April 12, 2008 / 2:18 AM / 10 years ago

"Tonight Show's" John Melendez aims at film career

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - It is a long way from television talk show sidekick to Hollywood movie stardom but next week John Melendez, the announcer on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” takes a step in that direction.

(L-R) Cast members John Melendez and Bellamy Young poses with director Michael DeLorenzo as they arrive for the premiere of "National Lampoon Presents One, Two, Many" in Los Angeles April 10, 2008. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

Melendez, who made a name for himself as “Stuttering John” on shock jock Howard Stern’s radio show before working on the Leno program, stars in the National Lampoon comedy “One, Two, Many,” which hits DVD shelves this coming Tuesday.

As a child, Melendez said he dreamed about acting but figured his speech impediment would prohibit him. As a student at New York University in the 1980s, however, he worked in friends’ movies and changed his perception of himself.

“For some reason, I could do it (act) in front of the camera, and I didn’t have such a hard time with the stutter,” Melendez told Reuters this week.

In the 1990s, along came the Stern show, on which Melendez was one of a cast of pranksters and sidekicks. Later he moved to Los Angeles to announce the Leno program when it begins.

In more than 15 years in show business, Melendez has had small parts on television programs including “Baywatch Nights” and “Wings” and in comedy films like “Dude, Where’s My Car?”

Absent any major roles, he wrote his own script for “One, Two, Many,” in which he portrays a man who fears he can’t fall in love and be monogamous, so he sets out to find a girlfriend who would be open to a threesome.

“In any business, if you want something you got to go get it yourself,” said Melendez, 42. “No one was going to accept me as an actor because of the ‘Stuttering John’ thing.”

Melendez said the first version of the script was finished eight years ago and he had raised some money to make it, but not enough. It was only recently revived after a friend of his found an investor to put up the money.

Early feedback has been good, Melendez said, and he has started working on a second feature film.

“We’re going to shoot it this August,” he said without a hint of a stutter. “This has never been a one-picture thing for me. I’ve always wanted to do this.”

Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Xavier Briand

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