Game On! premieres tonight at 8:00PM ET/PT, only on CBS and streaming on CBS All Access. This all-new trivia/physical challenge game show is hosted by comedic genius Keegan-Michael Key and also features sports superstars Venus Williams and Rob Gronkowski.
CBS Local’s Matt Weiss sat down with Keegan-Michael Key to discuss Game On!, working with his new championship teammates and what it was like to take on Gronk in a dogfight from the cockpit of a fighter jet.
MW: Hello there Keegan! How’s it going?
KMK: It’s going really well I’ve just been busy doing press for Game On! lately. It’s nice to be able to do press for a show that you’re really excited about. It’s nice to talk about a show that you enjoyed making and that you can’t wait for people to see.
MW: Very cool. You actually pull double duty on Game On! as the host and executive producer. Alongside yourself the show also features team captains Rob Gronkowski and Venus Williams. There’s a whole lot of star power there but what are people actually going to see when they tune in?
KMK: What people are going to see is Rob’s team and Venus’ team competing for points. The way that they’re going to be doing this is through trivia challenges, through quiz challenges and then the creme de la creme are these amazing over the top physical challenges that the teammates are going through.
Both teams are comprised of three people. Each week we fill the third seat with a celebrity of some sort either an actor or comedian or an athlete or personality. What you’re going to see is them competing in these crazy physical challenges as well as these mental challenges. There’s a lot of banter in between and then at the end of each episode there’s obviously a winning team and a losing team. The losing team has to do something we call on the show “Taking The L” or taking the loss. That will be some kind of humiliating or disgusting or a potentially dangerous task because they lost that week’s competition.
MW: Gronk and Venus are two incredible athletes, two incredible competitors. What was it like watching the two of them go at it?
KMK: First of all two very different people. Gronk is like a six foot six, 260-pound cheerleader and Venus is more like a champion chess master. Seeing that comparison is really fantastic, but the other thing is it seemed they both have this physical brilliance, a physical genius. It’s funny very often an athlete is an athlete is an athlete.
We understand that Rob plays football but then you see him do things like rhythmic gymnastics and you’re going ‘wait a minute is it me or does that look good? He’s twirling the thing. How is he doing that?’ You realize that a lot of it has to do with the fact that athletes, I believe they have this genetic edge. They’re just naturally athletic.
MW: Speaking of athletics, you’re in a couple of challenges as well, right?
KMK: I am.
MW: How was it for you getting out there and mixing it up?
KMK: I had a blast. One of my challenges was extremely body-centric which was kicking a field goal at the LA Coliseum at an LA Rams game.
MW: No pressure. [laughs]
KMK: No big deal. Just a regular Monday. It wasn’t even a Sunday night game, it was a Monday night game. Then the other two challenges were interesting as they were mechanical. I was in a Monster Jam truck rally with Gronk and Venus.
Also, I was in what is known as a Marchetti fighter jet. Gronk and I went up into the sky and literally did aerial combat with each other; we had an air dogfight. It was unbelievable. The pilot is like, “OK we’re at the right vector here about 5200 feet, alright Keegan you’re good to go.” I said, “I’m sorry… I’m ok, I’m flying? I’m flying the plane.” It was a trip; it was amazing. So, those were three challenges that I did that were, it’s like there were things on my bucket list I didn’t know were on my bucket list.
MW: And what about Gronk and Venus off camera? You talk about their competitiveness and how they are a little different. What about their personality, what was it like getting to know the two of them?
KMK: It’s interesting with Venus there’s this real grace about her. Her focus is different than Rob’s focus. They both have intense focus but it’s different. I think it’s because she’s in an individual sport and he’s in a team sport. She spends a lot of time being lovely and kind and admiring her teammates. One of my favorite parts of the show is anytime somebody says something off the cuff that really just cracks Venus up. If you can get Venus to chuckle really hard it’s a rare occurrence because of that poise that she has.
Rob is just looking around, all over the place all the time; it’s really great. Like I said earlier, it’s like he’s got his pompoms and he’s ready to go for anything. They’re both lovely off stage and you can see that they want to be there. I really enjoy being there with both of them. There’s a joy about how the program works and everybody dove in headfirst.
MW: You’re obviously very well known for a multitude of things but your substitute teacher character is one of the standouts for sure. I’m curious how he would pronounce Gronkowski and Venus…
KMK: OK, well first of all her name is Venis [character voice] ‘Venis Williams, where Venis Williams at, is there a Venis Williams here?’ That would be her name. And then his name I think he would just take the roll call sheet and throw it out the window. [character voice] ‘Don’t mess with me. We just putting up fake names up around here. Groonkooski? Who the hell is Groonkooski? Is Groonkooski up in here? If I find out there ain’t nobody really named Rob Groonkooski, I’m gonna drop a grenade in the middle of this room.’
MW: [Laughs] Thank you. I put you on the spot but that was incredible.
KMK: Anytime! [laughs]
MW: Very nice. Alright so, last question here before I let you go. People are missing sports a lot right now. People want to see competition, people want to see anything really. What does it mean to be able to put on this show where people can watch some familiar faces compete against once another and just put everything else to the side for a little bit?
KMK: It’s humbling, it’s humbling because I feel like we’re in a position to potentially offer a public service. Hopefully fill that void with something that’s fun and entertaining and for everyone.
It’s really for everyone, if you’re 8 for 88, you should be able to enjoy this show. If you’re a sports buff, if you’re not a sports buff, you should be able to enjoy this show. It is very humbling. My hope is that we can get to this place where people will go, ‘Oh thank God for Game On!, that would be lovely if that was the case. I hope we can do that because we really mean it from our hearts. It’s just been an incredible experience with incredible people and I can’t wait for everyone to see it!
MW: Looking forward to it myself for sure, I need to see this aerial dogfight.
KMK: It’s a good one.
MW: Well thank you so much Keegan, been a pleasure talking to you and all the best with the premiere on Wednesday!
KMK: Thank you Matt, so nice talking to you. Stay safe!
Game On! comes to CBS on Wednesdays at 8:00PM ET/PT, only on CBS and streaming on CBS All Access. Check your local listings for more information.