August 29th 2008
Richard Karn is an actor, game show host, avid golfer, and capable handyman. He originally rose to fame with his role as Al Borland, Tim Allen's sidekick on the sitcom Home Improvement. After four years as host of the classic game show Family Feud, Karn has been tapped as the new host of GSN's Bingo America, taking over for the first season's host Patrick Duffy.
Karn had a few minutes to spare between tapings of Bingo America to talk about his new hosting gig.
Question: Hi Richard! Congratulations on becoming the new host of Bingo America! How did this gig come about for you?
Richard Karn: I don't know! They called, and apparently ... well, it might have something to do with Family Feud doing so well on GSN. But apparently Patrick Duffy, who is a friend, was feeling like he didn't want to do it anymore. So they called and here I am.
Q: Has it been a challenge for you, getting back into 'game show host' mode?
Karn: A little bit. I'm just hoping that my voice holds up! You come out there with lots of energy and as things move along you just hope that your voice doesn't go. But it's a lot of fun, and the show has been just rollicking.
Q: Family Feud gave you ample material for comedy and interaction with the contestants. Is it hard for you to find that kind of ground with Bingo America so far?
Karn: Yeah, the questions on Bingo America don't really lead to funny, silly answers. But the trivia is interesting and leads to discussions. We're still making it more like a party this season. Did you see the first season?
Karn: Well then you know that viewers can play along at home, and we've added a whole bunch of new stuff. The end of the game is a lot different for the contestants too. They have a big board that they get to play on, using the letters in 'bingo' and trying to avoid the Wrecking Ball. So that makes it a lot more interesting.
Q: Have you been able to step in easily and make Bingo America your own?
Karn: I feel like it is. I'm pretty much in control of it now. You have to be yourself, you know, and hopefully that works. If you aren't yourself from the beginning then you end up halfway through the season thinking, "What was I doing? Why am I doing this?"
Q: Are you concerned at all that you'll now be dealing with two different typecasts, that of the handyman as well as that of a game show host?
Karn: It's a possibility, but I can't worry about stuff like that. Life's too short. I'm out here and I'm having fun with it. You know, a lot of people are so concerned about perception and typecasting, but if you say "no" too often you're missing out.
Q: I know you're an avid golfer – are you still hosting your own celebrity golf tournaments? I also read that you'll be playing in the upcoming John Daly tournament in Florida.
Karn: I've been hosting the celebrity tournament for charity since 1984, and it's still going strong. I'm hoping to make it to Daly's tournament as well, but there might be another job I'll be working on at that time. I really hope to get there though.
Q: And you have a collection of signed golf balls, right? Which ones are your most treasured?
Karn: Sure do! I have Arnold Palmer, Gerald Ford, Sam Jackson, Tom Kite, Bob Hope – I mean, take your pick! They're all terrific.
Q: I heard you had a tough time getting Phil Mickelson's autograph.
Karn: (laughs) Well, they've gotta protect themselves, you know, people get their autographs on balls and stuff and then turn around and sell them. But yeah, I went up to Phil and asked him to sign a ball for me, and he didn't recognize me and said very nicely that he doesn't sign balls for fans. His wife knew who I was though, and kinda nudged him. He looked at her and I started walking away. He caught up to me and apologized, and said that his wife told him who I was and asked him what he was doing, and he signed the ball.
About two weeks later I ran into him, and called out, "Hey Phil! I got $325 for your ball!"
Q: Do you consider yourself a game show fan?
Karn: I am a fan! I've watched them all my life. Of course there are those that are better than others, and with this one there's something where people can play along at home. So that's a little different, and I hope they'll really like it.
Q: Any plans to combine your two roles and create a game show with cordless power tools?
Karn: Wouldn't that be cool? "Who can make a bird house quicker?" Or, "Who can make the best den plans?" We've got a sponsor for that already, I wonder if GSN would pick it up.
Richard, thanks so much for talking with me today! Best of luck with Bingo America – I'm looking forward to the new season.
Karn: No problem - gotta run, they're waiting for me on the set right now! Thanks!
Bingo America begins its second season on October 6th at 6:30pm Eastern, on GSN.