The TV writer — whose new book Do You Mind If I Cancel? is out now — shares the ins and outs of his royal family parodies
On any given day, Gary Janetti’s fans scroll through his latest Instagram comments and see that his pal Lisa Rinna has chimed in with her typical short note: “Gary.”
It’s so ubiquitous on Janetti’s content that the cheeky TV producer and writer couldn’t help but include “Gary” as Rinna’s one-word review on the sleeve of his new book, Do You Mind If I Cancel? (Things That Still Annoy Me), which debuts today.
“You know, the truth is, Lisa and I, for at least the first year, we never even discussed it,” Janetti, 53, tells PEOPLE of Rinna’s go-to comment. “It just kind of came organically when she started commenting. I think she uses my name in different ways to show different emotions. Either she’s faux-shocked, or she’s chiding me, or she’s, you know, being a little coquettish about it, or she’s being faux-outraged.”
It’s been more than two years since Janetti’s first royals-themed parody popped onto his Instagram page on Sept. 8, 2017. The image features Prince George shaking his teacher’s hand while being accompanied by his father Prince William on his first day of the school year. “You curtsy lower tomorrow if you want to keep your f—ing job,” the caption jokingly reads.
“I just happened to see them online, and I thought [Prince George] was so expressive; the pictures themselves made me laugh because of how expressive he was,” recalls Janetti. “And I thought, ‘Oh, he’d be fun to write a caption for.’ And I did. And that was the start of it. Then it just kept evolving from there.”
Though Prince George is only 6 now, Janetti is optimistic that the future king of England will someday look at the posts through a comedic lens.
“I would hope that he would find it super funny, and have a sense of humor about it, and obviously see that everything is meant … it’s ridiculous, and it’s all meant with affection, you know?” he says. “And I would hope he would have a sense of humor about it and think it was funny.”
Today Janetti has more than 838,000 followers thanks in part to posts like his Succession video parody from August. Including clips of Queen Elizabeth, Prince Harry, Prince William, Kate Middleton, Prince Charles, Meghan Markle and more, the video is styled like the opening sequence to HBO’s Emmy-winner family drama. He came up with the idea after growing “obsessed” with the machinations of the fictional Roy media dynasty in Succession, which the TV veteran — who has written and produced hits like Will & Grace and Family Guy — now calls his “favorite show on television.”
“After that one, I was like, ‘How do I top this?’ ” Janetti says of the Succession parody. “That is my favorite one.”
“Louis has entered the fray. Louis is now a character in the world. He is much more angry than George,” says Janetti, joking about Louis’ adorable photos. “He’s definitely a different kind of royal that we haven’t seen before. He gives so much, because he was so expressive, that I couldn’t not start writing him. So, he’s in the universe too, speaking.”
In his book Do You Mind If I Cancel?, Janetti turns the focus to his own youth, exploring his formative years as he struggled to find his life’s purpose as a gay man in New York.
“It’s autobiographical comic essays from my childhood and young adulthood — that period in my life before I had anything figured out and was trying to figure out how somebody figures out things,” he tells PEOPLE.
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From his desperation to see Patti LuPone in the flesh (“I don’t have a child,” writes Janetti, “but I can’t imagine the excitement on the day of its birth could come anything near to what I feel” heading to see Evita on Broadway) to his love of technology (“I wish there were a way to slash at least another 50 percent of all human interaction”), Do You Mind If I Cancel? is a 159-page rollercoaster ride through the mind of the writer behind quotable characters like Stewie Griffin and Jack McFarland.
Of particular hilarity is his chapter “Letter to My Younger Self,” in which Janetti tells the Janetti of yore, “Go up to people. Ask their name. Go home with them. Don’t call them the next day. YOU be the jerk.”
A first-time book author, Janetti highlights the differences between writing for TV characters vs. sharing his truth.
“It was the first time I was writing personally about myself, as opposed to writing through a character, which previously it would always be either I’m writing Stewie and Brian [from Family Guy] or Jack and Karen [from Will & Grace],” says Janetti. “You have a bit of a distance — you’re protected by the [characters]. And when it’s just you, there’s a lot more vulnerability there. That was a new thing where I just had to say, ‘Well, I’ll just go with this.’ “
After Janetti finished the book with his editor, his husband Brad Goreski, the celebrity stylist and former Fashion Police host, gave it a read while they were on vacation over the summer.
“He was finding things out about me that perhaps he hadn’t known previously, and I think that that was kind of neat after we’ve been together for 18 years,” says Janetti. “There are things that I had written about that I hadn’t necessarily talked about with him. Or anybody!”
Ever the jokester, Janetti adds, “That’s my advice after you’ve been together almost 20 years: Write a book about your life, and that’s how you’ll learn new things about each other.”