Michelle Collins talks to us about her new PeopleTV show, Search History, and what we'd find on her own phone
In the year 2018, cell phones have become a device out of the wildest dreams of their Nokia 3310 ancestors. Gone are the days of simply making calls, using T9 to send a text, and playing Snake — we now use our cell phones to tweet and Instagram, look up directions, and catch up on the latest celebrity gossip.
As comedian and host Michelle Collins puts it, cell phones are essentially “an extension of ourselves.” Whether they’d like to admit it or not, most people could agree with this sentiment. Cell phones are not only devices that keep us in contact with our friends in family, they’re essentially lifelines for nearly all facets of our lives.
In a brand new PeopleTV series Search History, Collins dives headfirst into our overwhelming use of smartphones, from finding dates to hilarious and embarrassing searches. In the new series, Collins approaches random strangers — Billy on the Street-style — and asks to rifle through their cell phones, finding the most hilarious (and relatable) searches.
Collins spoke with HelloGiggles about her new show, revealing the funniest thing she saw while going through a stranger’s phone, how surprised she was that most people were down to hang over their phones, and her own boring search history.
HelloGiggles: If someone were to go through your phone, what would they find?
Michelle Collins: My phone’s actually very boring, which is I think one of the reasons why I am one of the hosts of the show — because I’m more of an observer and, dare I say, taste-maker than news-maker, if that makes any sense. In fact, I just opened it and I was googling the winners of the Kentucky Derby. This is where I’m at right now; it’s like Seabiscuit Google searches.
HG: Can you tease anything bonkers that you’ve found so far? What’s the wildest thing you can share with us?
MC: I’ll put it this way without giving too much away, because I think people should watch it and see: There was a moment in the show where a girl handed her phone over. Seemed super normal, not that this is abnormal what I’m about to say, but just average girl. Handed her phone over and we started going through it. As we were going, we just started really getting into a lot of very sexual Google searches, a lot of health Google searches, which I think is great for people to do — although if there’s something really wrong with you, WebMD obviously is not the place to go; the walk-in clinic would be a better choice. She got so embarrassed and she actually ripped the phone, because we plug each phone into a laptop in order to record what it is I’m looking at. She actually tore it out of the laptop and just took off running, which was great. I won’t tell you exactly what we found; you’ll have to watch, but it is a really funny moment.
We spoke to people from all walks of life, like a girl who had broken up with her boyfriend and had blocked his name on her phone, on all Google searches, like really was going out of her way to make it impossible for her to drunk dial him or get in touch, or even keep up with what he’s doing. The thing we have to remember is our phones are an extension of ourselves, so we use it for everything. Not just maps, but dating…I mean, that’s it. There was shopping, leaving reviews for places, our health apps, like seeing how many steps we take. Really, there are so many different angles. Everybody has something funny in their phone, whether they like it or not.
HG: When you were first working through this idea, were there any friends or family members who let you lurk through their phones as a means to test it out, or was everyone like, “No way”?
MC: Absolutely not. They called me, they said, “Do you want to host this show?” I said, “Sure,” and I was in Los Angeles talking to complete strangers. I would say the very first day we were shooting, I was so nervous honestly, and I’m a very social gregarious person, but the idea of approaching people, even with a camera crew because obviously that does make things a little bit easier and less psychopathic, but even approaching people with a camera to ask them for their phones, I was like, “Nobody’s going to agree. I don’t care how charming I am. Why would anybody agree to do that?” We weren’t offering them anything in exchange other than just being on the show.
Classic LA, almost everybody agreed. Very few people said no. I think they got a little nervous when they saw that we were plugging it into a laptop; they thought we were stealing information, which we obviously did not, but people were super open. Honestly for the most part, everybody walked away really laughing, having fun. This isn’t like a “gotcha” show where we’re looking to ruin anybody or find super embarrassing things; we were looking for funny things. There’s a difference. I think at the end of the day, people were thrilled to have been a part of it.
HG: So is there any famous person or just anyone out there whose phone you would love to be able to raid for the series?
MC: God, there’s so many people. I mean, my goodness. Who’d be the first one? I want to say like old school start, like a Jack Nicholson, but I also feel like he probably still uses a Motorola StarTAC, which would be less fun. I feel like Channing Tatum, like I want to know what’s behind the Jenna Dewan-Tatum divorce and I feel like his phone would give me a lot of clues as to what exactly went down there, because they seemed so perfect for each other and I’m very heartbroken that it just didn’t work out. Then even someone just more intellectual, perhaps like a Laura Dern, I feel like would be fun because I just adore her so much. She’s so cool to me that I feel like, what does Laura Dern talk about on her phone? I want to know Big Little Lies plot reveals before the new season comes out, things like that.
HG: I feel like it’d be interesting to see which celebrities actually google themselves and actually finding that in the search history.
MC: Yeah, that would obviously be exciting, but unfortunately we did not get any celebrities on this show. It’s just your average, lovely, fun American.
HG: What’s been your favorite part about actually bringing this to life? Was it the meeting people or just realizing that your own [searches] are more boring than you think?
MC: That’s hilarious. Well honestly, I host a morning show on Sirius XM 109 every day from 8:00 to 10:00, and my favorite thing in the world to do is talk to people. Obviously being funny while doing that is the main thing, but I really like getting to know, especially people who are maybe not so open to that. For me, the best part was, once that initial awkward question of “Can I go through your phone?” was out there, getting to know someone via their phone, there’s no better vehicle for a talk show, which is really what this is; it’s a talk show figuring people out, than their phones. It’s an unlimited resource to who somebody is. I’d say for me, that was really the most fun aspect of doing Search History.
HG: I know your radio show just started not too long ago. What’s it been like bringing that to life?
MC: Well, thank you for asking, that’s nice. It’s been honestly, and I’m not even just saying this to give you the standard Miss America answer because now that we know there’s no swimsuit competition, I will be entering next year, but it’s kind of a real dream job for me. I have to tell you, the freedom of doing radio is just so liberating, I have no words. I still go to work pretty much done for camera anyways because I was raised by an extremely glamorous mother, but they bring great guests to me. I’ve met honestly some people who I’ve looked up to my whole life, have come on the show. I interviewed Carol Burnett. There’s just been so many amazing stars coming in, not to mention I get to talk about the news, give it my twist, and also take callers from all around the show because it’s Sirius. Everybody is listening to it. It’s really honestly been one of my favorite jobs ever.
HG: Who do you consider to be your comedy heroes?
MC: Oh, that’s a nice question. Top of the list: Martin Lawrence. Not just because of the show Martin, which by the way holds up. I watch it every single morning as I get ready. His standup, not just his standup albums but You So Crazy, which is his standup movie, I know them by heart front to back. He is so brilliant, and I actually feel like he never got the credit he really deserves when it comes to his standup, forget his acting. The guy is an absolute comedic genius, but obviously Joan Rivers is, I would say, the reason I get out of bed every day. Joan to me was, ever since we lost her, I think honestly the world has absolutely just sunk down to such a dark place because she was one of the few people who could truly say what everyone was thinking, get away with it, do it so hilariously, and not to mention in real life, she was such a generous, warm soul. Joan to me is like a religion.
HG: How do you hype yourself up?
MC: Well here’s my own disease, is that I’ve sort of always[like this, which you can imagine is very exhausting for my friends and family. But I was raised by an extremely funny woman, my mother Judy. We truly, our currency is just making people laugh and really trying to make everybody like us, which you can imagine backfired from time to time, but for the most part, really I just enjoy pleasing people, I guess? This is like the saddest answer I’ve ever given in my career.
I just enjoy making people laugh. I get a thrill out of it, I like it. I’d say for the most part, getting up in front of an audience, that’s the hardest part. Then once I’m up there, it all kind of happens naturally. My standup for the most part is improvised, like I’ll tell stories but I don’t really write jokes in that way. It’s much more of a free-flowing kind of thing, and I really feed off of the audience’s energy. When you have an amazing crowd, the show is just truly magical for me, and I know that that sounds so cheesy but it’s really true.
HG: What career advice do you have that you think works for both being in comedy and holding an office job?
MC: Oh, that’s a tough one. That’s tough off the top of the head. I’ve been up since 5:30 AM. Okay, I have a good answer. Are you ready? I came up with one. Honestly, rolling with it. Listen, I’ve had office jobs where I truly was like, “What is happening?” Like real 9-to-5 jobs where I was treated like absolute crap by everyone, and oftentimes in comedy that happens too. It is a job, so I would just say being able to, this is going to sound kind of funny, but rise above the garbage.
I think it’s just great advice in life in general. Try to kind of avoid any toxic people, and I say that for both the comedy world and for your working world. If there’s any way at all, because sometimes you have a toxic boss that obviously you can’t avoid, but just getting away from the toxic will absolutely make your life just chef’s kiss perfect. It’s really, really hard to do but once you get to that place, you feel a weight lifted. It’s just like “Oh my God, I’m so happy.” I think of some of my bosses and I’m like, “These people are true nightmares,” and I’m thrilled that I don’t deal with them any more, Meaghan.