Terry Crews on Fatherhood, His Dream of Hosting a Variety Show, and How He Taught Himself to Be Happy

Photo: Jackie Brown/Corbis

Whether Terry Crews is making his pecs dance, battling Mike Tyson, or hosting World’s Funniest, which returns to Fox on Friday, he is often making us laugh. But the former pro-football player known for his energetic optimism told Vulture during a recent phone interview he had to learn to be joyful. He also shared his thoughts on fatherhood, what he has in common with the Hulk, and his dream of hosting a variety show.

Fox asked you to host World’s Funniest. Why did you want to do it?
I have so much fun with live audiences and with things where I can just kind of be myself and not play a character. My dream has always been to have a variety show, and this is the closest to it in this new day and age. It was called Funniest Fails for the first couple times, but now it’s just World's Funniest because we found that there are a lot of videos that we want to show that were hilarious but didn't necessarily constitute a fail. There were a lot of good videos we didn't show because we were trying to stick with the “fail” rules. Now it's pretty much everything you can find that's hilarious that's all over the internet. So it just makes it more open, and I think it's a much better show.

What kind of videos do you like to watch?
Anything with kids — kids doing dumb stuff, kids doing funny stuff, kids being smart, all kinds of little kids dancing and doing crazy things. That stuff just cracks me up, acting like little adults and the whole thing. I also like pratfalls. I mean, things that go wrong but not too horribly wrong. I don't like to watch people get injured or anything. I've never been that guy. But when somebody falls down or somebody tries something that didn't work or that trampoline just took you a little too far, that's what I'm talking about. Because we all are the smart-ass in the moment, including me.

Has anybody caught you on video doing anything like that?
No, because I make sure that everybody keeps their phones off when I'm in the house. I'm like, "You're not putting that on the internet.” It's kind of funny because I've seen the eras change. I'm 47 years old. My kids don't know anything else, but I remember when having a phone that moved with you was crazy. I remember having a backpack and the whole thing.

It can't be easy keeping this under control, because you have five kids, right?
Five kids, yes I do, and a 5-year-old grandbaby. So it's a lot, and they always have their phones out. I tell them it's a security risk. You don't want people finding out where we live. But it's my way of being like, "I will never be on camera! You will never put me on YouTube!”

But don't they come back with, "But Daddy, you're in Kendrick Lamar's video?"
They try, they try, but I'm not falling for that. I'm like, "Look, I've been on TV all day. I don't come home to get on TV, so let's not do it."

How old are your children?
28, 24, 17, 12, and 10.

Wow, you have a 28 year old?
Yeah, we started early. She's the oldest. She's the one with the 5-year old-grandbaby. I have two out of the house and then three that are in there. It's just crazy. It's funny how time flies, but in my head I never went past 14 years old. I have kids that are older than me and that's the truth. [Laughs] They walk around and I'm like, "Dude you're too serious. Calm down." And then they’re girls, too. Girls are way more mature.  A 28-year-old girl is really 50 in her head.

Do you only have girls?
I have four girls, and my son is 10. So we hang out. We're playing with Star Wars toys. We're doing all that stuff and then all the girls are like "Oh, my gosh, leave."

You have such positive energy. Does that come from your upbringing?
It's really something you have to study. I'm not kidding; I used to get depressed. You find that you're never happy about anything, and this was happening back in the football days. I remember just pontificating and then one day I started looking at books and reading things and it was like, "Wake up! Things are actually better than you think." You know what helped me — and I'm not even kidding — it's just a simple thing but I stopped watching the news. The news, I found, would affect everything about my day. Everything would be colored. All the sadness, any little bitty thing, it would happen and all of a sudden you just feel the weight of the world. And then I decided to change this perspective. I started to realize that people don't want to hear your good news. I had to concentrate on just being good and being happy and realizing that as bad as things are, you're still here and it could be worse. Even if things are bad, things change. Things do get better. This is why I'm glad I do comedy because it tends to take people's minds off of the bad things of the day.

Like your fat suit on Brooklyn Nine-Nine!
That was so much fun. [Laughs] It just showed Terry’s sympathy weight that he had for his wife and the anxiety he's facing over his family and all this stuff. Hey, it happens. This is a real thing. People are always talking about the ladies going through it. The guys go through it too. It's the same thing.

Did it ever happen to you?
You know, I got depressed when I stopped playing football and I gained probably 20-25 pounds and I was really out of shape. I remember my friends and everybody was like, "Yo dude, what's up?" And then my wife just came up behind me one day and pinched my back fat. I was like, "Heyyy, what are you doing?" And then I got into shape quick. I was like, "You should never ever pinch my back fat again, ever."

That attitude served you well on Lip Sync Battle. Was it hard to do?
When you are singing the song that you love, it ain’t hard. If you ever look at my Lip Sync Battle, I was doing that in the mirror for years. It was effortless. There was no rehearsal. What was wild is we did the show before it aired. So it wasn't really out. I didn't know how big it was really going to be. I was just having fun, and lo and behold, it had become one of the biggest things that I'd ever done.

You also busted a move with Kendrick Lamar for his video “These Walls.”
I remember meeting him at the BET Awards. Nobody knew who he was. I was like, "That's Kendrick Lamar!" My wife was like, "Calm down, man." Even he was a little put back like, "Dude, you know who I am?" I was like, "Dude, I listen to you nonstop." We befriended each other back then and then Good Kid, M.A.A.D City came out, and I get a call about being in the video. I was like, "What are we doing? Show me what we gotta do." And it was pretty intense. I love to switch it up like that. This is one reason why I have to be happy, because there are two Terry Crewses. I'm a little bit like the Hulk in a lot of ways. It's Bruce Banner a lot, but you don't ever want to see his bad side. I'm very intense. It's kind of like I'm stuck on extremes. I'm either all good or it's all bad. I let the bad guy out in that video.