segment together like that."

4. WORLD’S LARGEST VASE CONTESTS

After questioning people who claimed to have the “world’s largest vase” over the phone in what New York Magazine described as a “longish” segment, the vase was brought into the studio and displayed on Late Night from May 30 through June 2, 1983. On its third night, a 35-inch radio transmitting tower was added to the case when it was discovered that it was shorter than one in Canada. On its final night of national exhibition, Letterman read alleged letters from children addressed to the Vase, and the vase “spoke” to wish for peace for mankind.

5. CATCHPHRASE CONTESTS

Two on-air catchphrase contests, which aired a little over a month apart in the summer of 1984, gave lucky studio audiences the power to make “They pelted us with rocks and garbage” the first rallying cry, before it was displaced by "I do and do and do for you kids, and this is the thanks I get!"

6. A CAMERA FROM THE HOST'S P.O.V.

The February 15, 1982 installment of Late Night began with one continuous five minute and 17 second take through Letterman’s P.O.V. called “Dave Cam.” Cameos included that night’s guest Andy Rooney, Merrill Markoe, and Calvert DeForest, who played Larry “Bud” Melman on Late Night, as “Bert the Human Caboose.”

7. A CAMERA FROM THE GUEST’S P.O.V.

Letterman favorite Tom Hanks was the first wearer of the “Late Night Guest-Cam.” Hanks was on the show the night of December 12, 1985 to promote The Money Pit, which was initially supposed to debut the next day, but would be delayed until the following March. “The Late Night Sky-Cam” makes a cameo.

8. A CAMERA FROM A MONKEY’S P.O.V.

After a false start with a 30-year-old chimp named Bo, who was too small to handle the camera, “Monkey Cam” got its start on March 19, 1986. Zippy, who was on the cover of The Ramones' Animal Boy album, would return on roller skates with the “Late Night Monkey Cam Mobile Unit.”

9. PURPOSELY FUNNY TOP 10 LISTS

The very first Top Ten—“The Top Ten Things That Almost Rhyme With Peas"—aired on September 18, 1985, as a satire of the random lists publications like Good Housekeeping were starting to produce at the time. Credit for who thought up the idea for Late Night is disputed; over the years, head writer Steve O’Donnell, former head writer and longtime SNL scribe Jim Downey, Late Night writer Randy Cohen, and producer Robert Morton have all gotten some or all of the credit. Top Ten made it to the end of Late Show’s run, even though the writers were already tiring of it by the February 6, 1986 show, which had the Top Ten list “Top Ten Reasons to Continue the Top Ten Lists Just a Little Longer.”

10. WEARING SUITS OF VELCRO, ALKA-SELTZER, MAGNETS, SPONGES, SUET, AND FOODS

On February 28, 1984, Letterman slipped into a “Suit of Velcro” and ushered in an era of strange outfits including a magnet get-up, which Letterman wore to attach himself to a huge GE fridge. Lowering himself into a 1000-gallon tank of water, Letterman’s suit of Alka-Seltzer fizzed and vaporized. There were also suits of suet, marshmallows, chips, and Rice Krispies, the latter of which made David “snap, crackle, and pop” in a large tub of milk. An influence was Steve Allen, the original host of The Tonight Show, who threw himself into Jell-O vats on television. Allen’s “Man on the Street” interviews were also something Letterman took to new levels of absurdity.

11. HOSTING A SHOW ABOARD AN AIRPLANE

Late Night’s fourth anniversary was celebrated onboard a flight from New York City to Miami.

12. AN EPISODE THAT ROTATES 360 DEGREES

Writers Randy Cohen and Kevin Curran came up with the unique way to celebrate the 800th episode of Late Night. NBC received “several hundred” phone calls about the December 9, 1986 show from viewers complaining that it was giving them headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Carson Productions executives were apparently not informed of the stunt beforehand and were reportedly “furious.”

13. FEUDING WITH BRYANT GUMBEL

After Letterman interrupted an August 19, 1985 broadcast of Today co-hosted by Bryant Gumbel, Gumbel called out the Late Night host for being “unprofessional” and didn’t publicly forgive him for four years. (Letterman claimed it was a Today producer who invited him to pull the stunt.)

14. FEUDING WITH OPRAH WINFREY

In the 16 years between Oprah's 1989 appearance on Late Night and her December 1, 2005 Late Show interview, rumors swirled about a feud between Winfrey and Letterman. The reasons why—and even if—there was a “feud” at all remain unclear.

15. CO-HOSTING AN EPISODE WITH A CORNY MORNING SHOW THEME

On February 27, 1985, Letterman shared hosting duties with “Tawny Harper Reynolds,” with guests Michael Palin, a Pet Psychic, and an exercise segment with Carol Channing.

16. AN HOUR-LONG PARODY OF 1970s PRIMETIME VARIETY SHOWS

“Dave Letterman's Summertime Sunshine Happy Hour” graced the NBC airwaves on the night of August 29, 1985. Early in his TV career, Letterman wrote and was a part of the cast of The Starland Vocal Band Show.

17. AN HOUR-LONG PARODY OF CHRISTMAS SPECIALS

December 19, 1984’s "Christmas With the Lettermans," featuring Pat Boone, won Late Night a 1985 Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Variety, Music or Comedy Program.

18. "CUSTOM-MADE" SHOWS

On November 15, 1983, Late Night relinquished control of the show to the audience, giving them a choice on everything from the furniture to the theme song. On March 27, 1984’s version, the show opened with the theme to Bonanza, the announcer was the New York Lieutenant Governor, and Jane Pauley was interviewed in a dentist's chair.

19. DUBBING A RERUN FROM ENGLISH TO ENGLISH

When the February 17, 1986 episode re-aired on September 25th of that year, 250 confused viewers called the network. After 60 hours and four professional dubbers, everyone on the episode (Raquel Welch was the main guest) magically had different voices. Even Letterman's voice was dubbed (by Speed Racer's Peter Fernandez).

20. 4 A.M. SHOWS

May 14, 2004’s Late Show was taped at four in the morning, on purpose. Amy Sedaris, rat expert Robert Sullivan, and Modest Mouse were the guests. Letterman rode a horse, Sedaris gave an unsafe late night tour of her neighborhood, and Modest Mouse played in their pajamas.

21. DEDICATING MOST OF AN EPISODE TO A DECEASED COMEDIAN AND HIS FAMILY

Letterman invited Bill Hicks’s mother, Mary, to appear on the January 30, 2009 episode to apologize face-to-face for not airing Hicks’s controversial October 1, 1993, stand-up performance. In February of 1994, Hicks passed away from pancreatic cancer at age 32. After talking to Mary, Letterman finally presented Bill’s set.

22. DEDICATING AN ENTIRE EPISODE TO A COMEDY HERO

On the first new Late Show after Johnny Carson's passing, Letterman's monologue was filled with jokes that the retired Carson had anonymously submitted to David over the years. Long-time The Tonight Show executive producer Peter Lassally and bandleader Doc Severinsen were that night's only guests.

23. THE ‘WILL IT FLOAT?’ GAME

The first installment of “Will It Float?” was on February 6, 2002. A brick of Velveeta cheese sank. Dave got it right, whereas Paul got it wrong.

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25 Fun Facts About the Hollywood Walk of Fame
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The Hollywood Walk of Fame may have begun its life as a Chamber of Commerce marketing tactic, but today it’s one of Los Angeles’s most famous tourist attractions, drawing an estimated 10 million visitors each year. As a host of new celebrities, from Minnie Mouse to Mark Hamill, get ready to make their (permanent) mark along Hollywood Boulevard in 2018, here are 25 things you might not know about the world’s most star-studded sidewalk. 

1. THE IDEA FIRST CAME ABOUT IN 1953.

The original idea for the Walk of Fame came from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce’s volunteer president E. M. Stuart in 1953, a full seven years before construction began. According to a press release issued that year, he proposed the idea as a marketing tactic to “maintain the glory of a community whose name means glamour and excitement in the four corners of the world.” It wasn’t until January 1956 that an official proposal was submitted to the Los Angeles City Council.

2. THE ORIGINAL CONCEPT INCLUDED CARICATURES.

It took a while to settle on a concept and color scheme. Among the renderings put forth were a star that included a caricature of the honoree, planted along brown and blue sidewalks. Both ideas were eventually nixed—the caricatures because of the difficulty involved and the colors because they clashed with a building that real estate developer C.E. Toberman, a.k.a. Mr. Hollywood, was erecting on Hollywood Boulevard.

3. ONLY FOUR TYPES OF INDUCTEES WERE ORIGINALLY CONSIDERED.

Though today there are five categories of inductees, in the Walk of Fame’s earliest days there were just four: Motion Pictures, Television, Recording or Music, and Radio. It wasn’t until 1984 that a category for Theatre/Live Performance was added.

4. THE PUBLIC GOT A SNEAK PEEK OF THE WALK IN 1958.

Photo of a time capsule on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
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In order to drum up excitement for the endeavor, eight stars—for Olive Borden, Ronald Colman, Louise Fazenda, Preston Foster, Burt Lancaster, Edward Sedgwick, Ernest Torrence, and Joanne Woodward—were unveiled (temporarily) to the public on August 15, 1958.

5. TWO LAWSUITS DELAYED THE WALK’S CONSTRUCTION.

Though construction on the official Walk was set to begin shortly after the sneak peek of those first eight stars, two lawsuits prevented that from happening. The first came courtesy of a group of nearby property owners who did not take kindly to the $1.25 million tax assessment that came with the Walk’s construction. The judge ruled against them. The second came from Charlie Chaplin, Jr., who demanded $400,000 in damages because his father was not chosen as an honoree. The case was dismissed in 1960, though the elder Chaplin did finally get a star in 1972 (the same year he won an honorary Oscar). 

6. STANLEY KRAMER’S STAR CAME FIRST.

After all of the delays, construction on the Walk of Fame officially began on February 8, 1960. Filmmaker Stanley Kramer—director of The Defiant Ones, Inherit the Wind, Judgment at Nuremberg, and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World—was the first honoree to have his star laid. It was installed on March 28, 1960. 

7. MOVIE STARS MAKE UP THE BULK OF THE WALK.

Of the 2,600-plus stars that currently make up the Walk of Fame, 47 percent of them are in the Motion Pictures category, followed by Television (24 percent), Music (17 percent), Radio (10 percent), and Live Performance (less than 2 percent).

8. MUHAMMAD ALI IS CONSIDERED A “LIVE PERFORMER.”

Eric Obeng, attending university in the U.S. from Ghana, poses for a friend while paying respect to the late Muhammad Ali at his star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame on June 4, 2016 in Hollywood, United States
David McNew, Getty Images

In 2002, Muhammad Ali was given a star when it was determined that boxing was indeed a form of live performance. Ali’s star is the only one on the Walk of Fame that you cannot step on; at the athlete’s request, it was installed in the wall of the Dolby Theatre (then the Kodak Theatre) because, according to The Guardian, the legendary athlete didn't want his name walked on by “people who have no respect for me.”

9. ANYONE CAN NOMINATE A CELEBRITY FOR A STAR—BUT THE STAR MUST AGREE.

It takes more than just talent to be nominated for a star on the Walk of Fame—and the nomination process is no joke. Though anyone, including a fan, can nominate his or her favorite celebrity for inclusion on the Walk of Fame, there’s an entire application process that must include a letter of agreement from the nominee or his or her manager.

10. THERE’S ALSO THE MATTER OF A $40,000 FEE.

Stars on the Walk of Fame don’t grow on trees. Nor do they come free. Every nomination application must also list a sponsor for said nominee, who agrees to cover the $40,000 [PDF] it costs to create, install, and maintain the star, which is made of terrazzo and brass. 

11. POSTHUMOUS NOMINATIONS ARE ALLOWED, BUT THERE'S A CATCH.

Of the approximately 24 stars dedicated each year, one is given posthumously—but only if the star in question has been deceased for a minimum of five years.

12. ATTENDING THE STAR’S UNVEILING IS A REQUIREMENT.

James Brolin and singer and actress Barbra Streisand pose for the media during the Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony for Brolin.
FREDERICK M. BROWN, AFP, Getty Images

Since 1968, the honoree’s attendance at his or her star’s unveiling is required. The only person to have challenged this rule is Barbra Streisand, who was awarded a star in 1976. (Rumor has it that she wasn’t comfortable with the crowds?) With no Babs in sight, one reporter took it upon himself to instead interview her wax figure at the nearby Hollywood Wax Museum. In 1998, Streisand did show up to support her husband, James Brolin, when he received his own star. 

13. IN 1994, 450 STARS WERE REMOVED DURING SUBWAY CONSTRUCTION.

In 1994, the stars of approximately 450 celebrities—Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Walt Disney, Bob Hope, Groucho Marx, Gene Kelly, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and that pesky Charles Chaplin among them—were packed up and put away into storage for approximately three years to allow for the construction of two new subway stations on Hollywood Boulevard. 

14. MULTIPLE STARS ARE ALLOWED.

Celebrities are not limited to just one star: Bob Hope, Roy Rogers, Mickey Rooney, and Tony Martin each have stars in four categories. More than 30 people have stars in three categories, including Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Jack Benny.

15. GENE AUTRY HAS FIVE STARS.

Legendary entertainer Gene Autry is the only celebrity to have a star in all five Walk of Fame categories.

16. THERE ARE TWO HARRISON FORDS AND TWO MICHAEL JACKSONS.

Fans of pop star Michael Jackson mourn his death at talk radio host Michael Jackson's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on June 25, 2009 in Los Angeles, California
Michael Czerwonka, Getty Images

And no, they’re not the same people: Silent film actor Harrison Ford earned a star in 1960 while Harrison “Han Solo” Ford got his in 2003. Radio personality Michael Jackson and the King of Pop both earned a star in 1984. When Jackson (the Thriller one) passed away in 2009, a huge crowd of fans gathered to pay tribute to him ... at the wrong star.

17. FICTIONAL STARS COUNT.

There are 16 fictional celebrities with Walk of Fame stars (more if you count The Muppets as multiple characters); Mickey Mouse was the first to be inducted in 1978. Bugs Bunny, Snow White, Woody Woodpecker, Big Bird, The Simpsons, Rugrats, Kermit the Frog, Donald Duck, Godzilla, Winnie the Pooh, The Munchkins, Shrek, Tinker Bell, The Muppets (meaning that Kermit and Big Bird actually have two stars apiece), and Snoopy followed. By the end of this year, that number will be up to 17: Minnie Mouse will be getting her own star in 2018.

18. FOUR STARS HAVE BEEN STOLEN.

In 2005, Gregory Peck became the fourth celebrity to have his star stolen from the Walk of Fame. Though it was replaced immediately, the original star has never been recovered. Five years prior to the Peck theft, Jimmy Stewart and Kirk Douglas’s stars disappeared; they were recovered from the home of a construction worker who had been tasked with securing them. One of Gene Autry’s stars was also stolen (but he had stars to spare).

19. THERE’S A TIME CAPSULE UNDER THE WALK OF FAME.

As part of the Walk of Fame’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2010, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce buried a time capsule in the same place the Walk originated, at the corner of Hollywood and Highland. Price is Right icon Bob Barker was on hand to help bury the capsule, which contains various items that commemorate the landmark, plus a note from Barker himself that reads: “Have your pets spayed and neutered.” Here’s hoping the people of 2060—the year the time capsule is set to be opened—get the reference.

20. THE DERN-LADDS ALL RECEIVED A STAR AT THE SAME TIME.

Bruce Dern, Laura Dern, and Diane Ladd each received a star on the Walk of Fame on the same day.
Valerie Macon, Getty Images

Also as part of the 50th anniversary celebration, three members of a single Hollywood family received stars at the same time when Bruce Dern, Diane Ladd, and Laura Dern were feted—a first for the Walk of Fame.

21. THE BARRYMORES HAVE THE NUMBERS.

As far as acting dynasties go, the Barrymores will be tough to beat. There are six stars among the family, including one each for John, Ethel, John Drew, and Drew and two for Lionel. 

22. TYPOS HAPPEN.

There have been a couple of typos in the Walk of Fame's more than 50 years. In 2010, Julia Louis-Dreyfus showed up to smile over a star dedicated to “Julia Luis Dreyfus.” The Veep star, unsurprisingly, was rather amused by the mix-up, telling reporters, “The misspelling was so perfectly apt, a great metaphor for show business. Right when you think you've made it, you get knocked down. It's an ideal metaphor for how this business works.” The star was quickly replaced and the typo version was sent to Louis-Dreyfus as a souvenir.

Dick Van Dyke had a similar experience in 1992 when his last name was spelled as “Vandyke” (that error, too, was quickly rectified). 

23. SOME TYPOS WERE PROPHETIC.

Confusion arose when actor Don Haggerty was awarded a star in 1960 that was engraved as Dan Haggerty. Though it was eventually replaced with a corrected version, in 1994 Grizzly Adams actor Dan Haggerty received his own star.

24. HONOREES HAVE FIVE YEARS TO SCHEDULE THEIR CEREMONIES.

As such, some people use their dedication ceremonies as a way to promote an upcoming project. “Stars like to make it a big deal,” Hollywood Chamber of Commerce president/CEP Leron Gubler told The Huffington Post. “That's the way they are. They get a little more bang for their buck out of it when they time it right.”

25. GILLIAN ANDERSON, MARK HAMILL, SNOOP DOGG, LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA, AND JENNIFER LAWRENCE ARE AMONG THIS YEAR'S INDUCTEES.

Gillian Anderson is presented with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2018
FREDERIC J. BROWN, AFP, Getty Images

In June 2017, the Walk of Fame's class of 2018 was announced. Among the folks getting a star to go with their famous names: Mark Hamill, Jeff Goldblum, Jennifer Lawrence, Gillian Anderson, Lynda Carter, Taraji P. Henson, Shonda Rhimes, Carrie Underwood, Mary J. Blige, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bernie Mac, Snoop Dogg, Weird Al, and Minnie Mouse.

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