Tom Papa is wired right for 'Boom!'
The host of the new tension-filled game show talks about flying goop and ruined suits.
Viewers at home don't see it, but Tom Papa, the host of FOX's new game show "Boom!", wears an earpiece. Mostly it's for the producers to tell him what kind of goo has just flown out of the cartoonish bomb a contestant has just set off by clipping the wire to the wrong answer. But he hears other things in that earpiece, things that make him a bit unsettled.
"At one point, I literally heard, 'We’ve got to make these bombs bigger and hit Papa.' I was like, 'Oh, great,' and from that point on, it became me running and them trying to nail me," the comedian told From The Grapevine. "And as they get bigger, it’s like I can’t run far enough. It hits the whole audience, the real big ones."
The premise of "Boom!", a concept that has been rolled out worldwide by the Israeli production company Keshet, is pretty straightforward: in each round, a contestant has a certain amount of time to cut the wires on a Looney Toons-style "bomb." The wires represent the answers to a general knowledge question. If the contestant cuts the wire that represents the wrong answer, or runs out of time – Boom! The bomb explodes and he or she is sprayed with anything from maple syrup to cheese to marinara sauce to wedding cake. The wetter the spray, the more people, including Papa and the poncho-wearing audience, get hit.
"No one is more unhappy when the bomb goes off than wardrobe," Papa said. "Three women just come in, and they’re just shaking their heads. They’re like, 'Oh, here’s another suit. Here’s more socks.'" According to Papa, he went through 25 suits while filming the show's first season. "There was a couple where [the amount I got sprayed] was really nasty. Like through the suit, through the shirt, through the tie."
In the game, which airs on Thursdays (8 p.m. ET), teams of three, whose stories have ranged from co-workers to grammar-school classmates, try to defuse six bombs, each with an increasing dollar amount – and an increasing number of wires. If one detonates a bomb, that person is out for the rest of the game. After three bombs are detonated, the game is over. If the team makes it to the "bonus" bomb, they can quadruple the pot they accumulated or go home. If they go for the bonus, they have to guess the seven right answers out of 10 "wires." If they lose, the goop flies, but at least they go home with half of the pot they put at risk.
This isn't the first time Papa hosted a game show; from 2010-11, he hosted the Jerry Seinfeld-produced show "The Marriage Ref," where celebrities take sides in funny marriage disputes. "Boom!," however, is an entirely different animal, one that builds tension from the first second, as a disembodied voice counts down, then pauses, after each wire is cut.
When he was offered the gig, the veteran stand-up comedian knew that he could do the job. "I was like, if I’m standing in front of a national audience with a guy that’s covered from head to toe in gloop, if I can’t come up with something funny, I need a new career." What he realized when he started doing the practice shows, however, is how much fun and tension is naturally built into the game play. "We would just have someone standing there with a bucket of water. That was going to be the bad thing that was going to happen, and we were just in this little room. The tension was so real so quickly. It was like, 'Oh, man, this is going to work.'"
If he's not sure the contestant cut the right wire, he's running from the bomb as the countdown starts. But he tries to stay with the contestant as long as he can. "You realize that you’re the calm in the storm for them. They’re in front of a national audience. They have all this money on the line. It is nerve-wracking to know that this thing might just explode in your face. So I quickly realize I’m their only friend out there," he said.
Ever the comedian, though, he admits to rooting for the bomb sometimes. "Some people, I’m happy when it blows up on them," he said. When asked who, he slyly said, "Oh, I think it’ll be obvious."
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