Part One of Extended Interview with Kevin Pereira, Host of “Let’s Ask America”
The only new game show entrant to the first-run syndication market this year is Let’s Ask America, a limited-market show that could very well expand much larger if the initial markets are successful. (Visit the show’s website to see if you’re in one of the initial cities receiving the show.) The show premieres this Monday and the object is simple: four contestants, playing via Skype in their homes, try to predict what Americans are thinking in order to win up to $50,000. This madness is led by Kevin Pereira, known to most pop culture aficionados as the one who led the madness on cable network G4′s flagship tech, game and pop culture program Attack of the Show. I had the chance to interview him today to discuss this new endeavor. In the first part of this two-part interview, Kevin discusses entering the game show world for the first time, the game shows he enjoys watching, his transition from working at G4 to this new project, some of his favorite spontaneous moments in doing a show from people’s homes and what he and everyone else can actually take away from Let’s Ask America‘s premise.
Chad Mosher: This is your first time hosting a game show on a grand scale like this. Did you ever see this being one of your TV credits before now?
Kevin Pereira: To be completely candid, I never saw myself having TV credits in the first place. It truly has been one blessed and genuinely unexpected ride. Game shows were things that I always grew up loving and watching, being enthralled with. But I never thought in my wildest dreams – again, truly never thought I’d ever be on television. Never in my wildest dreams imagined that I’d be hosting a game show of this size and scale and it has just been such a blast – this ride, again, I never would have imagined but I’m so blessed that it’s here and I’m really loving it.
CM: That leads into the next question. Growing up or even recently, what were your favorite game shows to watch?
KP: Well, of course, there was all the staples. I love Wheel and Jeopardy!, I love Press Your Luck, I love Pyramid, I love Family Feud, pretty much all of things. Recently, I was a sucker for Lingo. I mean truly, I don’t know if I should say that like it’s a guilty pleasure or not, I don’t know what the temperature is on that out in the rest of the world… Truly, I enjoy pretty much any game show. I love competition, I like getting to meet people, I love seeing the hosts interact with them as well.
CM: You were pretty much the face of G4 for seven years, hosting the live Attack of the Show daily. What did you learn or take from this experience that you apply to Let’s Ask America?
KP: Well, you know, when you’re doing a daily, live, hour-long program, you have to be able to roll with every punch, you have to be on your feet, you have to have a crazy energy and that is the fundamental of hosting that show, the mechanics of working an audience, dealing with a prompter, entertaining guests and moving on and keeping all of that happening at a breakneck pace. That is something that applies directly to Let’s Ask America when we’re taping this thing. I mean, the audience is on their feet, they’re making noise, I’m juggling four contestants who aren’t physically there and to bounce them between each other and keep them aware of what each other is doing ’cause they can’t always see what each other is doing.
The basic hosting “fundamentals” are what I really bring from Attack of the Show and all my years at G4 – ten years at the network in general. I bring that into Let’s Ask but with Attack of the Show being such a connected show, there were many, many segments where I was staring down the barrel of the camera and someone on the other end was staring down the barrel with their webcam. While through FaceTime and Skype and everything else, you know, society at large getting more used to the dynamic of, “okay, I’m staring into this camera and there’s someone at the other end who’s staring into their camera and we’re having this conversation.” But, as a TV mechanism, as a game show mechanism, where there’s four people doing that and I’m staring into that, I feel like that still feels new to a lot of people. So, having years of experience doing that, to me it feels like I’m just having a conversation. That’s what it’s like to me. To me, they might as well be standing in that studio with me and I think for some people I think that’s still kind of a new thing and hard to wrap their head around.
CM: For me, one of the more interesting parts of Let’s Ask America is the tiebreaker. If multiple contestants tie at the end of the round, they have to go on a hunt in their house to be the first to bring back an item. What has been your favorite item to retrieve or your favorite moment with a contestant trying to retrieve it so far?
KP: Oh yeah, these moments are some of my favorites, I actually have my fingers subtly crossed behind my back, hoping there’s a tie in each show. For the mechanism, it’s called the “Dash for Cash.” And the idea is that two contestants are tied, so we’re going to give them a physical challenge. They have to complete that challenge in order to break that tie. So, it can be as simple as the first person to take a shoe and pull the lace all the way out in front of their webcam will win. And by the way: not a lot of contestants wear shoes.
CM: They’re at home, after all!
KP: Yeah, exactly! As far as I’m concerned, you don’t have to wear pants as long as you don’t pan, I don’t care. Be comfortable, have a good time and that’s what’s funny. So, I remember we did the shoelace one and people leapt from their chairs, sprinted out of the room, you watched their chair spin around in circles. A lot of people wear earbuds, their headphones while they’re playing, so things will get pulled off their head and kind of pull them back a little bit as they’re running away. It’s a spectacle to watch. That one was funny just because it was so quick and it’s a laugh because it’s clear no one wears shoes while playing this game. That made me laugh.
We had another one where people had to go and throw on a bathrobe and come back in front of the camera like they just came out of the shower. It’s so funny because one contestant ran out and all he could find was his wife’s big, pink, fluffy bathrobe. He left, threw it on and if I recall, he was a physical therapist or something like that so you can imagine the biggest, most burly man, “Yeah! I’m gonna win this show! It’s gonna be awesome, I’m takin’ everybody down, I’m winnin’ 50 Gs, this is my game!” He comes back in a fluffy pink bathrobe. “Did I get it?! Is this it?! Yeah, did I win?! Alright, sweet!” and he celebrates. So, that I love.
We had another one, I’ll give you one more. We told people to run off and grab plastic wrap, come back and wrap it around their torsos on the webcam. And it was so bizarre looking as people were fumbling with all this wrap in front of their cam. I mean, we’ve had people empty tubes of toothpaste in front of their webcam and it makes a mess and it’s silly, that to me, people are quick to go, oh yeah! It’s a game but people play from home.
You have moments like that. or, like a boyfriend coming out of a bathroom brushing his teeth confused, no idea that his girlfriend’s playing the game, a cat jumping up on someone’s head. Someone took a delivery of chairs while we were playing the game. Again, it’s a half hour show so I don’t know how much of this will make it in but we stopped the game for a second to ask her, “what were you doing?” She wasn’t playing from home, she was playing from a friend’s house and they got a delivery of chairs. “Well, let’s see the chairs… Why don’t you play the game from one of those chairs?” “Oh, I can’t they’re not my chairs.” I’m like, “look, you’re playing for $50,000, you can buy them another chair.” And they did and it seems silly, but it’s one of those things where you’re not going to get that on any other traditional studio game show, you’re just not going to get it.
CM: This, to me, seems like the ultimate kind of “reality” TV.
KP: I think so. Yeah, I think that’s totally fair to say. I’ll tell you, someone, a long time ago, ripped out whatever was supposed to be my heart and replaced it with a cold, dead lump of coal, right? And this show has re-ignited it. It truly has. Through my years from Attack, I don’t know that “empathetic” is an adjective many people would have thrown around or “heart-warming.” When I say it has been a blessing to be involved with this project, I don’t throw that word around lightly, I really don’t. This has, it has touched me. I mean, the contestants that we have on this show have truly touched me. We’ve seen every walk of life. We’ve seen every passion. We’ve indulged every fetish. We’ve uncovered every stone to see what is going on in America right now. Not only just through the contestants but also through the questions.
Sometimes a question will come up about what would a woman do if their engagement were broken up, like women in Tampa, what would they do? Would they keep the ring or return it? And all the contestants, they’ll say “Oh, I know those women in Tampa. They’d keep the ring because that’s theirs. Forget it. That’s theirs, honey, they worked for it. ” It’s funny when we have these moments and they answer, an overwhelming majority, that they’d return it. We get these questions that kind of surprise you about America and you have these contestants on there that are so warm and touching, they surprise you with their opinions. And by the end of the day, you go, “yeah, this was a fun, silly game show, but damn if it hasn’t shaped my opinion about this country in the most positive way.”
Click here to read part two of the interview. Check out a preview question from the season premiere this Monday.