Jade Catta-Preta has landed the job of any TV obsessive’s dreams: host of The Soup, the E! clip show poking fun at the world of entertainment.
“Sometimes I can’t even believe that I get to come into work and just talk shit about my favorite shows and that people are paying me for it. I’m like, are you sure?” she tells me breathlessly over the phone. Catta-Preta grew up watching Talk Soup—the show’s name before it was revamped in 2004—and recalls John Henson (Wipeout) being her favorite host.
“I think he’s the closest to kind of my rhythm, where like he’s just really silly, and he was really into the sketches,” she says.
Comedian Joel McHale (Community) hosted the latest iteration of The Soup, with his humor landing a little closer to snark. As beloved as he is (“He’s incredibly charismatic,” Catta-Preta remarks), a good chunk of the show’s humor in its 2004 to 2015 run relied on fatphobia and similar shaming that is thankfully becoming less socially acceptable.
When I ask how she and the writers’ room are going to grow from this, she promptly replies, “Personally, it’s never been my style of comedy to put anybody down.” She continues, “You know, there’s a lot more self-deprecation and relatability than there were before, and if something’s funny, we’ll make fun of it, there’s nothing that’s like off-kilter or off the table, but it’s just a different way of making fun of things where, we’re not really looking down on it.”
One of the focal points that Catta-Preta continually brings up in interviews is that she and the writers are coming from the perspectives of fans themselves, rather than sarcastic onlookers. She loves everything from Terrace House to Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and envisions The Soup existing in the liminal space between reality TV and reality itself.
“In the promos we hoped it would come across like we are kind of diving into the universe and it’s diving into us… You know, we might see some of the reality TV people on the show, or you might see me on their shows, and so we just, like, want to make the universe a little broader than it used to be,” Catta-Preta explains. She brings up The Carol Burnett Show as one of her influences, and it’s easy to imagine her embodying the same frenetic energy.
Catta-Preta’s skills as a comedian go far beyond her enthusiasm for sketches. As a Brazilian immigrant (she turned 12 the week she moved to the States), she recently began performing in her home country in Portuguese.
“You know, it was a little bit hard because, as fluent as I am, I still have the vocabulary of a 12-year-old, you know,” she says, “So I kind of piece things together in sort of an English mentality, so like, the punchline came at a different point… But the more comfortable I became with being conversational in Portuguese, the better it became, I was like, okay, I can tell the same joke but just tell it a different way.”
She compared doing stand-up in Portuguese to “performing with weights on,” and found the experience utterly rewarding.
“I just wanted to show kind of the experience of what it’s like to kind of be in the gray zone as an immigrant, you know,” Catta-Preta muses. “In Brazil, I’m kind of the American girl, and in America I’m kinda like the Brazilian girl, so I think a lot of people can relate to that kind of gray zone and I hope to represent that person.”
The 2020 Super Bowl halftime show, featuring electric performances from Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, brought her to tears since she’s a self-professed “sucker for people being, like, really true to their roots.” She plans on her own background informing The Soup, whether in their referencing Brazilian telenovelas or her current sign off: “Beijos bebês,” Portuguese for “kisses, babies.”
Besides hoping that fellow pop culture enthusiasts will tune in when the show kicks off on Feb. 12, Catta-Preta also hopes to reach out to fans on her Tiny Head Tour (“Bobby Lee always says I have a tiny head and I do.”), her first time traveling as a headliner.
“I want people to see that it’s not something that was given to me,” she says. “I’ve worked really hard and I think it kinda comes through when you can see my stand-up and that’s—that’s the freest I feel.”
The Soup premieres on E! on Feb. 12 at 10 p.m. / 9 p.m. central.
Clare Martin writes about comedy, music and more for Paste.