Behind the Buzzer: Interview with Frank Nicotero of The Hub’s “The Game of Life”
We hope you’ve been enjoying our “Behind the Buzzer” series, as we get up close and personal with some of the genre’s best personalities and behind the scenes of your favorite shows. This week we’re getting more information about The Hub’s newest game show The Game of Life. Specifically, we’re talking to host Frank Nicotero. Game show fans will remember Frank from his days hosting Street Smarts, the syndicated quiz show lasting for five years that asked people easy questions only to get strange and often wrong answers. We talked about The Game of Life, Street Smarts, Wink Martindale, Billy Joel Lyrics, and The Walking Dead.
Marty: Tell Me about “The Game of Life”…
Frank: I’m really excited about it. The sets, the whole game and the graphics are amazing. This is my second game show I hosted now and it is without a doubt a 2011 game show.
Marty: Talk about the game play
Frank: Round 1 and Round 2 Is them going on virtual trips in the car answering trivia questions. The Third round is physical challenges. They are too wacky to even describe.
Marty: What do you win?
Frank: The Game of Life is all about adventure. It’s not like, “Hey here is a trip to Hawaii. It’s you just won a ‘Swimming with Dolphins Adventure’ in Hawaii. You won a live like rock star in London, England trip where they get to see Abby Road.
In 1996, Nicotero appeared as a contestant on Wink Martindale’s Debt, winning the episode’s grand prize of $14,106, retiring his debt of $7,053.
Marty: Let’s talk about “Debt”.
Frank: I won $14,000 and the ironic thing is the executive producer of that show was Andrew Golder and he is the executive producer of The Game of Life. So I’ve come full circle with Andrew Golder to where he was giving me money when I won now he is giving me money when I host.
He later appeared on the Fox Sports Network trivia game The Ultimate Fan League where he won $10,000 in prizes. He was approached to write for the shows Peer Pressure, Outrageous, Game World and Faux Pause for the Game Show Network, and in the summer of 1999, was contacted by the producers of Street Smarts.
Marty: How did you become the Host of Street Smarts?
Frank: Scott St. John (Deal or No Deal) hired me to help write and produce the pilot and I was going out and recording all the test footage with a friend, and the people at Warner Brothers really liked what I was doing so they made me a field reporter. Then I was going to be the only field reporter and then they were like why don’t you let him do the studio hosting.
So I was in the right place at the right time but it all started really with being a guest on a game show.
Marty: So you became the Street Smarts guy…
Frank: We did almost 800 episodes ran for 5 years and I still get people all the time who say, “Hey, Street Smarts Guy”, so It’s amazing the life the show has had and currently it’s not airing anywhere. GSN had the repeats for awhile but I think the rights reverted back to Warner Brothers.
Marty: What question on the show did Americans struggle with the most?
Frank: Americans don’t know geography and Americans don’t know how many states there are in the United States. We would throw that question into almost every show and people would say 52 almost every time. We did a whole episode of me just asking that one question. It we are failing in the schools in America it is definitely geography and our own geography that’s the puzzling thing.
Marty: What do you bring to the table as a game show host?
Frank: I’m the everyman. I’m always out to have a good time with contestants on Street Smarts or Game of Life. That’s what it is all about…having a good time. I was the kind of guy you want to have a beer with game show host rather than the guy in the 3 piece suit.
Marty: How do you view your role as hosting The Game of Life?
Frank: I feel like I’m the uncle or big brother or the cousin. I’m rooting for these kids.
Marty: Who is your favorite game show host of all time? Favorite game shows of all time?
Frank: Tic-Tac-Dough – Wink Martindale, Jack Barry – Joker’s Wild
It is time to put Frank Nicotero back, “Behind The Buzzer”.
Marty: I have some trivia questions for you. You Ready? Here We Go…In your final question on Debt you said you were a Billy Joel Expert. Here is a Billy Joel question for you. What song does this Billy Joel lyric come from…
“Clear as crystal sharp as knife I feel like I’m in the prime of my life”
Frank: That’s, “I Go To Extremes” from Storm Front.
Marty: That is correct!
Frank: I have that CD in my car right now I think. So trust me it is hard to stump me on Billy Joel lyric trivia. I was confident on Debt to go double or nothing. You give them 3 subjects. Mine were Pittsburgh Pirates of the 90′s, Michael Keaton Movies, and the music of Billy Joel. The only one I told myself that if the topic they choose is Billy Joel I’m definitely going double or nothing. I went for it and won $14,000 on Billy Joel.
Marty: Do you remember the actually lyric you won on Debt?
Frank: “They say it takes a lot to keep a love alive in every heart their pumps a different beat but if we shift our love into overdrive we can generate a lot of heat.”
Marty: That is correct!
Frank: If you watch the clip the first five seconds I have no clue and, Oh my God I just lost $7,000,” and Wink Martindale kept going and got to the end and it clicks.. YOU ARE 52nd Street!!!
Marty: Here is the a link to the clip.
Marty: Your next question. Who did the special effects makeup on the movie Predators?
Frank: Is that my cousin Greg Nicotero.
Marty: That is correct!
Frank: When I moved out to LA I lived with Greg for the first three years. He was the best man at my wedding. I was the best man at his wedding. We are more like brothers than cousins. He’s on fire right now with The Walking Dead. He is the co-executive producer and is directing an episode this year.
Marty: Last question…On Street Smarts you had a battle of game show hosts playing for charity. It was Mark L. Walberg ( Temptation Island, Russian Roulette) vs Mark DeCarlo (Studs). What was the final score of that match-up?
Frank: I’m 90% positive that one of them one with one dollar.
Marty: Close but that is incorrect. The final score was Mark L. Walberg $2 Mark DeCarlo $1
Frank: I will tell you a little inside secret on that episode. They were playing for charity but what they bet on the side was like five sushi dinners. Walberg probably won $300 to $400 worth of Sushi.
Here is a link to that clip
The Game of Life debuts in its regular time slot on Saturday, September 17 (6 p.m. ET), the all new, half-hour Hub Original Series features the iconic car, the clickety-clack of the rainbow-colored spinner, and a road trip bound for roadblocks and obstacles we all encounter on our journey through life.