I think it’s safe to say that Steve Carell is a master of physical comedy. This is the man who famously once waxed his chest hair on the big screen. So it makes sense that The Office star is an executive producer and one of the first celebrity guests on Riot, a new extreme game show premiering tonight on Fox.
“I have no idea what I’m getting myself into,” Carell jokingly told EW before filming alongside his Office co-star Andy Buckley. The show is based on the international hit franchise Slide Show and puts two teams of celebrities and a cast of comedians playing improv games against some physical constraints. “It’s like an improv game show on steroids,” says cast member Meryl Hathaway. “It’s taking improv comedy and elevating it to the next level. All the parameters of a normal improv scene just get thrown into this insanity!” Hathaway is one of seven rotating comedians all under the command of “evil puppeteer” and host Rove McManus, who enjoys his role from the sideline making funny people do even funnier things. “I feel like it’s the most interactive experience you can have,” McManus told EW. “I can literally yell something at the performers to make them do it.”
The show’s signature game is the aptly titled “Slide Show” which has Carell, Hathaway, and cast member Rob Gleeson in the premiere acting out an improv scene at a fast food restaurant all on a 22.5 degree tilted stage. The camera films the scene so that it looks normal for the audience at home, except for the flying french fries and broken oven doors, of course. Other games include “Bunch of Jerks”, which will launch someone 20 feet in the air by harness for every mistake they make in a game, and “Mime Sweep”, a version of charades that ends in an wrecking ball bang. “You’re on a platform, basically charades, and it’s not based on any set time increment,” explains cast member Brian Palermo. “It’s kind of whenever they choose, they can just knock you off.”
“Comedy is all about taking risks and expecting the unexpected,” Carell says. “Not knowing when you’re about to be hit in the face by a large foam wrecking ball is comedy gold.” Other celebrity guests this season include: Jason Alexander (Seinfeld), D.L. Hughley (The Original Kings of Comedy), Cheryl Hines (Suburgatory), Tom Green (Tom Green Live), Chris Kattan (Saturday Night Live), Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory), David Arquette (Pushing Daisies), Oscar Nunez (The Office), Andy Dick (The Andy Dick Show), Orlando Jones (MADtv), Nicole Sullivan (Cougar Town), Michael Ian Black (Burning Love), Will Sasso (The Three Stooges), and Rob Delaney (Key and Peele).
“They all come from improv backgrounds, so they are just playful and will go along with all the silliness and that makes all the difference,” Palermo said. “If you had somebody who didn’t play along, it wouldn’t work.” Palermo should know how a game show works. He spent seven years on Wheel of Fortune when he first moved to Hollywood doing various jobs from prize coordinator to working with contestants and still admits to Tivo-ing the show every day. Hathaway, however, might have a slight advantage in the athletic department. “I was a gymnast when I was a kid, a dancer for 16 years, and a competitive jump roper. I went to Eastern regionals in Marietta, Georgia in 1993. I’ve always been super physical.” Palermo’s response? “I’m as athletic as any out of shape 40-year-old comedian is, which is to say not a lick.”
For everyone involved, it’s just about getting everybody in on the fun. The show is filmed in the round with the in-studio audience also getting involved in the action. “I think every angle is a fun interesting view that [allows you to] get to see everything from everywhere,” Carell said. “They utilize the technology to make it for the audience at home and the audience here to experience every game we are playing.”
You can start to play along tonight and have a Riot on Fox at 9 p.m. ET.