Nick Cannon on Reviving 'Wild 'n Out': 'We're Coming Back to Take the Crown'
The "America's Got Talent" host didn't see MTV -- which ran the series from 2005-2007 -- as a good fit (it will air on MTV2), telling THR that the network now focuses more on shows like "Sixteen and Pregnant."
Nick Cannon is back in the MTV family.
It's been six years since Cannon's improv comedy favorite, Nick Cannon Presents: Wild 'n Out, left the air on MTV. Now, the producer-actor-host is bringing back a revitalized version of his series -- this time, though, on MTV sister network MTV2.
For the America's Got Talent host, the reality of reviving Wild 'n Out came after a conversation with his good friend Kevin Hart, with whom he co-starred on BET's Real Husbands of Hollywood -- a satirical comedy with Robin Thicke and Boris Kodjoe that came together quickly. The demand for a Wild 'n Out resurrection was certainly there. "People have been in talks about it for a long time, and I just had to really buckle down and say, "OK, I’m going to take the time out to actually do it,'" Cannon tells The Hollywood Reporter.
The DNA of the series remains the same, with Cannon still leading one team while a special guest captains the rival team in games ranging from freestyle rap battles to pure comedy. Wild 'n Out favorites will also return, with bold-faced names like Hart, Guy Code's Lil DuVal, Amar'e Stoudemire, Mac Miller, 2Chainz, Machine Gun Kelly, A$AP Rocky and Joe Budden dropping by.
Cannon talks to THR about bringing back the improv favorite, why it's not back on MTV and what he learned from leading the original show for four seasons.
The Hollywood Reporter: At what point was the revival of Wild ‘n Out definitely going to happen?
Nick Cannon: People have been in talks about it for a long time, and I just had to really buckle down and say, "OK, I’m going to take the time out to actually do it," so it was probably around that same time when I was sitting with my friend, Kevin Hart, and he was talking about us doing [BET's] Real Husbands of Hollywood -- how much fun it was and how fast we did it. I said, "We could do the same thing with Wild ‘n Out." So I called everybody, called in favors and brought it all together and we made it happen.
THR: How much time passed from that initial moment to the show heading into production?
Cannon: It was fairly quickly. I always tell people the show's back by popular demand. Everybody wanted to be part of it. When I actually said, "I’m going to block this time out in my schedule, this is when we've got to shoot," it rolled. From the time I said I wanted to do it, we were shooting probably two months later.
THR: Were there elements you wanted to bring back from the old show?
Cannon: Creating a destination. When you watch any of the original shows, or any real successful show like this, you want the audience to say, "Man I wish I could be there or go to that -- they look like they’re having so much fun," and that’s what we had in the first four seasons, and we definitely accomplished that in the fifth season.
THR: So the most important thing was re-creating the feeling and environment?
Cannon: Absolutely. We had a good time with it. It’s a party environment. It doesn’t feel like work; it’s a bunch of people having a great time.
THR: Did you learn anything from your experience leading the original show for so long that helped this time around?
Cannon: Yeah. If you ever come to a taping of Wild ‘n Out, I run the show. I do everything, like audience warm-up. I get out there if we don’t have [a warm-up guy]. I’m involved in everything, from catering all the way to casting. The first time around, I was learning the ropes and hadn’t really run the show before. This time around, having done almost 60 episodes, I know how to do this with my eyes closed. I knew what games worked and what didn’t work. I was doing the tapings, I was editing in my head how this is going to go. I knew how to streamline it, which allowed the work environment to be really smooth. It made it easier for me to deal with the guests and artists because I wasn’t putting them through long, treacherous hours. That’s the beauty of the show, being so raw and so in your face, but at the same time it’s not about rehearsals. It’s "whatever happens, happens." You see, "Oh wow, I cant believe they kept that in." If you were there live, that’s the sense you get when you watch it on television.
THR: Which games weren't hitting right on TV or in the room that you won’t be bringing back?
Cannon: When you come in the school of improv, you want to stretch it out and see how long you can go with it and do these full-on scenes. The way television is built now and the millennial generation, they don’t really want to sit there and watch you create an entire scene. I call that stretch comedy. Except for someone who’s a true fan of improv or part of the process and watching saying, "Oh, wow, I can see him thinking, I can see him creating"; otherwise a lot of people are not interested in that. In the earlier years when we did Wild ‘n Out, there was a lot of longform stuff we tried to stretch out, but right now fast is funnier. That’s the stuff we learned that has worked a lot better. It definitely takes a lot of talent because you have to be fast, funnier and quicker on your feet — unlike stretching and getting help from the audience.
THR: Is that one of the biggest differences now versus 2005, when the show began, that everybody expects jokes to land quicker?
Cannon: I call it the ADD generation. If you want to get their attention, you have to hit them hard and hit them fast. I think we’ve done that. But we’ve also incorporated so much stuff from social media and online, like the way we cast the show. I literally went on Twitter and asked who’s the funniest person online. It’s involving all of those brands and all those forms of content and media. I feel like Wild ‘n Out is bringing that. It’s a type of show that can adapt to the way television is structured now, because it’s event TV. You want to be able to talk about the first episode on Twitter, but at the same time you can watch it over and over again, and with some of those competition shows, you can’t really do that. It kind of checks all those boxes and lives in both worlds of being able to repeat well, but then at the same time you get to check [it out] the first time it comes home.
THR: When it was originally on MTV, it was a little ahead of its time. Now it’s a big thing to incorporate social media, for instance, into a show.
Cannon: It’s cool. People would always say that, like, "The show is so ahead of its time. I wish it was still on." Even the fact we’ve seen all the people that it launched, after the show went away: Kevin Hart, Katt Williams. These people continued to do their thing and have a huge online audience. I feel like we were the first ones to start to capitalize on that and now everybody’s doing it, so we’re coming back to take the crown.
THR: Who should we expect back over the run?
Cannon: All of the favorites. Kevin Hart is the first episode and people will enjoy having Kevin on there. But everybody, from Mike Epps, who came around and played on the first couple of seasons, Mikey Day, the best of the best from before -- and a lot of new faces who have built quite an audience since the show’s been off the air. We want to give them a chance to perform too.
THR: Was the plan always to bring the show back on MTV2 or were there discussions for it to live on MTV?
Cannon: You know, MTV wanted me to do it on MTV first, but I didn’t want to do it on MTV. I think MTV is different than it was when I was there. They do certain types of shows that are more focused on folks with commentary, [like] Sixteen and Pregnant. It is more focused for young women. If we do Wild ‘n Out, we have to go raw and go edgier. And that’s what MTV2 is doing. We were allowed to push the envelope even more on MTV2. We could go rawer and say stuff without having to worry. On MTV, you kind of have to walk a little softly, with their demographic. I’m excited to go raw and in your face.
Nick Cannon Presents: Wild 'n Out debuts July 9 at 11 p.m. on MTV2.
Sundance: On the Scene