Wayne Brady — who hosts “Let’s Make a Deal,” was a winner on “The Masked Singer,” performs on “Whose Line Is It Anyway” and plays a “badass” named Gravedigger on “Black Lightning” — has a new show on BYUtv.
And, he admits, he didn’t exactly know what he was getting himself into at first.
Brady told The Salt Lake Tribune he’d never heard of BYUtv until a producer friend of his suggested he pitch his show “Wayne Brady’s Comedy IQ” to the channel. “I said, ‘Why would I want to pitch the college TV channel?” Brady said.
But the friend told him that BYUtv is home to improv comedies, dramas, game shows, reality shows and more.
“So I went, ‘OK,’ and we went online and we watched,” Brady said. “We were so impressed. … We were stoked to pitch to them and then even more stoked when they wanted the show, because they got it. They got that we wanted to make something positive — something aspirational and inspirational. And something that would let me pass on this art that I've put a lot of my life into.”
“Wayne Brady’s Comedy IQ” (Monday, 6 p.m., BYUtv) features 11 hopefuls between the ages of 13 and 17. That number is cut to six at the end of the first of 10 episodes; the contestants who advance face performing, writing, directing, acting, singing and dancing challenges and perform with guest stars like Colin Mochrie and Sinbad.
The winner gets $10,000; a guest role on “Studio C”; the chance to perform with Brady on one of his tour dates; and camera, lighting, audio and computer equipment they can use to create their own content.
“I don’t think our finalists will all move on to be comedians or comedic actors,” said executive producer Mandie Taketa. “I think that they learned many life lessons in this. I think they’re able to apply everything they learned on the show to whatever it is that they want to do. I love that about the show.”
“And that’s what BYUtv really liked, was it was about the process and about the life lessons,” Brady said. “You can use everything that you learn on this show in real life.”
His goal was to pass on what he’s learned from a life in show business — years of performing on stage, singing with cover bands and in lounges everywhere from Tokyo to Las Vegas, doing “crappy” dinner theater.
“Everything that I do is born from years of being in the trenches,” he said. “So we wanted to put together a show that followed my journey and can be a road map to someone who was like me … not knowing how they can get started in show business, not knowing how they can get started in comedy. I wish that a show like this would’ve been available to help me when I was starting out.”
He’s sure that you can teach kids how to be funny — or, at least, how to channel their talents in the right direction to be successful performers.
“Children are natural improvisationalists. They see a box and they turn [it] into an airplane or a tank or some place to hide or a robot. We see a box,” Brady said. “So we’re taking these young people that are still in touch with that piece of them that can make something into something else, and going, ‘OK. That’s an innate skill that you have. Now I’m going to teach you how to think a certain way and to break it down into an actual science.’”
“Some are funnier than others,” Taketa said. “And that’s the show.”
Brady is convinced that BYUtv is the right place for his “Comedy IQ.” “Lord knows there’s too many shows where you could just see somebody half naked and slapping somebody,” Brady said. “This is the perfect family show.”
“It was nice to partner with BYUtv because it was important to them to create content for families to watch together,” Taketa added. “And we believe the same.”
Brady said “Comedy IQ” is “by family, for family,” although perhaps not altogether in the traditional sense. He and Taketa were married from 1999 to 2007, and they share a 17-year-old daughter. (During the current coronavirus pandemic, the three are self-quarantined at Brady’s house, along with Taketa’s boyfriend.)
“See how lucky I am?” Taketa said. “He’s my best friend and it’s been awesome working with him.”
“We transcend the ex-husband, ex-wife,” Brady said. “We are truly, legitimately family, which is why it’s wonderful that we’re here at BYUtv, where they actually love that and love that piece of our working relationship.”
Brady is arguably the most recognizable star at the center of any BYUtv series to date.
“I’m sure that that’s actually going to change,” he said. “I know that’s going to change because people are going to see that this is a place to come. John Legend just did a special. Folks are coming around to it.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated which game show Brady hosts.