Nick Cannon has worn several hats over the course of his career — actor, rapper, host, Mr. Mariah Carey, chooser of unconventional baby names — but with Nick Cannon: Mr. Showbiz (Saturday, May 14, 9/8c, Showtime), he returns to what he calls his first love: stand-up comedy. The special finds Cannon wilding out on topics both personal and political, as well as sharing a surprising amount of information on what it's like to be married to the biggest selling female recording artist of all time. As Cannon rode from the set of another interview back to the Los Angeles hospital where Carey is staying with her newborn twins, he talked to TVGuide.com about his special, Kanye West, "no homo," and how he gets away with mocking his family onstage.
Why return to stand-up comedy?
Nick Cannon: I never left! The beauty of stand-up comedy for me is that it's something I've always done, but it's always been under-the-radar. I started when I was 11. I've had a lot of successful sidetracks or things that have overshadowed what I really do, whether it was my film career, music or obviously my personal life. I never stopped doing standup because it's my first love. It's truly the foundation of my entire career. So if you didn't know who I was before, this gives you the insight into who I really am.
You say as much in the intro, too — do you feel unknown despite your celebrity?
Cannon: I do, because a lot of it is public opinion as opposed to coming from me: "I liked him in Drumline," or, "I loved [the song] 'Gigolo.'" It's never, "I know that guy." I'm one of those people who's just a regular dude. I want to be able to express to people that I'm not a celebrity or a star. I'm just a guy who happens to be in some pretty extraordinary circumstances.
Speaking of public opinion, a running thread throughout the show is the rude or inappropriate things that strangers say to you. Do you think that's a symptom of fame in general or your particular personality?
Cannon: I think all people in the public eye get it, whether it's from the Internet or daily gossip shows or tabloids. It just so happens that I deal with it head-on and embrace it and enjoy it, actually. There's a part of my humor that's self-deprecating.
When you talk about being diagnosed with ADHD late in the performance, I wasn't surprised at all. With all of the different hats you wear, you're already projecting entertainment ADHD.
Cannon: I do have entertainment ADHD! I think being someone who focuses on many different things at once has become a benefit to my career because I can juggle and balance and multitask more than most, and that has to do with my so-called disorder from being a kid.
In addition to embracing criticism head-on, you don't shy away from heated issues. In the section of your act in which you discuss and demonstrate the saying "no homo," I thought it was interesting how matter-of-factly you say, "We can be a little homophobic in the hip-hop community." To clarify: do you think that's a good or a bad thing?
Cannon: I think it's definitely a bad thing, but it is very matter of fact, like you said, whether it's things like, "No homo," or people saying, "That's gay." It's kind of how it's always been, but now I think that by talking about it and putting it out there and by me doing the "no homo" thing, it just showed how ridiculous it is. I kind of deal with the same thing with the "n-word." Instead of harping on it, whether it's good or it's bad, I kind of pose the question, like, "Why is this? Why does it have to be this way?" I never want to be too preachy, like, "Yo, don't do this!" But I do feel like my stand-up special's like one big town meeting of like, "This is what's going on. What should we do about it?"
Your special, to my knowledge, marks the first time that it's been confirmed that Mariah's 2009 hit "Obsessed" is about Eminem. Both of you previously denied it.
Cannon: When she, Dream and Tricky [initially] came up with the record, I honestly don't think that was the theme, but I think over the course of making it and by the time she got to the video, it kinda turned into that. We kind of said, "If everyone's saying it's a dis record, we might as well go along with it." I think the motivation might have been when Eminem released "Bagpipes Over Baghdad"(sample lyrics: "Mariah what ever happened to us? Why did we have to break up? / ... Nick Cannon better back the f--- up I'm not playin' I want her back, you punk"). That frustrated us and it happened to be around the time my wife was making the album. I would say it was inspired by [him], but she wasn't calling out names and all of that.
In the special, you touch on the fact that you didn't actually consummate your relationship with Mariah until after you were married.
Cannon: That's one of the things that makes my wife special. Everything that I had dreamed and envisioned about her was true when I did get a chance to meet her. It couldn't have been a better situation. To this day, it's the best thing that ever happened to me. My life is literally a fairy tale.
You also rip into Kanye West, making fun of not just his attitude but his physical appearance. Have you ever joked like that to his face? I wouldn't think that he'd take it very well.
Cannon: He does, though! He is short tempered, but if you know him, especially for as long as I have, he plays along. I remember one time, we were watching The Family Guy and he kind of referred to himself as the Quagmire dude. You know how his cheeks are mad big, too? Obviously, the reason Kanye's cheeks are like that is from a major accident he suffered, but he still knows how to joke about it.
What about your 4-year-old niece, "Juicy?" You literally say, "I can't stand her," and that she's headed for the stripper pole. You don't ever encounter hurt feelings from your family over stuff like that?
Cannon: I joke around with my family about that type of stuff all the time. I test those jokes out on my family first, just to see how they play, just to make sure people don't get too upset. Those are things I've said before in their presence and now I'm just sharing it with the world. They won't be surprised.
I love the imagery you suggest of Mariah throwing her weight around and saying, "Don't you know I'm the best selling female recording artist of all time?" Does she actually mention that in casual conversation?
Cannon: She has before, yes! Just when the record needs to be set straight, she'll let you know.
What constitutes setting the record straight? "Pass the syrup, I'm the best-selling female recording artist of all time"?
Cannon: (Laughs) Nah, it's only when it needs to be stated. Try challenging her on something. You'll get reminded.