Season 19 of Wild ‘N Out is back. The cultural phenomenon has ushered in a new wave of talented comedians and actors who remain committed to the improv show while embarking on their separate journeys in entertainment. Without Wild ‘N Out, the ascension of the likes of DC Young Fly, Karlos Miller, B. Simone and Jess Hillarious wouldn’t be a thing.
And without Nick Cannon at its helm giving these rising stars a chance to shine, none of it would be possible. Ahead of the show’s premiere, Shadow and Act spoke with Cannon about the show’s growth, staying power, the talented cast and more. And he’s just getting started.
Congratulations on season 19 of Wild ‘n Out, which is a huge deal. What would you contribute to the show’s staying power to?
People just love the show. It is a family-friendly show. It’s amazing to see kids of all ages, all the way to grandparents, talking about how much they love the Wild ‘N Out games. There is the energy of this current generation where people are spending more time together, and they’re doing things together. And while that’s always been that type of vibe we are on – whether you play in the classroom with your friends, at a family reunion with your family – I can’t even take credit for any of this because it is the talent that keeps coming through on this show. From the DC Young Fly to Kevin Hart, to Katt Williams, to Pete Davidson – everybody kind of launched their movement from this platform [and] the talent just keeps on coming.
Do you feel as if the show gets its just due in terms of being really the only show that’s lasted this long within our culture in sketch comedy and improv in the way that other shows like In Living Color, Saturday Night Live and MADtv have?
I think when things go away, people have this nostalgic feel for it. Wild ‘N Out has never really gone away. So we don’t get that ‘Oh, I remember this’ or ‘That used to be my favorite show,’ because it’s currently still your favorite show. So I think in due time, when people recognize the legacy of what we built, then I think people will see. But until then, I don’t need my flowers right now. I’m still in the garden.
Now comedy is known for pushing the limits, and you guys definitely do a great job at having a balance on the show. But obviously, there’s been some scandals attached. So are there any fears about cancel culture, or are there any jokes in any that may be off limits?
If anything, I’m one of those people, and I’ve always been an advocate, especially in the spaces of comedy, a fight for freedom of speech. And I tell people this all the time, Wild ‘N Out is probably the most progressive show on television. For years, we have brought in people from all different backgrounds, different communities, and different identities, and put them on a stage together where they can say the most stereotypical thing to one group, to another – and at the end of the day, everybody’s hugging it out, having fun, smiling and laughing because we’re all family. We’re all friends with this. Where you might see on some of your news outlets where people are yelling and screaming at each other because they have different views, on Wild ‘N Out, we are yelling and screaming at each other with different views, and doing it out of love. And there’s no animosity, there’s no hate. Any of that stuff is really understanding and embracing each other’s differences and having fun with it. So you can’t cancel something when everyone is represented.
Now, you mentioned the immense talent on the show. What are the criteria points for you guys to find the right talent for Wild ‘N Out?
Honestly, it’s one of those that is like a sport. More or less you have to – I won’t say you have to try it out, but we see talented people all day, every day, from all different parts of the world. But when you get into that, I’ve got to get into our improv workshops. You see who rises to the occasion, and you see who kind of falls back. So it’s almost like a training camp that we put everybody through before we even get to the stage to get everybody familiar. Improv in itself is an art form, and it’s one that a lot of people, even no matter how talented you are, don’t flourish [in] until they’ve had real training in it. So we kind of put everybody through our workshops. And then once you come out of the workshops, you feel like a well-seasoned athlete, and then you get on stage, and you throw anything at.
Who do you feel is the best job at expanding their platform outside of the show?
Everybody. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I’m so proud of everyone…85 South, to Pretty Vee, to B. Simone, to Pete Davidson. But if I could talk about people’s careers before we started versus now, me and Kevin [Hart] started this together at a small comedy club almost 20 years ago. And he’s now the biggest movie star in the world that taken his own brand and generated billions. I’m proud of my best friend.
Is there anyone that you would bring back to the show?
Everyone. That’s the thing about Wild ‘N Out. It’s an open-door policy. If you’ve been on the show before, you’re always welcome back on.
We’ve seen you on television, in movies, and on stage doing music. But you really shifted your focus to creating other opportunities for other people. And you really helped a lot of people of color in the industry. Can you so can you speak a little bit about your transition in your career from being in front of the camera to really being a person who put other people on behind the camera?
Interestingly enough, that’s always been my goal and my mission. I actually never really wanted to be on camera in front of the camera. I just wanted to create. People who I looked up to, and still do look up to – coming up with the Quincy Jones of the world, and Diddy who is the gentleman who had actually helped shaped culture and gave opportunities – I was always inspired by them. So even from our very beginning stages, even the things where whether I was my music, acting, or even comedy, where I was in front of the camera – those things, as much joy as they brought in and kind of even introduced me to the public, I’ve always felt like that was my second calling to actually being a creative and specifically because I always just wanted to put people on. I always wanted to give my friends and family opportunities. So that’s kind of where, if anything, as much as it seems like it’s my new mission, it’s kind of always been my mission. And, hopefully, it’s a true example of generational wealth where it’s an ‘each one, teach one’ mentality – where all the things that I’ve learned over the years, I can now pass it on to the next generation.
Your personal life is always a hot topic, and with all of your success in the industry, what do you want your legacy for your family and your children to be – both professionally and personally?
Exactly what it is. I’m thinking legacy, and we’re talking – whether it’s my personal life or my career, I just want people to understand my authenticity and to judge my heart to see my heart more than anything. And I think if anything, what my job over these last few decades is, is to bring joy and laughter and happiness and entertainment to people. I think that’s what I’ll always be known for because that’s what I exude.