Nick Cannon has been many things: rapper, comedian, entrepreneur, actor, manager. Yet, it is as host and presenter that Cannon has made his mark, with summer perennial America's Got Talent (he left in 2017 after a disagreement with NBC) and his MTV staple Wild 'N Out, his greatest and goofiest creation. The messy improvisational sketch, stand-up comedy, and hip-hop series he created in 2005 extends its life as a television show on stage with the touring Wild 'N Out Live showcase at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday, Aug. 23.
Along with all the game-playing of the MTV show — "Yeah, we're going to do 'Instaham,' 'TwerkWork,' 'Family Reunion,' all the stuff we do on television," said an enthusiastic Cannon — Thursday's live show welcomes comics, rappers, and social media blasters s such as Rip Michaels, Hitman Holla, Charlie Clips, Yo Gotti, YFN Lucci, Justina Valentine, and more to the stage.
"It's like having a party where you have to have a little — or a lot — of every different style to make it fun," he said.
Cannon always keeps his eyes open for great hosting experiences. This month, he signed a deal with Fox to host the celebrity competition series The Masked Singer, set to debut in January. Based on a South Korean format, the show will feature singers facing off against one another while covered head to toe in elaborate disguises. "That's one unorthodox concept. I don't do anything unless I'm having fun, so when I heard about this, I was 100 percent with it," said Cannon, who will be joined by panelists Ken Jeong, Jenny McCarthy, Nicole Scherzinger, and Robin Thicke.
And who is Cannon's dream costumed guest for The Masked Singer? "I would love Barack Obama to do it — that's when I'll know we have made it," he said.
Cannon, 37, who was once married to R&B diva Mariah Carey, started his hosting life in 1994 with Nickleodeon's All That and continued with high-profile stints at the Teen Choice Awards and America's Got Talent, plus a starring role in Charles Stone III's Drumline in between.
"Being a host allows me to be myself, you know," said Cannon. "Engaging with people of all levels and ages is what it's all about — kids, the hip-hop community, network television heads. I'm my authentic self in all of those different forms. Sometimes it is challenging, but it works out."
Cannon's 2017 Showtime stand-up special Nick Cannon: Stand Up, Don't Shoot was defiant, dire, and funny, but it led to his departure from America's Got Talent because NBC executives were unhappy with some of his jokes.
"The audience needed it, but I definitely needed it, too, to be true to my myself as an artist, and to use my platform as an opportunity to speak up about what was really going on in my life, and what was going on in society. And I wanted to do it an unapologetic and boisterous way," he said. "That show was really one of the proudest moments of my career."
Then there is Wild 'N Out, which he created for MTV in 2005. "Wild 'N Out is the most me," he said. "It covers all my bases."
When Cannon started the show, he wanted to establish a format that could play in different iterations and on different platforms, even before smartphones. "I always wanted this show to look good, no matter how you viewed it. Especially now that there is more and more digital-platform-only talent out there."
Wild 'N Out takes advantage of that video display — on stage and in studio — with filmed clips and live work ("We have bona fide movie stars [to] people making films on their iPhones") and prides itself on having an interaction with all forms of social media. "We always tapped social media — grabbed Facebook and Instagram when it started, hit Vine and YouTube before they were hot. Now that we're back and in arenas with this tour, I think I was right: There is staying power in our mix of comedy, rap and social media stars."
Cannon believes Wild 'N Out is reflective of the moment, what is happening in black consciousness and where the show's "users" are going. "That's the culture: kids wanting to watch kids doing their thing," said Cannon. "The content, timing, and pacing of Wild 'N Out is what the audience wants. It's a mirror reflecting them. We just have to keep it moving so that it doesn't ever get stale."