When Reba McEntire was ushered into the Kennedy Center Honors earlier this month in Washington — a ceremony airing Wednesday evening on CBS — she had the assistance of a Minnesota bestie.

Melissa Peterman played the country music legend’s nemesis on the long-running sitcom “Reba.” She pays a tender tribute to her friend during Wednesday’s telecast, which also includes performances by Kelly Clarkson, Kristin Chenoweth and Brooks and Dunn.

Peterman, who got her first break as a talkative hooker in the Coen brothers’ “Fargo,” chatted by phone last week, a few days before flying back home to St. Paul for the holidays. She dished dirt on getting the future U.S. House speaker to laugh, serenading Cyndi Lauper and scheming about how she might get into the elite Kennedy Honors club herself.

Q: How did you wind up getting a chance to present?

A: As soon as I knew she was being honored, I knew I wanted to be there desperately. It’s my favorite awards shows of all time. I let them know I’d pay for my own ticket. I’ll drive. I’ll valet. And then I got an invite to help out. It was beyond my wildest dreams.


Q: You’ve presented at other events. How was this different?

A: It’s completely unlike anything else I’ve ever done. The coolest part was the state dinner the night before. I found out I had to make a little speech. Just raising my glass in front of a mix of politicians and celebrities was nerve-racking. You don’t do that at the People’s Choice Awards.

While I was on the podium, I did ask Nancy Pelosi if she would join my book club. I said that I thought she’d bring a lot to the table. She thought it was a hoot, or so I was told.


Q: What was it like backstage during the ceremony?

A: I cried a lot. I wanted to make Reba proud. At one moment backstage, the Schuyler Sisters were warming up as part of the tribute to “Hamilton.” I felt like I should give them money, even though I’ve already sacrificed my child’s college fund to see “Hamilton” on Broadway three times.

I kind of had my own dressing room, but I crashed Kristin Chenoweth’s space. We have a tradition of making videos where I carry her on my back. It’s one of our favorite things to do. She’s tiny. I always tell her she has more talent per square inch than anyone in the business.


Q: Did you ever get star-struck?

A: Just being near Cher was incredible. Cyndi Lauper, who was there to perform for her, was delightful. I walked into an elevator backstage, saw her in there — and then backed away. I took the stairs. It just felt like she should have the elevator to herself and not have some giant blonde lady staring at her. Later at the hotel, my husband and I sang “True Colors” to her.


Q: Did you get to spend any time with Reba after the show?

A: At the hotel, we made her let us try on the ribbon and medal. I think she was absolutely overwhelmed. It was difficult for her to just sit back and let other people perform and hear them tell her how much they love her. But I think she enjoyed every second.


Q: Has there been talk about bringing the “Reba” TV show back?

A: It bubbles up a lot. I feel like everyone would love to do it. I know I would. It’d be really fun to get on the reboot train.


Q: In the meantime, you’ve been doing guest appearances on sitcoms like “Young Sheldon.” You’ve also been killing it on game shows. There’s talk that Alex Trebek may retire from “Jeopardy!” Interested?

A: I can grow a mustache! Or let’s just say I would. And I want a skinny mic like the one from “Match Game.” If you’re ever on a game show, you’ll want me as your partner because I really want you to win.

I missed the category “Things You Can Inflate” on “The $100,000 Pyramid” and still feel awful about it. My friends tease me about it by tossing out clues. Maybe by 2040, the Kennedy Center Honors will finally recognize the stress level of being a game-show player and let me in.