Q&A: Nick Cannon on talk show, overcoming backlash last year

When Nick Cannon faced heavy criticism for his anti-Semitic remarks last year, he initially thought about stepping away from his lucrative TV host and producer career for good.

Cannon fell into a deep depression that felt like he was “stuck in quicksand” after seeing people who he called friends ridicule him on social media. He met with a prominent rabbi, issued an apology to the Jewish community for his anti-Semitic theories expressed on his podcast, but ViacomCBS had already severed ties with the host and producer of the long-standing “Wild ’n Out” show on VH1, the company’s cable channel.

Fox kept its relationship with Cannon as the host of “The Masked Singer,” but he felt like walking away from his lucrative career would be less stressful. He leaned toward quitting until he learned about the death of his friend-rapper Ryan Bowers, who killed himself last year after struggling with his own mental health.

Ultimately, Cannon realized he could use his platform to help people overcome adversity. Now, he’s looking to rebound with his nationally syndicated daytime talk show “Nick Cannon,” which premieres Sept. 27 on Fox Television stations. His show will have guest appearances by Kevin Hart, Simon Cowell, Nicole Scherzinger and Kandi Burruss.

In a recent interview, Cannon spoke to The Associated Press about his new talk show, growing after his controversial remarks and his advice for DaBaby who faced backlash for his homophobic comments at a music festival earlier this year.


AP: Your daytime talk show will be filmed in Harlem What compelled you to select that location?

CANNON: This is where it all started. This is the oasis. This is the mecca of entertainment of Black culture. I’ve always been a fan of the Harlem renaissance. I’ve been someone who’s been fascinated that so much has been bred here in Harlem. It expands out to the rest of the world where people borrow pieces here and there. Everything from jazz to literature to spoken word to theater. The Apollo is right down the street. The Cotton Club. When you think about the history and do your homework of how important Harlem is to our culture, I don’t see any other better place than Harlem.

AP: Will your talk show only feature celebrity guests?

CANNON: I’m rolling up my sleeves and going out to these communities and jumping into it. I’m not just reporting the stories but trying to become a part of the story. We’re trying to generate stories. Become a curator in that sense. I want to deliver information and introduce individuals you may not have known about. … I’m moving around. The home front and central intelligence is Harlem. But this is a talk show that comes to you. I’m all over the place.

AP: How much have you grown since your controversial anti-Semitic remarks?

CANNON: I took time last year to step back and listen. I listened to so many, and I’ve grown in any measure now. I’ve always been someone who is kind of an introvert. But even now, I kind of ponder and meditate and pray before I speak. Before, I was trying to be the first one with the answer. I wanted to show people I was smart. I wanted to even prove to my own kids that I have an education and I read two books a week and I do essays. All of that stuff is great. But when you allow your ego to kind of like “show you how smart I am,” it can definitely come off the wrong way.

AP: What did you learn most from your comments?

CANNON: There’s so much division. I always say, “To define me, is to confine you. To label me, is to disable me.” In this sense, we can learn so much from each other. We got to stop trying to put each other in a box. That’s what I learned the most. I’ve said it so much over the last year, but we have way more similarities than we have differences. It’s all about focusing on our likelihood and the fact that we cannot be without the other at any point.

AP: What did you learn from the Jewish community that you will incorporate into your show?

CANNON: You’ll see through this show that we’re launching some initiatives that are really focusing on where falsehoods and hate and things that we may not know were trigger words for certain communities. Things we may not know that’s offensive to certain groups.

AP: Do you feel like you must censor yourself now?

CANNON: I’m probably going to get in trouble again for saying something. I would be worried about it if my heart was not in the right place. That’s the beauty of people getting to see me every single day. I was joking on my set. I think I’m just going to put an apology sign where the applause sign goes, because of my humor, my jokes. I love having open and honest conversations but also someone who loves to play devil’s advocate, always looking at the other side. I’m just innately that person.

AP: What advice would you give DaBaby?

CANNON: My advice would be to just listen. Don’t be so quick to talk sometimes. When you offend someone, apologize sincerely. You don’t have to justify. I wasn’t trying to offend. We never are trying to offend.

AP: How did the death of your friend Ryan cause you to keep going?

CANNON: I stopped feeling sorry for myself. I can use this scenario to help people like my friend, Ryan. It shifted it for me and gave me a different perspective. It’s not a media game to play when you’re dealing with things like depression and emotions. I took the time to step back and take a moment to learn, find lessons and talk to people. I dove deep. I shared. I was vulnerable. The healing began after that. Then it turned into a mission. It turned into, “OK, I’m going to show people how resilient I am.”