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Nikki Glaser was looking at a list of upcoming reality TV productions, searching for a project that might be a good fit for her comedic talent, when one title leapt out: Fboy Island. It immediately reminded her of MILF Island, that reality TV spoof from 30 Rock, except this was somehow real.
“I was like, ‘I want that on my IMDB page,” Glaser recalls. “This is what I want to be known for.”
On Fboy Island three single women try to choose among 24 men — half of which are secretly classified by producers as “nice guys” and the other half are devious “fboys.” Below the stand-up comedian and The Nikki Glaser Podcast host discusses her experience hosting the HBO Max “tropical prison experiment,” which launched its 10-episode debut season on Thursday.
So after your experience being eliminated first on Dancing with the Stars, were you reluctant at all to dive into another reality show?
I wanted to dive into another reality show because of my short-lived experience on Dancing with the Stars. I got to see the genre of television I enjoy the most from a different side, and it was as good as I imagined it would be. I’m still trying to get back on Dancing — I want to do a “loser” season where the first voted off gets to come back and re-compete.
So it was the catalyst for me to tell my reps to start being on the lookout for things in reality TV that I can get involved in. So much of your career as a comedian, you start out and you just like start auditioning for scripted things, but I don’t even watch scripted TV or movies. Reality TV is my favorite. And there was something really satisfying about making this and not knowing where it’s going — it reminded me a lot of stand up. There’s a slight plan when I grab the mic, but anything could happen. And I just kind of got to be myself. The more I work in this business, I just want to do things where I can be myself.
It was also one of the first jobs I’ve got where I didn’t have to pitch myself, where they were as happy to have me as I was to have them. I’ve never had that kind of relationship – romantically or in show business.
As a longtime fan of The Bachelor and Bachelorette, what surprised you about the reality of making a reality TV dating show as opposed to what you’ve seen on TV?
I thought there was going to be a lot more manipulation and lying and fake reshoots — “do that line again” — those kind of things. I was hoping it wouldn’t be that way because I want to believe what I’m seeing is real. I told the other producers, “I never intentionally lie. So if that has to happen, I’m not your girl. I know you already hired me, but you’re going to have to lie to me because I’m not going to lie to anyone else.” I was stealing myself for a seedy, behind-the-curtain situation; I’ve watched Unreal. And they were like, “Yeah, you don’t have to do that.”
But when you take away somebody’s phone, and put them on an island, and prevent them from talking to their friends, it becomes a pressure cooker for a relationship to go at light speed. These [isolating measures are designed] to keep a show secret, but they’re also advantages to making [reality TV participants feel] invested. The situations are ridiculous and completely contrived and they set the stage for people to have a rollercoaster of emotions.
Like when I was on Dancing with the Stars, I only cared about dancing – and I had never danced! When I got kicked off the show after two episodes, I didn’t know how to operate in a world where dancing wasn’t my life. That’s an example of how the environment is manipulative, not so much the people behind the scenes.
So as a producer, my biggest fear was: What if the girls don’t like any of the guys? What if one of the guys don’t like the girls? What if people don’t fall in love? Sometimes you don’t like one of three people – that’s normal. And the producers looked at me like, “You don’t understand, it’s going to be fine. It will happen. We’ve seen enough of these human experiments and they will fall in love.”
I’m still invested in all these people’s relationships. I thought there were be eye-rolling on my part about the relationships blossoming. But being friends with the girls on the show, I knew their feelings were real, whether they were sped up and a result of being isolated or not. It’s like a tropical prison experiment and the emotions are real.
During the first elimination, one of the guys whipped out a poem to read to one of the women. It looked like you were thinking a lot of thoughts right then.
I thought it was so vulnerable and so ballsy to do something so weird on the first elimination before you’ve really even getting a chance to know someone. I wanted to set the stage where we weren’t making fun of it because I thought it was so sweet. I know they’ll be mocked when it airs, but I didn’t want to judge it. I wanted all these [participants] to feel safe when they’re around me –– like I’ll make fun of them for the way they dress, but being emotional like that – that’s what I want to see out of these men. Stop putting on spray tan and gel. So I was trying to stay very connected to him and make him feel safe that he could do this.
The show mentions fboys are those men who said they were doing the show for the money. But were they any other ways producers used to determine whether to classify somebody as a “Nice Guy” or “Fboy”? Did they give them a Myers Briggs-style test to determine if they were, like, an Introverted Feeling Fboy? Because they all look like music video background actors who were discovered while standing in line at the same nightclub.
They really, really do. They all look ridiculous. I think the fboy criteria by the producers who cast the show was: Which of these men lie to women? There were some men who liked sex and have a lot of sex and weren’t looking to settle down. Does that make you an fboy? I would say “no.” It really comes down to whether you’re honest that you like to have a lot of sex and don’t want a relationship and don’t sleep with them under false pretenses. So there was maybe one or two fboys that I thought could fit into the Nice Guy category based just solely on the fact that they were honest about how much they like to have sex. But many [fboys] have left a path of destruction in their wake and have those that hate them and have felt they lied and cheated.
Did you debate your elimination catchphrase?
Yeah I did. I had nothing planned and got to the night before filming and I went, “Oh my God! I don’t have a ‘pickup your knives and go.’ I don’t have a catchphrase like ‘I’m out’ or ‘You’re fired.’ So it was a pitch session with all of my friends and people behind the scenes of what’s the funniest thing I can say. I wanted something that was ridiculous but I could say it with a lot of like seriousness. So we landed on, “Nice guy, nice try” and “f-boy, f-bye.” I feel like now I’ll be able to say that to guys in my life when I decide that we’re done.
When do we get your next Netflix special?
I can’t say who it’s going to be with, but it can be expected probably early-to-mid 2022. I’m going on a theater tour right now to lead up to the taping in November. I’m doing like 40 cities. I have a daily podcast, the Nikki Glaser podcast, that is kind of like a morning radio show podcast forum four days a week with iHeart radio. There’s an announcement soon of something else exciting coming up, but, yes, many things in the works.
For more insight into Fboy Island, read our interview with producers Elan Gale and Sam Dean.
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