INTERVIEW: Phil Rosenthal is hoping Netflix gives him more seasons of ‘Somebody Feed Phil’

He will be at Buckhead Theatre Dec. 3

Anthony Bourdain was the Michael Jordan of food travelogue show hosts, a man possessed with a seemingly endless well of curiosity, insider food knowledge, emotional depth and philosophical musings.

Phil Rosenthal, who created the hit show “Everybody Loves Raymond,” brings an entirely different vibe to the genre as his sitcom roots inspire his hit Netflix show, “Somebody Feed Phil.” His show literally feeds off his infectious love for food and travel, his sometimes corny sense of humor and his hilarious facial expressions when he samples something exotic or especially tasty.

Credit: Netflix

Credit: Netflix

Five years and six seasons in, Rosenthal is now doing his very first theater tour to celebrate both the TV show and a new book based on said show called ‘Somebody Feed Phil The Book” packed with recipes and stories that emanated from the series itself. He comes to Buckhead Theatre on Saturday, Dec. 3, and almost all 1,800 seats are sold out.

“It’s so much fun!” said Rosenthal in a Zoom interview last week with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after doing about a dozen shows in other cities. “I love seeing the people who come out.” (He’ll sign books after the show.)

Once firmly behind the scenes on TV, Rosenthal said the idea for what would become “Somebody Feed Phil” was seeded by Ray Romano, star of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” resisting the idea of sending the cast to Italy. Rosenthal, who already loved to travel, hoped to inject that love into the real-life Romano.

Once he convinced Romano to do so, “I saw this magical transformation in my friend,” he said. “Then I thought, ‘What if I could do this for other people?’”

But it took 15 years for the idea to come to fruition in the form of a PBS reality food/travelogue show “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having.” His pitch: “I’m exactly like Anthony Bourdain except I’m afraid of everything!”

While it only lasted six episodes, the PBS version revealed how enticing Rosenthal was in front of the camera. Netflix, hungry for a light-hearted travel show, gave him a chance to sample food from around the world again for a much larger audience. And Rosenthal came up with the show title “Somebody Feed Phil.”

“It connotes a guy who needs to be taken care of,” he said. “Like your dog. In fact, people have been naming their dogs Phil so they can say that around the house.”

Rosenthal, a 62-year New York native with the accent to boot, said he manages to keep his weight from barreling out of control while taping by only eating on camera and never finishing anything he samples. (His very happy crew scarfs down the leftovers.)

“You’re seeing a week’s worth of taping condensed to less than an hour,” he said. “And I love walking in every new place I’m in. I actually gain more weight sitting at home waiting to do the show than actually doing the show.”

At the end of the most recent season six, he dedicated an entire episode to his beloved parents Helen and Max. Helen died in 2019 and Max followed two years later. They were the inspirations for Raymond’s parents Marie and Frank on “Everybody Loves Raymond.” He featured them at the end of “Somebody Feed Phil” via Skype during his first two seasons and his father alone in the next two seasons.

“From a show biz standpoint, they were the funniest things on my show,” he said. “Coming from a sitcom world, you want funny recurring characters!”

In fact, he said he’d been Skyping his parents for many years and included them in his 2010 documentary “Exporting Raymond” where he went to Russia to try to create a sitcom like “Raymond.”

“They were the hit of the movie,” Rosenthal said. “My equivalent of a postcard was Skyping home.”

He said when he picks a city to do an episode, he does research like any other tourist: the Internet, cross-referencing different websites for best restaurants. “Then I have a production company that used to be Anthony Bourdain’s production company,” he noted. “They have people all over the world who are experts and fixers who literally fix me up with my sidekicks and chefs. I trust them!”

Many of his crew members worked with Bourdain. “I am a follower,” he said. “I owe everything to Anthony Bourdain for reinventing the genre.”

Rosenthal is thrilled Netflix has given him six seasons, a milestone only a handful of shows have achieved on the streaming network to date. But without consistent ratings information, he is in the dark about prospects for more seasons.

“I have no idea right now if they’re going to say, ‘That’s enough!’” he said. “I really don’t. I’ve had this charmed and magical experience but I’m feeling a little greedy. I don’t want it to end!”

The stage show, he said, will feature a highlight reel, a talk with a moderator and Q&A from the audience. But he also gives the fans a chance to sing the show’s chipper sitcom-styled theme song by Lake Street Drive with lyrics like “A happy hungry man is traveling all across the sea and the land/ He’s trying to understand the art of pasta, pork, chicken, and lamb.”

“What I found in every location, the audience sings along with the song,” he said. “I’m taking notes which audience knows the song the best. I love it!”


IF YOU GO

“An Evening with Phil Rosenthal of ‘Somebody Feed Phil’”

7 p.m. Dec. 3. $39-$55. Buckhead Theatre, 110 Roswell Road NE, Atlanta. livenation.com.