Since 2005, Nick Cannon Presents: Wild’ N Out continues to be a groundbreaking series filled with viral moments, and has become a staple in popular culture. More importantly, it’s increased the profiles and launched careers of some of today’s biggest comedians, such as Pete Davidson, Affion Crockett, Taran Killam, DeRay Davis, DC Young Fly, Mikey Day, and many more.
The series also has an ever-growing social footprint of over 40M fans, ranking as the #1 most engaging and most viewed cable reality show in 2022. The hit-franchise is also the #1 YouTube Channel for engagements among cable reality shows in 2022. Wild ‘N Out has curated one of the most impressive arsenals of entertainers, increasing mainstream exposure for some of today’s biggest comedians like Kevin Hart, Mike Epps, and Katt Willams.
In celebration of its 20th season, Nick Cannon spoke with ESSENCE about the show’s impact, its talented cast, what to expect in the future, and more.
ESSENCE: When you were first creating the idea for the show, what was your initial goal – what was the impetus for this idea?
Nick: My initial goal was just to give my friends jobs, to be honest. I was doing so many other things at the time, and it was an opportunity. Because I have been there hosting and for my Nickelodeon days, and doing a lot of stuff on MTV with like TRL and a lot. At the time, you could host a lot on MTV. So I was doing a lot of MTV hosting, so I got a deal, and I didn’t really know what to pick up. I didn’t know what my next project was going to be, but I was heavy in my standup days and hanging out with my friends that were also becoming young standup comedians, like Kevin Hart, DeRay Davis, and a bunch of other people.
And I was like, “Yo, I should just utilize my deal to bring something that we all can do.” And MTV at the time didn’t understand what I was trying to do, so they were like, “No.” And then they were like, “We want to develop something where it’s just mainly with you or maybe more like a game show.” And then, I was like, “All right, whatever.” So then I just put my own money up and went and shot it, the initial idea that I had. Rented out a comedy club and did all of this prep work with my friends, and we shot the initial pilot for a while. And once I had that, then I took it back to MTV and was like, “This is what I was talking about.” And the rest of it is history.
You’ve been able to highlight these talented comedians and entertainers, and you’ve been even doing so before the world has caught onto them. How did you develop that knack for talent and how involved are you in the process of grabbing new talent for the show?
I would say, one of the gifts that’s been bestowed upon me is the ability to be a curator and discover people, and have the eye or the ear to say, “This person has it.” And we built a platform that allows people’s talents to flourish. If anything, if I could take credit for anything, it’s probably just taking chances on people that most people don’t give opportunities to.
You initially started with the competition of the Red Squad and the Black Squad. Now, I know it’s Old School versus New School. Why did that change?
Several different reasons. One, but for Season 20, this season took you back. We go back to Red Squad and the Black Squad, and some of my favorite colors are how it originally happened. But as the show evolved and as we started to get a little bit older and even to put people at ease, because some people honestly were like, “Oh, man, I don’t know if I really fit on that show,” or when I ask them to do it and it’s like everybody fits on the show. This is a show for everyone that represents every aspect. It was probably the most progressive show on television because of the simple fact that everybody’s welcome. So when I made the squads old school and new school, it was just another interesting dichotomy that we could place against one another to say, “Hey, you can be from the newer generation in hip hop, or you can be from the foundational space of hip-hop because the show embodies all of that.” So it truly is any age, any color, creed, class, Wild ‘n Out, it has a space for you.
Now, I know there’ve been hundreds of them, but do you have a particular favorite guest that you brought on the show, or a favorite show?
Man, a favorite guest? Yeah, it had to be between Snoop Dogg and Chance the Rapper. Just their ability, them being fans and lovers of the show, and then the fact that they’re some of the best in hip hop. So when they come to play, they play heavy.
What can viewers expect from Season 20 of Wild ‘n Out?
It’s a homecoming, man. You can expect to see some of the greats come home, the likes of Kat Williams, the return of Kat Williams, the return of Kevin Hart. And really, man, it’s a celebration of what we’ve accomplished over 20 seasons of television. It’s a landmark that most IPs and shows and content never get a chance to see. So it really is a celebration of something that we all built together.
Nick Cannon Presents: Wild ‘N Out is executive produced by Nick Cannon and Michael Goldman for NCredible Entertainment. Nile Evans and Annie Gillies serve as showrunners and executive producers. Candida Boyette-Clemons serves as executive producer for MTV Entertainment Studios.
New episodes of Nick Cannon Presents: Wild’ N Out currently airs Thursdays at 9 PM ET/PT on VH1.