'Masked Singer' Host Nick Cannon on Why the "Spectacular" Show Breaks Through TV Clutter

Michael Becker/FOX
Nick Cannon (right) with first-season winner T-Pain.

Cannon also discusses the first season's challenges, what he hopes to see in future seasons and whether ex-wife Mariah Carey could appear: "Make room for all the divas."

Why do you think The Masked Singer made such a splash?

Internationally, I think people were taking huge chances on shows like this. But in America, we got stuck with the pretty mundane, run-of-the-mill singing competition shows. The fact that this one had some spectacular and zany component, it was actually able to really break through.

What do you think clicked with audiences?

It's the spectacular costumes. It's the fun and being able to be a little risque and cheeky with the format without taking itself too seriously.

You have plenty of hosting experience, but what did you learn from this show? 

It was a constant reminder to only do things that bring a smile, ultimately, to myself and to others. I've hosted so many things, and some of those can just be paint-by-number, read-the-teleprompter type of jobs. I'm a person where I don't really like having jobs. I like having fun.

What was the hardest thing about season one? 

Just keeping the secrecy was probably [hardest] from the producers' standpoint — keeping the secrets from me, from the panel, from the audience, from the rest of the world.

Your own style on the show was notable. Did you feel like you had to step it up because you're standing next to all these incredible, flashy costumes?

I've always had an elaborate sense of fashion and been willing to take risks, but in some forums it's not always suitable — whether it's my head attire or my shiny shoes or my colorful suits. Sometimes people want me to tone it down. I didn't have to tone it down on this show.

Was anything said on social media that surprised you?

Sometimes, the accuracy and how quick they would guess. I was like, "Wow, these people are really good." But that's, I think, because they also have Google right next to them. We don't have the benefit of searching when we're taping.

What do you want to see in seasons two and three?

I want to hear the judges sing more. You've got some good voices up there. I would love to hear them do some renditions or even hit some notes.

You joked about your ex-wife, Mariah Carey, appearing on the show. Is there a world in which she would?

Absolutely. That's the thing — Gladys Knight was on the show. So if Gladys can do it, make room for all the divas.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

This story first appeared in a June stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.