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‘Midwest is where it’s at’: Jenny McCarthy talks about her career, family and why she loves Illinois

By Jessica Villagomez • Updated Oct 7, 2019 at 4:28 PM

CHICAGO — In the mid-’90s, Jenny McCarthy got her first big break on TV as co-host of MTV dating show, “Singled Out.” For the first time, McCarthy, who grew up on Chicago’s South Side, was handed a microphone and told to simply act like herself.

“No one thought that show was going to be anything other than bad TV, but it became a huge cult classic. I can’t tell you how many people watched,” McCarthy said. “When I first got my job on MTV and they handed me the microphone they said, ‘We hired you to be you’ and I thought, ‘Wow that’s awesome, I get to just be me.’”

Since then, McCarthy has stayed in the spotlight as a television host and celebrity personality. Currently, McCarthy splits her time between New York, Los Angeles and her home in St. Charles, Ill., working as a judge on “The Masked Singer” on Fox and host of “The Jenny McCarthy Show” on Sirius XM.

In an interview with the Tribune, McCarthy spoke about her career and her love for the Midwest that keeps bringing her back to Illinois.

Q: Do you still live in St. Charles with your husband, Donnie Wahlberg? Do you spend time in Chicago?

McCarthy: We go (downtown) for date nights or go to a concert downtown, we just like to hop around and try different restaurants. Me and my girlfriends hit up the club, we’re the oldest people at the club, but we’re young at heart.

Q: What has made you stay in Illinois?

McCarthy: When (son) Evan was 7 or 8 years old I thought, I need him to make long-term friends and in LA that’s kind of hard … The kids (in Illinois) ride their bikes, play kickball. You just don’t see that on the coast. Midwest is where it’s at.

Q: Would you ever leave the state?

McCarthy: Only to work and then come back. Donnie said to me, “Why would we ever leave the place we love the most?” I have a feeling we’re going to be locals for a very long time.

Q: Your husband co-owns the burger restaurant chain Wahlburgers with his brothers. What is your Wahlburgers order?

McCarthy: I like the burger bowl when I’m trying to stay away from carbs, but when I don’t care about carbs I usually get the Thanksgiving burger and sweet potato tots.

People come up to me and tell me they love my chicken sandwich, but it was named before I was around, sadly I have no claim to it.

Q: How did you become involved with “The Masked Singer”? What’s your favorite part of the show?

McCarthy: My agent called me and said, “You have an offer on this game show and I really think you should pass.” But when I watched the Korean version with these ornate costumes with people singing, I knew instantly that this show was going to work. It’s not just a music competition, you have to use a different part of your brain to figure out who that person is … for me it’s absolutely using that part of my brain that loves a good challenge. I love having clues and putting clues together and being able to solve a puzzle; I feel like a detective trying to put it together.

Q: What’s the reaction you have received from being on the show?

McCarthy: I wanted to show my son something he can enjoy. My proudest thing is the amount of parents who come up to me and tell me they watch the show with their kids … the TV show feels almost old school in a way. (My son) is 17, he’s such a sweet young man. Being on radio, it’s not like I can have him tune in because our topics aren’t really in his wheelhouse, but “The Masked Singer” is something I can sit down and watch with him. Like most kids watching the show they like the cool costumes, for me, at least it’s something we can do together because to be honest, I don’t really want to play “Fortnite.”

Q: You are approaching the five year anniversary of “The Jenny McCarthy Show.” How does it feel to have been doing the show that long?

McCarthy: I’m hoping this is something I can do as long as Howard (Stern) has done. It’s a perfect medium for what I like to do … Ever since I left MTV it’s been the opposite, it’s like trying to fit into a box. Sirius said the same thing to me (that MTV said), “We’re hiring you to be you” … I had to remember who I actually was in the process of doing this show and it’s been so spiritually fulfilling. It’s a show that they’ve given me that freedom to do what I want to do and to be me.

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