Over the six decades of game shows, we have seen everyday people win big bucks and prizes, your author included. Numerous people who have competed on a game show, later became famous. The elite club include Kirstie Alley on Match Game and Vanna White on The Price is Right. Comedian Frank Nicotero belongs to a more exclusive club. Not only he competed and won on a couple of game shows, he later become a game show host. For five years, he tested the intelligence of America with his smash hit, Street Smarts. Nicotero is behind the podium once more. This time, he is hosting the newest The Hub’s game show The Game of Life. I had recently talked to Frank about life (The new game show, that is) and game shows.
TRR: Well Frank, it’s nice to have you here on The Rogers Revue, how are you today?
FN: I’m doing great. I hope I can live up to the intro. That sounds impressive.
TRR: Well it is impressive, you are an impressive guy. You are one of the people I want to be one day especially since I was a former game show contestant and winner. Tell about us about The Game of Life.
Frank Nicotero: It’s so cool the way they did this show. It’s for kids, it’s for families to watch for which I am really thrilled to be part of. The graphics on the show are like none other you ever seen. They really went over the top of creating a virtual world that these kids get to drive a car. Remember you played the game as a kid and the car was the game piece. We made this world in the first two rounds where the kids are driving thru all these different worlds like jungles, space, underwater, farmland and at the end of each little track they get to a question. The question is in front of a huge movie screen as they sit in a car that moves around. I really feel that this will catches on with kids that they want to get in this car.
TRR: Did the play the Game of Life in your childhood?
FN: Absolutely of course. I say there were three board games I played a lot when I was a kid. Monopoly obviously, Game of Life and then a game called Pay Day. Those were the games that my sister Gina and I play all the time. Game of Life has the most awesome looking board. It was the most colorful and you have the spinner. When I got the gig, I called my sister right after I found out. It was super cool. I have four nephews. I am the coolest uncle right now. When they saw the sneak preview last Saturday, they were like “we want to drive the car”
TRR: If there’s one board game you would like to see come to life, what would it be and why?
FN: The game of Trouble would be fun. There was a game called Mastermind that I used to play so long ago as a kid. You have to figure out your opponent’s color and they would let you know at each step if you were on the track.
TRR: Let’s go back in time to your first game show host experience with the five season Street Smarts. Tell us how it all began.
FN: I was on a game show hosted by Wink Martindale called Debt. I went on and won money. My name was passed on to game show producers saying that I was a good contestant. I got a call from Wheeler Sussman, they did Trivial Pursuit. I got a call in 1996 and they were looking for contestants for a game show run-through. They would pay you twenty bucks to see how the game’s progressing. Afterwards, I informed them that I am a comic, a writer, and a host – so keep my name on file. One year later, Scott St. John called me and said that GSN said that you used to write a show there and you were funny. Can you help us? He wanted me to help write and produce the pilot for Street Smarts. I also helped shot some test footage and the people at Warner Brothers liked it and said that you’re going to be one of the field reporters. So, I said that’s call. We kept on doing tests. The WB people now said that “you’re going to be the only field reporter.” It gets better since now they wanted me to audition to host the studio portion. What they didn’t know at this point is that we had everyone, at types of comics and hosts coming to audition. One night, they wanted me to host the final one of the night. I went up and did great! The reason why, and they didn’t realize, is that I wrote the script for the run-throughs. After more run-throughs, I was selected to host the whole thing. It was kind of being at the right place at the right time and the ball was in my court. All of a sudden, I am hosting this syndicated show which we thought was on for a season or two. We ended up doing nearly 800 episodes in the course of five years. It was good times.
TRR: You have been on both sides of the game show world. You were a winning contestant on Debt and Ultimate Fan League then you became a host. Have you notice any differences from being the contestant to being the host?
FN: Being on a game show as a contestant, I was super nervous. You know that this is your one shot. I was broke at the time and I needed this money. I want to win and was super nervous. It was a very surreal experience that it went by so quickly. Once I started hosting, I could see some of the contestants on the show being nervous. I go up to 90% of the contestants saying to have fun, I know it’s nerve-racking. Being a contestant made me a better host because I knew how to emphasize and put myself in their shoes. It’s a unique case where I could say that I been there before. It’s like a coach in football who played the game. He can compare the past stories to the players.
TRR: Who is your favorite game show host of all time?
FN: The show Tic Tac Dough was one of my favorites. When I was on Debt, it was like wow, and I’m meeting Wink Martindale. It was amazing. I was a huge Joker’s Wild fan. I loved it, it was Jack Barry! I watched so many shows including The $20000 Pyramid. I got to meet Dick Clark while I was on the Other Half promoting Street Smarts back in 2001. That was a thrill. I met Bob Barker. I have a picture in the hallway. I met him at a game show convention. Peter Marshall was great on the Hollywood Squares. His son was a Major league baseball player and I have his baseball card
TRR: What is your formula to being a wonderful game show host?
FN: I took the weirdest route ever. I don’t know how many former contestants have become hosts. Just getting out there and offering to participate in game show run thrus and networking there gave me myself. I say never give up hope. You got to get involved in the mix at the bottom level of some shows and get your face in front of the right people. Just show that you are having fun, your personality. It could work to hosting a show. I was told by someone that I am one of the few to be a contestant and then become a host. I would welcome someone else into the club. If it something you want to do, then pursue it!
TRR: Can you give us a quick last plug?
FN: Honestly, the thing I dig about the most is that it’s good for kids and adults. Adults would enjoy the nostalgia aspect because they played it when they were kids. They will see the spinner and the car. I know the kids will be blown away by the graphics. The questions are super fun and we have physical challenges that the parents and kids do together. It’s the fastest 22 minutes that I watched in a long time. The game moves quickly. I really hope that everyone enjoy it that we can do a couple more seasons because I really feel it’s a great show.
We would the great folks at The Hub for granting me the opportunity and most of all, Frank Nicotero, for his wonderful stories and great hosting abilities.
The Game of Life premieres this Satutrday, September 17th at 6:00 EST. Only on The Hub
For this edition of TRR Intervue, I’m Dean Rogers