Jerry O’Connell on Co-Hosting With Kelly Ripa — and Canines

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 13: Jerry O'Connell attends Tommy Hilfiger presentation during New York Fashion Week: Men's S/S 2017 at Skylight 60 Tenth on July 13, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
Jerry O’Connell is the ultimate host. (Photo: Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Jerry O’Connell has been acting since he was a boy — there will always be a special place in our hearts for cherry-flavored Pez lover Vern Tessio from Stand by Me — but his hosting skills have been keeping him extra busy.

The sharp-witted star, 42, is a popular favorite for the empty seat on Live With Kelly. Funny and congenial, he always brings his A-game — and dancing shoes — when he’s sitting in next to the perky and punchy blonde. With a recent headline claiming he “really wants” the job, Yahoo Celebrity just had to ask him about it.

“Of course! Everyone who goes on that show says, ‘I want to co-host with Kelly.’ She’s adorable,” O’Connell gushes. “Listen, I watch every day. I love her. I think she’s doing a great job.”

LIVE WITH KELLY - Jerry O'Connell is Kelly's co-host on LIVE WITH KELLY, 2/10/12, airing in more than 200 markets across the country and distributed by Disney-ABC Domestic Television. (Photo by David Russell/Disney-ABC Domestic TV via Getty Images) KELLY RIPA, JERRY O'CONNELL
O’Connell’s chemistry with Ripa has a lot of fans hoping he becomes her permanent co-host. (Photo: David Russell/Disney-ABC Domestic TV via Getty Images)

Guest-hosting is fun and all, but would he want to do it full-time — as in relocate back to Manhattan, where he grew up, for early morning wake-up calls?

“Obviously, if I had to relocate, the first person I’d have to ask is my wife,” says O’Connell, who has been married to Rebecca Romijn for nearly a decade. “The next two ladies I have to ask are my girls [7-year-old twin daughters Charlie and Dolly]. But I would bend over backwards as far as I possibly could for Kelly Ripa. That’s how much I respect her professionally,and more importantly, personally. In terms of family and work, that girl has it all figured out. That girl can write a book on how to balance a career and family and all that. It’s truly inspiring.”

He goes on to say that he wouldn’t be surprised if the show changed the formula to “where Kelly doesn’t have a co-host. Where she’s just got a bunch of us coming in — guys and girls.” Though he has his favorites if the job goes to one person (and it’s not him): Andy Cohen (“he’s the fastest, the funniest”), with Anderson Cooper a close second.

Kelly Ripa and Jerry O'Connell are pictured during the production
O’Connell and Ripa had extra fun on Halloween. (Photo: David M. Russell//Disney/ABC Home Entertainment and TV Distribution)

And if he didn’t land the spot himself, he’d still be up for subbing. “When Anderson has to go overseas because of some kind of conflict, or Andy had to go overseas because of some kind of conflict on a reunion show, I can come and fill in,” he laughs.

O’Connell is gearing up for another hosting gig this weekend at the AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin, the largest dog show in North America. The self-proclaimed dog lover will make special appearances throughout the show, held in Orlando, Fla., to give viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the event, which sees 5,000 of the top national and international dogs participating.

“It’s going to be so much fun,” he says. “I get to almost be the interviewer of all the champion animals backstage. Admittedly, I don’t know a lot about show dogs and that world, so it’s so exciting to me. My dogs, while I love them, are the furthest things from show dogs. Forgetting about sitting and lying down, I’m lucky if they don’t jump on me when I’m feeding them.”

O’Donnell’s wife, Rebecca Romijn, and daughters, Dolly and Charlie, with their dogs, from left, Pirate, Phil, and Pip:

O’Connell has three dogs — Pirate, a German shepherd from a breeder; Pip, a German Shepherd rescue; and puppy Phil, a St. Bernard Great Pyrenees mix rescue — but that number could go up at anytime thanks to Romijn.

“I was always a dog lover, but I didn’t really step it up until I met my wife. She likes to have a number of dogs at any given time,” he says. “What happens is that if I go out of town for a little bit for work, I come back and there tends to be a new animal in our house. While we’re all about adopting, my wife does have a bit of an adopting fetish — all within the confines of the law, of course. I think we’re at the legal limit now — three is it — after that we have to get a kennel license, so I think my wife has to stop there. … I don’t want to be running an illicit dog pound.”

Their daughters love the dogs, which is a good thing because they — especially Pirate — often sleep with them. “We have a very active house. But the kids love them, I love them,” he admits. “There are often messes to clean up, but there is a lot of love.” (They also have two cats.)

Talk about a very active house:

@skategoldcoast thanks @djpoltergeis

A photo posted by Jerry O'Connell (@mrjerryoc) on Nov 12, 2016 at 5:30pm PST

So what exactly will he be doing at the dog show? Trying some of the events that the dogs participate in, of course. “They have a dock diving event I’m going to try, they have agility courses — it’s going to be so cute and fun,” he says. And no promises but “there is a good chance I will be getting my hair done by someone who does a poodle’s hair. There is a good chance I’m coming home with a new hairstyle.”

We’re pretty sure Romijn would roll with it if he did. The pair, who have been married for nearly a decade, seem to have a lot of fun together — if Instagram is any indication. Recently they proved to be two of the cutest tourists in Paris.

“We’re pretty good when it comes to doing touristy things,” he says. “We got right in line for that Mona Lisa. That was the first spot we went to. I had never seen it. My wife lived in Paris [during her modeling days]; I did not. Really, I’m more familiar with the Paris Paris Hotel in Vegas than I am with actual Paris, so it was really fun to go with my wife. She knew which roads to go down. It was good to have a tour guide.”

Another recent family adventure — also worthy of a social media share — was a trip to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. The couple named one of their twin girls after the singing legend, so they wanted her to meet her namesake. (Charlie is named after Jerry’s brother.) Plus, they’re just all big Dolly fans.

The family recently went to Dollywood:

Tonight took the ladies to the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. #dolly

A photo posted by Jerry O'Connell (@mrjerryoc) on Oct 2, 2016 at 10:31pm PDT

“My wife went to Dollywood when she was pregnant and Dolly dedicated ‘Little Sparrow,’ a famous song of hers, to the little sparrows in my wife’s belly. My wife called me crying from the airport and said we’re naming one of our children Dolly, and that was that,” he says. “But my kids had never met Dolly. So Dolly was premiering her Christmas special this year at Dollywood. My wife said, ‘I think we should fly down and go.’”

He continued, “Now it’s a little tough to get to Pigeon Forge. You gotta take two planes. On the way back, we had to drive all the way to Atlanta — a four-hour drive. But once you get to Dollywood, everybody is so nice. The people at Starbucks are so nice. We took our kids to a trampoline place, they were so helpful. It’s just such a fun, family environment. I know everyone goes to Disney World and that is great and fun, but if anyone in the southeastern region is looking for a fun family trip, I highly suggest Dollywood.”

So how did meeting Dolly go?

“[She’s] so cute, and such an honor to meet Dolly,” he says. “Not to sound like a weird groupie — and please don’t call Dolly’s security detail — but I really wanted a photo of my kids, my wife, and Dolly Parton. I was standing with my camera at the ready. I was waiting to take the picture for an hour. Dolly finally walked through this hall that we were in, and it was just a very exciting time for our family. We’re huge fans. It’s going to be our holiday card.”

When Dolly and Charlie met Dolly Parton:

When daughters Charlie and Dolly met Dolly. We will always love you @dollyparton

A photo posted by Rebecca Romijn (@rebeccaromijn) on Nov 23, 2016 at 6:34am PST

After their trip, the devastating wildfires hit Tennessee, something that hit close to home for O’Connell and Romijn, whose property was charred during the Southern California fires in June. After he noted that they were “praying” for the people going through it now, he talked about how their property is starting to recover — slowly.

“You know, it’s all burned up, but like in that Fantasia cartoon, everything is starting to grow back a little bit. You know the one — where the fire sweeps through the forest and then the rain happens? Things are starting to grow back. We fixed the fence. That’s about it. Everybody is safe, and that’s what matters.”

Watch Jerry host the AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin, which will be live-streamed on Saturday, Dec. 17, and Sunday, Dec. 18. It also be shown on the Hallmark Channel on Monday, Jan. 23, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. ET.