J.B. Smoove signed up for Shark Week thinking it was Shark Tank
The Curb Your Enthusiasm star was surprised to learn that he'd be swimming with actual sharks, not Mark Cuban & Co.
This week, you can watch J.B. Smoove swim with the ocean's feared apex predator on Brad Paisley's Shark Country, but the Curb Your Enthusiasm star actually thought that he'd be facing down a much different kind of shark.
The actor/comedian is an obsessive Shark Tank viewer, so when his manager called him out of the deep blue to ask if he wanted to be on the show, Smoove was beyond elated. The one problem? He didn't realize that his manager had actually said "Shark Week," (Discovery's annual eight-day block of shark-centric programming), not "Shark Tank" (the ABC reality series in which aspiring entrepreneurs try to persuaded rich entrepreneurs to invest in their next-great business idea.
No matter. Smoove became certified to dive, and in Paisley and Smoove's Shark Week special — airing Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Discovery — you'll see the two celebrities get an up-close education on sharks in the Bahamas. While the opening bit features a bit in which Smoove mistakenly believes that he is participating in Shark Tank instead of Shark Week, that gag wasn't too far removed from what transpired behind the scenes. Hold on to the side of the boat as Smoove spins his tale of confusion and, well, delusion.
"Everybody knows that I am a huuuge Shark Tank fan, and I have tons of ideas just ready for Shark Tank," he tells EW. "So initially when my manager called me — honestly, sometimes I get tunnel vision and there is a long moment of un-clarity on what exactly this is. They'll tell me something, but I'll hear something totally different because I'm already juiced up. I'm ready for the celebrity version of Shark Tank, you know? I feel like I can go up there and I'm a good judge of what is a great idea because I am an ideas man myself, so I'm always ready to throw my ideas out there."
"I'm telling you," he continues, "all I heard was Shark Tank. Because Shark Tank is on all the time.... Shark Week is, what, once a year? So you don't hear Shark Week for what — how many weeks are in a year again? There are, like, 52! One week of that 52? Come on now! So the natural perception is, 'Hey man, I'm about to be on Shark Tank, baby!'... All I talk about is going on Shark Tank one day. So my brain is like, 'Oh man, I can't wait to go on Shark Tank!' I even told people, 'I think I'm going to be on Shark Tank! I got a message from my manager that I'm going to be on Shark Tank!' Naturally, I'm thinking, 'Hey, these guys must know what's up.' They know I got the ideas, they know I got the enthusiasm to go up there and really be a big part of their decision-making on these amazing ideas.'"
Even after his manager eventually reeled him back to Earth, Smoove and his wheels started spinning wildly again. "My brain went to, 'Maybe I can think of my ideas based on Shark Week that I can still take to Shark Tank. How can I benefit from this mistake and still get a chance to pitch my amazing ideas for Shark Tank, even though it was clear that this was not Shark Tank?'" says Smoove, whose dream is to be a guest shark. "Who's to say that I wasn't still excited and still hopeful that I would maybe run into Mark Cuban, Mr. Wonderful [Kevin O'Leary], Barbara [Corcoran], Daymond [John]? Come on! These are all my friends, and Mark Cuban is a good friend of mine. I threw one of my ideas out to him and said, 'Yo, if you guys are ready for me, let me know. I have a few ideas that I need an investor on.' He laughed. Like everybody who I've met on Shark Tank, they laugh like I'm playing around. They don't know I'm an idea wizard, so they tend to smirk a little bit and laugh." (For the record, those ideas include mood shirts. "Like the rings, only apparel," he explains. "They turn colors depending on your mood. Happy, sad, sexy, jealous...")
Adding to the confusion for Smoove was the fact that one of his Curb costars who knows of his Shark Tank obsession recommended him for the special. "Cheryl Hines is the one who facilitated all this, because Brad Paisley called her and she couldn't do it," he recalls. "And she says, 'You know who'll be great? J.B. Smoove!' She knows how much I love Shark Tank already. I pitch ideas all the time on the set, and everybody knows I look good in a damn suit. So when I put a damn suit on — because I'm long and lean, and I'm sitting up there on the Shark Tank set, with my legs crossed, my right leg over my left leg, a pair of snazzy shoes and some nice socks and a nice fat-knot tie — whooo! Maybe one of my cool hats. I look as if I know what the hell I'm talking about. I look like I got a pocket full of money, and that money is burning a hole in my pocket. I blame all this on Cheryl Hines. It was relayed the wrong way, and then re-relayed the wrong way, and then it was relayed the right way but I still wanted to hear the relay of the wrong relay, you know what I'm saying? So in my mind, even though I heard Shark Week, I still wanted to hope and pray that it meant a weeklong version of Shark Tank." (Several Shark Tank stars did film a 2018 Shark Week special.)
Still, the self-proclaimed Black Dolphin was fully committed to his sea adventure. "This was my first time actually scuba diving, but everything seemed like it was perfect for me," he reports. "I aced the test to be certified. When you're being trained, they say, 'Ninety-eight percent of the time, you're never going to use any of this safety stuff we're teaching you, but it's just in case.' So that's the thing I focused on the most — learning more about these damn sharks and what goes down when you're underwater, even though the Black Dolphin has already been in the ocean. I love swimming, but I can't say that the Black Dolphin has swam with sharks. I've only swam with tropical fish, and once in a while another little dolphin will show up and give me a little dap. I can't say I wasn't terrified, because we were diving into 40 feet of water, and there were times where I had the chance to descend to the bottom of the ocean, and I'm sitting there saying, 'Wow, this is absolutely amazing.' Had to equalize my ears and my mask and make sure I'm good at that depth and that pressure. Your training starts to kick in and you start to feel like 'Oh, wow, I'm really doing this.' I was more afraid before I jumped in the water than when I actually jumped in. Once I was in the water, my natural Black Dolphin instincts kicked in and I went back to my aquatic world. I felt right at home, and the sharks gave me little daps, showing a little love and respect for the Black Dolphin. I get it. This is your part of the ocean, and I respect that. As long as you show respect for the sharks, they're going to show respect back. And I'm going to give much respect to the sand shark, the reef shark, the tiger shark, and all the sharks that I met while I was being trained."
Smoove says he enjoyed palling around with Paisley ("turns out we're both fans of each other, so this worked out perfectly") as the duo received a shark crash course from marine scientist Dr. Austin Gallagher and learned how sound affects sharks. "We both were very much into learning more about the sharks, which is what makes Shark Week go," he says. "A lot of times when we think about the word shark, we leave off the word sand, as in sand shark, we leave off the word reef. There is such a wide range of sharks. One of my favorites is the hammerhead shark. I think the hammerhead shark is beautiful. I've seen versions of the hammerhead shark on SpongeBob. I don't want to say the real sharks looked like the one in SpongeBob, but... I get it."
He also maintains that this Shark Week-Shark Tank mix-up will prove to be a net positive. "I will definitely end up on Shark Tank, because of my appearance and my misstep," he says. "See, this is a different route for me to get on the actual show. They're going to see my passion for ideas. They're going to see my passion for business. They're going to see my passion for the ocean, my love of sharks, and my love of the aquatic world. And they're going to get a chance to see the Black Dolphin. Who knows? Maybe I can [manifest] an idea that revolves around the Black Dolphin." Actually, he's even thinking bigger than that. "This could be enough to a springboard into the Marvel universe. I'm already in the Marvel Universe. I'm Mr. Dell [in the Spider-Man franchise]. Who's to say Mr. Dell can't get bitten by a radioactive dolphin, and next thing you know, the Black Dolphin is born! A Black Dolphin movie!"
And for those reasons, we're in. Smoove and Paisely are just a few of the celebrities signing up for aquatic action in Shark Week 2021, which kicked off last night; the roster also includes Tiffany Haddish, William Shatner, and the Jackass crew.