Katie Nolan Talks Slamming Rick Reilly, Teaching Regis How to Use the Internet and Why She Doesn't Have a Wikipedia Page

By Mike Cardillo

During Super Bowl week Nolan found herself all over the sports blogosphere for her first-round TKO of ESPN’s Rick Reilly after he called Philbin, “the little guy in the makeup.”

Wednesday The Big Lead caught up with Nolan by phone from New York to talk about the Reilly slam, what it’s like transitioning from the Internet to television and the best way to deal with online haters.

TBL: We’ll start off with sort of a two-part question, how do you feel being the only person on Crowd Goes Wild who, I don’t think, has a Wikipedia page and what exactly does being a “YouTube Sensation” entail?

KN: First of all are you sure (CGW co-host) Michael Kosta has a Wikipedia page? Now I’m extra offended. (laughs) It’s funny you should ask that because the other day someone created a (Wikipedia) page for me and it immediately got deleted, which feels worse than if you don’t have one at all because it’s like, not only do you not have one but someone tried to make it and Wikipedia was like, ‘who?’, and deleted it.

I actually like it better that way because I’ve found I can screw up a lot more and it won’t come back to me because nobody has any idea who I am. … Michael Kosta having a Wikipedia page, I still can’t believe that. I have to look it up when we get off the phone.

What does being a YouTube sensation entail? I really hate that term. I think it’s just the nicest way of saying we found this girl online without it sounding offensive that I’m not anybody important . . . but I’m not anybody important.

TBL: How would you explain Crowd Goes Wild to, say, a family member at Thanksgiving or somebody who isn’t familiar with the show?

KN: The quick pitch I give is it’s sports meets entertainment but really the best explanation for it is it’s a sports panel show but the panel is made up by a bunch of people you wouldn’t expect to be on a sports panel show. It figures itself out as the hour goes on. It gets progressively weirder as the hour goes on. We all sort of, I guess, discover the show as we’re making it.

TBL: Let’s talk about the Rick Reilly thing from a couple weeks ago that got a lot of play on blogs like ours and across the web. Did you expect that to happen?

KN: No. To be honest not at all. I was at (Super Bowl) media day running around. It was a crazy day, I think it was my birthday. I got back to the studio and someone asked if I heard what Rick Reilly said about Regis (CGW co-host Regis Philbin). I was like, oh god, I used to read Rick Reilly in the back page of Sports Illustrated. Really? Really, that happened? I didn’t think (the clip) was going to go crazy. I’ve done similar things before and it didn’t go anywhere. This one did and blew up quick. I was very surprised.

TBL: Why do you think guys like Rick Reilly, Chris Berman, guys of that ilk who a lot of people grew up reading and respecting are now such targets for scorn on the Internet? Why do you think they’ve morphed into these punching bags that people seem to viscerally dislike?

KN: It’s one of those things, if you’ve been around long enough the more you do, the more people have to criticize. Every time someone has a 15-year career they have a lot more than someone who’s been around for five years. These guys have been around forever. Also you have to sympathize with anyone who’s been doing it that long because you have to keep reinventing yourself to stay relevant. There are going to be people who can’t adapt as well as others. In the case of Rick Reilly, he’s trying to figure it out, but once there’s a misstep it’s easier to criticize them. Plus he’s a name people recognize, everybody talks about the people everybody knows because they can relate.

TBL: You mentioned people reinventing themselves. You work with Regis on Crowd Goes Wild and he’s managed to stick around for decades. What’s something about Regis that when you got into this show you never would have expected?

KN: That’s a really good question. What surprised me the most about Regis is he treats everyone around him with respect. I’m not saying I expected him to be disrespectful, but for a guy who is Regis Philbin, who could easily show up to the show and be there for five minutes, do the show and not want to talk to anyone after. He is like a friend of ours. He’s been doing this so long he could easily not have paid any attention to any of us. He’s met my boyfriend. He’s met Georgie’s (Thompson) boyfriend. He asks us about them when they’re not around. He’ll come into the dressing room before the show and ask how are things. He’s very much involved in our lives. He’s just such a nice guy. It was weird to meet someone you’ve watched on tv and then you find out the person he is on TV is exactly who he is in real life. I’ve never met anyone like that.

TBL: So is that why you jumped to his defense?

KN: We told him it had happened and he was like, ‘Oh you know everyone is going to talk about Regis. I’ll let it blow over. Let’s not say anything.’ And I’m like, ‘No I’m going to say something.’ He then went to the producers before the show and said he wasn’t comfortable with me doing that, I don’t want her to get attacked. He wanted it to blow over. Everything would be fine. ‘She doesn’t have to do this.’ When they told me that, I was like, now we definitely have to do it. It was so thoughtful for him to look out for me for such a little thing and, like I said I didn’t plan for it to go all over the Internet.

I don’t think people should hate, hate, hate Rick Reilly. He’s a human. He actually sent Regis a personal apology letter that Regis just brought in the other day. He’s not a bad guy. When Regis was looking out for me, I was determined to go for it.

TBL: Obviously a lot of what you do is tied to, for lack of a better term, “Internet culture.”How do you strike a balance between laughing at something and laughing with something?

KN: The hardest thing for me with the Internet stuff is that you want to stay connected to your fans because they’re the people who got you to where you are. They’re the ones who’ve been watching my YouTube videos since there were only 10 of them. You feel like you owe them something because honestly if it weren’t for them, you wouldn’t be where you are but you also get on this different level when you’re on television. Everyone is like, ‘don’t respond to this’. ‘Don’t interact with people.’ What I’ve found very difficult to grasp is straddling the Internet world and the television world. You kind of have to do it on your own and figure it out on your own what you can do and what you shouldn’t do. It’s tough. I’m only eight months in and it’s very tough to grasp.

TBL: Twitter is probably your lifeblood in a lot of ways. Is it mostly positive for you? How are you able to tune out the inevitable negativity that comes with the territory?

KN: I’ve been very lucky. Most of my interactions with people are really positive. It is the Internet so you do get some people who say some things about your boobs or say you’re pretty but shut your mouth or get back in the kitchen.

The beauty of the Internet is that although you can hear everything people say you also get to see some actual criticism about stuff you might not have noticed, like I should stop fidgeting with a pen when I talk. It might be underrated, what you can learn from people who watch you.

TBL: Do you have an example of something you picked up?

KN: Someone said, in the first few weeks on  TV, that that it was very obvious when I read off the teleprompter. I’ve never done this before so it should have been obvious but it’s one of those things to keep in your mind when you’re doing the show. There are lessons to be learned. But yes, there are some people who are just going to be awful and say nasty things. I usually like to favorite those tweets so people know that I see it.

What I’ve learned from (CGW co-host) Jason Gay is that when people say things to you or criticize you, maybe not so much on Twitter since it’s a public forum, but if people say something to you and you write them a response: I’m sorry you feel that way, thank you for watching the show, they do a complete 180. Then they’re like, ‘no, no, no it’s not bad. I didn’t think you’d see that. You really are great and I support you. Keep doing what you’re doing.’ It’s a complete 180. The only thing that sucks is if you do it on Twitter they think it’s a public spectacular and it becomes an argument. If you find a way to respond to people personally it changes their feelings.

TBL: Do you like Internet, meme-type humor? Is there a place for that on TV?

KN: It’s tough, right? Everyone on TV is trying to tap into the Internet and its value. You run the risk of taking something that’s online that’s really authentic. It comes off as very forced on TV. If you took memes or took like AMA on Reddit and all that stuff and try to put it on TV sometimes it comes off as being too obvious. ‘Hey look at us, we’re plugged in!’ I’m really conscious of that, especially on our show because I am the youngest one who has pretty much grown up with the Internet era around me. Some people are like, ‘It works on the Internet, let’s try it.’ I don’t know anything about what works on TV but I do know a couple a years ago I was just a person on the Internet who if I saw that I would be like, ‘What are you doing you’re so out of touch!?!’ It’s tough to cross the two. We’re trying to figure that out.

TBL: How much does Regis go on the Internet or does he leave it all to you?

KN: My god, he wants to understand so badly, but he just doesn’t get it which I completely understand why he wouldn’t. He doesn’t understand the concept at all. He’ll say, ‘Katie I hate when the newspaper, the Wall Street Journal Sports section, something, doesn’t have a sports section on a Sunday. So on a Saturday if Notre Dame plays and I want to read what happened with the score I can’t find the score because it’s not in the paper.’ I’m like Regis, that’s what the Internet is for and he goes, ‘Do they have those on there?’ That was the most genuine answer. He doesn’t even know you can find scores for Notre Dame football on the Internet. He doesn’t get what it means, at all.

I tried to explain it to him. He asked how long it would take and I said in order to grasp all of it we could spend 15 minutes after the show for like two weeks. He was like ‘excuse me,’ He doesn’t have the time. He’s 82. To learn something new, for what? He has people who can do it for him. He’s trying Twitter. We’ve got him on there. He’ll just keep typing even after he hits 140 characters. You have to try to coach him. He thinks he has to reply to everyone who @ replies him.

TBL: Have you ever been star struck on the show by a celebrity?

KN: Star struck? The most was probably Billy Crystal and the cast of The League, which sounds stupid but it was early of me being on TV and meeting people and I’ve been a fan huge of the show. When I first met them I sounded like an idiot.

TBL: You didn’t ‘Shiva Blast‘ them, did you?

KN: I was told to but I didn’t want to come off as that super fan. Everybody looks at me like I’m on TV so you’re cool, but I’m not cool. It was embarrassing.

Some of the people who were cooler than I expected? Key and Peele were super nice, but I expected that. They were so so nice. Dustin Penner was really nice. Mike Trout was really cute. His parents were there so he kept looking over to his mom and she gave him the thumbs up. You forget how young he is.

TBL: You’re eight months into being on TV. Is it what you’ve expected? No? A little bit of both? Someone who was basically Internet only to go to a national show, five days a week, how does that strike you when you think about it?

KN: People say it all the time and you think it’s a (b.s.) answer, but it happens so fast now, my daily schedule, there’s no time to sit and think, whoa. When I have days off I’m so grateful. When you’re busy, you’re busy. It’s cool stuff, but you still feel super busy. I’m running around all the time trying to get stuff done. Sometimes we’ll have a week off and I’m like, ‘ho-ly (crap)’ in the last week I’ve met four Hall of Famers, I was on TV for this many hours, I’ve hung out with Regis. It just hits you. It’s crazy. Right now it’s so busy and so much work to go into it. I guess I’m just trying to make sure I don’t do anything to (mess) up too bad. I’m so grateful and so happy but I’m one of those people who gets very stressed out when she’s busy.

People are like, ‘you have the coolest job why are you so stressed?’ and it’s a lot. I know how lucky I am to have gone from where I was to where I am now. There’s no doubt in my mind I know exactly how lucky I am. The hardest part is getting noticed and now that I’m in the position where I am or could be, I’m just working really really hard because there are people who will say, ‘Oh you were on YouTube, you deserve to be on TV.’ And you’ve to to work to prove that, no no, I’m here because I should be here, I just got lucky in the actual getting here.

TBL: This will be the last one. Do you set aside time to get away from the Internet, from Twitter, or is it 100 percent locked in?

KN: When I pay attention, when I’m actually conscious of how much I’m looking at a screen, that’s when I have a moment. Okay, you’re sitting on your bed with the TV on mute and you’ve got your laptop open. You’re on your cell phone and your iPad is next to you. Let’s turn everything off for a second and just sit. It’s really hard because then you’ll get a text message or phone call. It’s really hard to shut off. Usually when I get home from work I will just sit for about five minutes and I find I get so anxious. It’s awful, right? (laughs) We’re awful people nowadays. You should shut everything off and go outside. What are you doing?