Johnny Sanchez and Bobby Lee, together again on Fox's 'MADTv'

Rick Bentley
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

SANTA MONICA, Calif. - "MADTv" co-stars Johnny Sanchez and Bobby Lee are seated at opposite ends of one of the arcade games located on the Santa Monica Pier. They are chomping at the bit to start rolling small balls into a series of numbered holes. A mechanical horse will move along its path depending on the amount of points each registers with a roll.

In less than a minute, the game is over. Both comedians have been beaten by a blond woman in a dress so tight you can count her freckles. Considering the year Sanchez and Lee have had, this is a rare defeat.

Sanchez turned his first season on the Fox Network late-night comedy show into an American Latino Media Arts (ALMA) Award nomination. The award recognizes excellence by Latinos in a variety of entertainment category. Not only is Sanchez up for outstanding performance by a male in a television series but he also was part of the "Payaso Comedy Slam" in the running for the outstanding comedy series category.

The awards show airs at 8 p.m. EDT Friday on ABC. And Sanchez starts his second season on the Fox comedy show when the new season of "MADTv" launches at 11 p.m. Saturday.

Sanchez says the 13th season of "MADTV' will return to a more familiar look. For 11 seasons the series was shot on a soundstage in front of a studio audience. Last year about 80 percent of the material was shot in advance. The production will go back to the original format.

"So I really didn't know the difference between how the show has been shot," Sanchez says during a break in his game-playing. "Some of the cast members were saying last season was a lot more difficult because we were always moving from location to location."

Sanchez prefers to work in front of a live audience because of his years on the road performing at comedy clubs. And despite being part of a network show for a year, Sanchez still gets recognized more for his stand-up work than "MADTv."

Sanchez expects this year of "MADTv" to be bigger and better. Undoubtedly it will be bigger. Last year's schedule was cut short because of the writer's strike.

That Sanchez and Lee are hanging out together is no surprise to anyone who knows the comics. Lee suggested to producers that Sanchez would make a good addition to the late-night comedy show. The two also spent weeks together in a mobile home traveling Middle America for a series of video shorts they called the "Rice and Beans Tour."

"I have known Bobby for 13 years now. He and I met at the Comedy Store on Sunset," Sanchez says. "The tour got mixed reviews among fans. Some people were asking for more and then I would run into fans of the show who thought the videos were too much reality-ish."

No matter the reaction, both comics enjoyed being on the road together. Lee doesn't take credit for Sanchez being picked as a cast member. He says all he did was mention his name.

"He did it all himself. He had to audition. But I was championing him all the way. I love him," Lee says.

But the days of the pair working together on the Fox show could be nearing an end. Lee has filmed what could become his own series on Comedy Central.

"I am going back for this season, my eighth season. I will find out during the season whether or not my show has been picked up. If it is, then I will probably leave 'MAD,'" Lee says.


"The ALMA Awards," 8 p.m. EDT Friday, ABC

"MADTv," 11 p.m. EDT Saturday, Fox





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