Melissa McCarthy, Ben Falcone

Melissa McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone, cast members in "Bridesmaids," pose together at the premiere of the film, Thursday, April 28, 2011, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Chris Pizzello

The overwhelming box-office success of the movie "Bridesmaids" has brought great reviews for its cast members, including two with Carbondale ties.

Ben Falcone and his wife, Melissa McCarthy, both have roles in the film and Melissa, who has the larger role, is keeping busy on the talk-show circuit promoting it, while Ben is "babysitting," he said. Many of the shows are featuring a clip from the film showing Melissa and Ben in an encounter aboard a plane, where "she hits on me," Ben said.

Melissa's character, Megan, is the bridegroom's sister - the bridesmaid nobody particularly wanted to invite into the wedding party. She believes Ben's character is an air marshal.

"It's weird to see that on TV," Ben mused.

Ben, the son of Steve and Peg Falcone of Carbondale, has been acting since he was a youngster. Melissa was born in Plainfield and attended Southern Illinois University for one semester.

When the couple visited in Carbondale, Melissa recalled that she once had some good times in the Lost Cross house, just across the street from the Falcone home. "How great is that, to realize that you once might have been passed out on the lawn of your future in-laws?" Steve Falcone said with a laugh.

He laughs at the "overnight success" label some recent stories are giving to the couple, who have two daughters, 4-year-old Vivian and 1-year-old Georgette. Ben and Melissa met at Groundlings, the legendary Los Angeles performing group. Other Groundlings alums include Kristen Wiig, Lisa Kudrow, Will Ferrell, and others who have gained fame.

"Melissa has been in the business 15 years," Steve said. She's currently starring as Molly Flynn in TV series "Mike and Molly," which has been picked up for another year, and spent seven years on "Gilmore Girls" as chef Sookie St. James, best friend of Lorelai Gilmore. She also played Dena on "Samantha Who?" another sitcom, for a couple of years, and recently sold a pilot for a new series.

She's done standup comedy, has acted in dozens of films and TV shows, even provided the voice of DNAmy on three episodes of "Kim Possible."

Ben, too, has been making a living as an actor and writer for years. He began performing at Carbondale Community High School and doing community theater in Southern Illinois. He and his brother, Flynn, used to perform at First Night, the annual New Years Eve celebration in Springfield, acting in plays and sketches with their dad.

He majored in speech communication at the University of Illinois. When he graduated, he headed for Los Angeles. He waited tables for years to augment his earnings as an actor.

Perhaps his most recognizable role was on "Joey," the spin-off sitcom about a "Friends" character. He played Joey's neighbor, Howard, a role that won him recognition in one publication as a "scene stealer of the year."

"I like Howard. He's unfortunately a very sweaty, desperate version of me," Ben joked in an interview by The Southern several years ago. He's also had roles in "According to Jim," the series starring SIUC alum Jim Belushi, "Yes, Dear," "Bones," "Sons of Tucson," "My Name Is Earl" and "Gilmore Girls," among dozens of other roles.

Ben and a friend, Damon Jones, wrote scripts and all the songs for "The Looney Tunes Show" on TV. "We've written 17 or 18 songs that are in the 26 episodes," Ben said. Ben also provides the voice of the chicken hawk who wants to eat Foghorn Leghorn, he said with pride. Jones provides the voice of Foghorn Leghorn. Fred Armisen of "Saturday Night Live" is the voice of Speedy Gonzalez, Ben added. "There's a two-minute song in almost every episode. It's a blast," he said.

While Melissa was racing from talk show to talk show with other "Bridesmaids" actresses, Ben was "babysitting and doing Looney Tunes songs and writing."

"She's doing very well," he said of his wife. "She somehow finds time to be a great mom and still be a nut. She has the energy of seven people."

Melissa soon will start shooting next season's "Mike & Molly." It's a great schedule, with her working from 9 to 4 most days, with "shoot nights" running longer.

Ben said he "has my fingers crossed on a few future projects, both writing and acting. The longer I'm out here the more people I find to do writing and acting with," he said. "I have an incredibly motivated group of friends."

He and Melissa knew most of the "Bridesmaids" cast members and producers before they began the film, which made them comfortable in improvising in many of the scenes.

"Melissa and Annie (Mumolo, a co-writer and co-producer on the film) are writing a movie together and have sold it," he said. It's based on a story the three wrote based on an idea of Ben's.

Though he finds the publicity surrounding "Bridesmaids" "a little bit of a hoot," Ben said "As an actor you think about what's ahead, not what's past."

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