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Cooking, comedy and more with Nicole Sullivan

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Contestant Nicole Sullivan as seen on Food Network's "Worst Cooks in America: Celebrity Edition." Contestant Nicole Sullivan as seen on Food Network's "Worst Cooks in America: Celebrity Edition." (Photo courtesy of Television Food Network/Scott Gries)

Actress talks 'Worst Cooks in America Celebrity Edition 2'

Since her mid-90s days on 'Mad TV' where she beat out hundreds for a coveted role on the sketch comedy to her role as Holly on 'King of Queens,' Nicole Sullivan has established herself as one of TV's most recognizable funny ladies.

Lately, Sullivan can be seen on the ABC comedy 'Black-ish' and, since September 14, on the Food Network's 8-week culinary boot camp, 'Worst Cooks in America - Celebrity Edition 2.' Hosted by chef Anne Burrell and TV personality Rachael Ray, the show airs each Wednesday at 9 p.m. on the Food Network.

During a phone interview last week, Sullivan told me that prior to appearing on the show, she considered herself confident when it came to cooking.

'Before the show, I would have rated by abilities at an eight. After the show, I would rate them at about two,' she said with a laugh.

'It's a show where they school you,' said Sullivan. 'Chef Anne and Rachael Ray teach you to cook and my job is to eliminate the other contestants and become the most improved cook.''

Sullivan said that her appearance on the show was a 'lesson in humility.'

'I didn't have to pretend to be a bad cook,' she said with a laugh. 'But it's so fun. Seriously - this show has more laughs than you think would be possible on a cooking show.'

Trying to knock Sullivan out of contention is a varied group of celebrity amateur cooks, including Mindy Cohn, Barbara Eden, Loni Love, Matt Dallas, Tommy Davidson and Mike 'The Situation' Sorrentino.

Of that group, who does Sullivan consider her fiercest competitor?

'I would have to say Mike Sorrentino,' she said. 'He played dumb and pretended that he couldn't cook but he's really good. He is just awesome in the kitchen.'

There were moments on the show, Sullivan said, that had her reconsidering her participation.

'I don't want to give too much away, but there's one point where they tell me I have to harvest the cheek of a fish. You seafood people in Maine, you might know what I'm talking about. It was as disgusting as I thought it might be (laughs).'

As a mother of two boys, Sullivan says she's got some tough critics in her own kitchen.

'They're seven and nine and they hate everything,' she said (while feigning gagging sound effects). 'They make vomit noises all the time. I say Make one more noise and I'll send to your room.' Actually, they do like my panko chicken and they like steak. If I try to add spinach to something, forget it.'

Sullivan's goal is to make it to the eighth and final episode of the season to win $50,000 for her chosen charity.

'I'm supporting Bianca's Furry Friends through the North Shore Animal League,' she said. 'I love animals and they are a great no-kill shelter. They are building a cage-free habitat for cats.'

We'll have to watch and wait to see if Nicole wins that money for the animal shelter. In the meantime, she can be seen on ABC's 'Black-ish.'

'I get to be the crazy white neighbor character and it's just a blast,' Sullivan said. 'The cast on 'Black-ish' is hilarious and the kids are incredible. I've been in this business for a while and I've worked with a lot of kid actors. For the most part, you're like Oh boy' (laughs), but these kids are so fantastic, so polite and professional.'

Sullivan first appeared on our radar on the Fox sketch comedy series 'Mad TV' in the fall of 1995. She was also part of a recent revival of the series that aired on The CW. Of the original show's run, she has fondest memories of what she calls the more 'random' sketches.

'I really liked things like 'The Literally Sketch' that I did with Mike McDonald,' she remembered. 'We played characters who constantly misuse the word literally.' I also loved playing Britney Spears, Hillary Clinton, Meg Ryan and Drew Barrymore it was just so fun.'

As she looked back on her five seasons as Holly the dog-walker (and occasional walker of Arthur, played by Jerry Stiller) on the Kevin James-led CBS comedy 'King of Queens,' she told me why the show will always have a special place in her heart.

'I met my husband (actor Jason Packham) on that show. He was Kevin James's assistant. I loved doing 'King of Queens,' but the hardest job in the world is not to laugh when doing scenes with Jerry Stiller. When he would forget part of a line, he would still be so in the moment and so sincere. He would deliver it with all of his craziness. Inside, I would be going No, no, don't laugh - he's going to do something weird' and it took all of my energy not to laugh.'

A big fan of our state, Sullivan hopes to return soon.

'Oh my God, I love Maine. I want to retire there,' she said. 'In general, I just want to retire, but especially to Maine.'


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