If WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY? was an action movie, it would probably look a lot like RIOT!
The new Fox improv series, premiering Tuesday, features a cast of seven comics (and a boatload of celebrity guests) competing in outrageous song, dance and sketch challenges — often on a stage that tilts at 22 degrees.
“We put them in some potentially dangerous — and therefore very funny and exciting — scenarios,” host Rove McManus tells me.
“As you can see there is a lot of sliding around going on.”
RIOT! is adapted from an international format called SLIDE SHOW, which airs in many countries, including Rove’s native Australia.
He told me more about himself — and the show — during a recent visit to the set in Studio City, Calif.
You have been described as the Ryan Seacrest of Australia. Is that accurate?
I don’t know if I am quite Ryan Seacrest, because no one really works as hard as him. My background is standup comedy and I had a talk show [ROVE LIVE!] for many years. So there is a little Jimmy Fallon in there as well… That is my pedigree. That certainly has been my career path up until this point.
What is the most challenging part for you as a host in this environment?
Keeping things moving when you have got exhausted people that have been sliding around on a set for five to ten minutes! You want to make sure that they don’t get to rest too soon. So it does give me an added element of fun. I get to throw different scenarios or suggestions at them. Just to keep it all moving. It is like having a bunch of plates spinning. But that is what makes it exciting.
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Are you subjected to any of the danger?
Oh, gosh, no. That is the joy of being the host. You get to tell other people what to do. But I can jump in if I want to. We have had a couple of situations where I have kind of interjected myself into a scene or added a suggestion or thrown in something just to help mix it up a little bit more. It has been great. I means I can be part audience member and enjoy it and part host. It is the perfect second screen experience.
Have they asked you to tone your accent down a bit for American TV?
Not so much. If anything, I use it to my advantage and we have a bit of fun with that. I had been working with Jay Leno on THE TONIGHT SHOW. I had a regular segment for three or four years with them and found it was never really a huge issue. We both [Australians and Americans] speak the English language. If I was French, it might be more difficult. I think we found that where the differences are really makes for some nice comedic moments.
We were doing a scene where [the comics] were performing [improv] in front of a church group. So I referred to the pastor. But with my accent it came out as p-a-s-t-a. So there was a slight moment where they thought perhaps a piece of linguini was performing in front of a church group. But this is the perfect environment for there to be a little bit of difference when it comes to the communication between myself and the performers.
What would America like know about Rove McManus?
I was the voice of a crab in FINDING NEMO. That won an Oscar, so you’re welcome, Pixar.
Is there a Mrs. McManus?
I am married and we have a new daughter.
You must have your hands full at home with a young baby.
What’s great is that this is such an exhausting show for the performers. It keeps such a high level of energy and I am already in that zone. When you have a [four] month old in the house you don’t sleep very much. So I think it puts my brain exactly where the performers brains are on set when they are on a weird angle. I am used to having [vomit] on me at the moment as well. Different bodily fluids have ended up on me at various times. So I will fit right in.
At some point in 3 or 4 years, when she realizes you are in Nemo, nothing else you do will ever compare…
[laughs] I could have climbed Everest, won a million Emmys and found the cure for the common cold and she will still be like ‘But you were the crab in FINDING NEMO.’ My daddy is amazing.
Will you be part of Finding Nemo 2?
Not as of yet. I don’t think so.
What does your wife do?
She is a film actress. She has never played a crab — but she was just nominated for Best Actress in Australia’s version of the Oscars.
Do you think you might stay in America for good?
Yeah. We have a home here. We have a home in Australia and we commute back and forth to keep the perpetual tan going.
RIOT! premieres Tuesday May 13 on Fox.
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