Melissa McCarthy's series "Mike and Molly" has just been renewed for a fifth season here on CBS. She's becoming a regular in the movies, too, getting laughs with her special brand of comedy, as Mo Rocca shows us in this Sunday Profile:
"How did you get to be so fearless in performance?" Rocca asked Melissa McCarthy.
"Just probably dumb," she replied. "Just probably really dumb!"
She has become one of Hollywood's leading ladies, playing roles that aren't exactly ladylike, at least not in typical Hollywood terms. And she's having fun doing it.
"If somebody's doing something and you're laughing, and at the same time you're so embarrassed for them, it's my absolute kind of favorite type of laugh," said Melissa McCarthy.
"You kind of have to be willing to act and look like a wreck in certain scenes," said Rocca.
"Yeah, I think you're supposed to be the butt of the joke."
McCarthy is redefining the A-list actress. She can play rough, she's not a size zero, and her characters come with plenty of character flaws.
"In a lot of comedies they kind of take all the problems away from the women," she said. "They give her great clothes, great hair, she almost always owns an artisanal shop, like a cheese shop in Manhattan. And the whole time I'm watching it I just think, 'How can you pay for rent? You have a Chloe bag? Like, you can't be broke.' They're charming and they just can't find a man. I would date her! Who's not dating these women?
"And then they say, 'Now, go be funny.' And I always think, 'With what? Like, there's no tools.'"
What she really doesn't like is when women in comedies are reduced to playing off men, and stripped of any actual personality.
"It's a lot of, like, 'Oh, Jim! ... Oh, Jim! ... Oh, Jim!' I always feel like she's trying to say it different ways. But what point of view do you have when nine out of ten of your lines are, 'Oh, Jim . . .' 'Oh, Mo . . . '"
McCarthy grew up on a farm in Illinois. But she developed many of her comedic tools at the Groundlings, an improvisational comedy theater company in Los Angeles.
It was there she met comedian Ben Falcone. The theater provided the perfect opportunity for the young couple to get to know each other, warts and all.
"Seeing each other as all variety of kooky characters, what a great way to see you in every possible light!" said Rocca.
McCarthy said, "It's like, whoever can look the worst and the most hideous, [yet] realistic, it kind of really would make everybody laugh. Like, if you just came out and looked so horrible, it kind of got everybody's respect. So there was a weird challenge to look your worst."
Or as Falcone explained, "Who could look the best version of their worst!"
Melissa and Ben got married in 2005.
McCarthy's first big success almost didn't happen; she was asked to star in the CBS primetime sitcom, "Mike & Molly," about two people who meet in an Overeaters Anonymous group. Initially, she was reluctant. She told Rocca her initial reaction to the show was, "No, thanks."
"I didn't want to do something that was just on a topic of weight," she said. "Not for any other reason than I just thought, 'Oh, God, I just don't find it interesting. It's not a storyline. It didn't feel like there was any where to go with it.' And then I read it and it felt like a romantic comedy."
The decision paid off with an Emmy.
But her breakout role came in "Bridesmaids," with fellow Groundlings alumni Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph. It pushed her into the top ranks of Hollywood, with an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress.
Ben has been in her last three movies. Now he's directed her in "Tammy," which they co-wrote. It's a road movie about a woman with a lot of issues. Tammy starts her week by getting fired (by Ben, of course).
"Shockingly, you're nothing like the people you play in 'Tammy,'" Rocca said.
McCarthy said. "For some reason we're always aggressively fighting each other in movies."