Some would say Donny Deutsch has it all. Money? He sold his ad agency, Deutsch Inc., in 2000, for a reported $250 million. Fame? In 2004, the creative director made the leap to TV, hosting The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch on CNBC, a success-oriented talk show, and he’s been an outspoken fixture on other shows since, popping up everywhere from NBC’s Today to Morning Joe on MSNBC. Women? He’s known a few. There was, however, one thing missing from his own bucket list: a sitcom. But Donny Deutsch also has a motto: “Just fucking go for it.” (Take note, fellas!) So he did, and he now stars in his own eponymous scripted series, Donny! (which airs Tuesdays at 10:30 p.m. EST on USA), on which the real-life Donny Deutsch, 58, is reimagined as a trashy talk-show therapist. He’s also returning to the radio booth with Dialing Donny, his noontime SiriusXM show premiering March 2, in which he’ll offer his unvarnished perspective on women’s issues like relationships, careers, and (naturally) sex.
Here, he helps us separate fact from fiction.
How did Donny! come about?
I had been doing TV for a number of years. I had my show The Big Idea on CNBC, then I was doing the “Today’s Professionals” segment on the Today show, and then I did some Morning Joe stuff. But I was kind of hitting a creative wall. I thought, “How do I break out of this?” I was with my production company, and we were talking about doing a daily talk show with a live audience. At the end of the meeting I said, “I’ve got this crazy idea…”
Is there a show that inspired yours?
Curb Your Enthusiasm was the real inspiration. I feel like an idiot even putting myself in the same sentence as Larry David, but as a genre, I would. Somebody told me it’s like a more current male Sex and the City, which I thought was interesting. It has a very urbane quality to it. But I think it is its own thing.
You play a sort of fictionalized version of yourself on Donny! Have you always been playing some sort of “Donny” character?
As an agency head, I was a guy who ended up being seen in the business as a maverick, so you start playing the maverick. On Morning Joe, I’m the guy who fights with Joe [Scarborough], who flirts with Mika [Brzezinski], who’s a little bit more liberal, who tends to be rogue. It’s not that it’s not me; it’s a presentation of me. It’s exaggerated.
You’ve called yourself a feminist. But you’re also known to be kind of a ladies’ man. How can you reconcile the two?
At my agency, nine of my 11 partners were women. I feel very protective of women. I’ve always had a lot of girlfriends, and if they ever get hurt, I want to punch people. I’ve been single a big chunk of my adult life, so of course I’ve dated. The only thing I’m not proud of, and I would never do again, is getting involved with a married woman. It ended up in the New York Post. It’s the only mistake like that I’ve ever made in my life, and I would never do it again.
You’ve always been known to have a well-developed physique, and working out is a big part of your show. Talk a bit about that.
It’s an important part of my life. I work out every day. I always thought being in good shape in business was good business. I think if you’re very successful in an intellectual enterprise and you can bring a physical appeal on top of it, it’s surprising. I also went through a tough period in my life, a divorce 11 years ago, and I put on 40 pounds. I never wanted to be that guy again. I try to do an hour of cardio five days a week, and I try to work out with a trainer five days a week, doing weights, core, and stretching.
Do you ever fight the urge to pour yourself a drink instead of working out?
I’ll pour myself a drink after the workout. Tonight I’ll go to dinner at one of my favorite Italian restaurants, I’ll have a glass of wine or a vodka, no problem. I’ll eat well. I’ll have snapper and a steak once a week, once a month a veal parm. You’ve gotta treat yourself, and then get right back on that workout.
In the second episode of Donny!, you get advice about manscaping. Does the real-life Donny manscape?
I do basic. You don’t want to go too crazy. Just make sure it’s a non-event down there.
What’s the biggest myth about Donny Deutsch?
I don’t want to say I’m a dork, but I’m a lot nerdier than people think. My personal life is not as daring as what I’ve done in my business life. If I slept with one-tenth of the women people give me credit for, I would be a pretty hip guy.