Greg Fitzsimmons is a talented comedian and radio host. He hosts The Greg Fitzsimmons Show on SiriusXM Howard 101, and has a popular podcast called FitzDog Radio.
Those of us who love game shows may also recognize him from the MTV game show Idiot Savants. Fitzsimmons has been tapped to host a new game show on Speed, called Pumped.
The game takes place at Sunoco gas stations, located at busy intersections. Fitzsimmons approaches patrons to play Pumped on the spot, and contestants have the chance to answer trivia questions and win some cash. We had the opportunity to speak with him about the game and his experiences as host.
Question: Tell us about Pumped - you're basically ambushing people at the gas station?
Greg Fitzsimmons: Yeah, pretty much. It's a lot like Cash Cab in that we're approaching people in the middle of everyday life and trying to surprise them.
The situations are a lot of fun. Like, a guy will pull up to the station and go in to buy a pack of cigarettes, and when he comes out I'm sitting in his car in the driver's seat. Or I'll go and start washing someone's windshield. They're Ed McMahon moments on a smaller scale.
Q: Did you run into many people who turned down the chance to play?
Fitzsimmons: A lot of people had a sort of negative reaction at first, but then as the game started and we got into it, they got excited about it. I'd say maybe ten to fifteen percent of the people we approached said no, but almost all of them had somewhere to be and needed to stay on schedule. The game itself takes about 30 minutes, from the time we get the cameras ready and approach someone until that person finishes up.
Q: What are the questions like - are they pop culture based?
Fitzsimmons: They're pop culture, yes. A bit of history, some sports, some NASCAR. Actually a lot of NASCAR. We tried to balance it between what an average person at a gas station would know and what a viewer of the Speed channel wants to see.
Q: Are you a game show fan in general?
Fitzsimmons: No, not at all. Really, I love hosting game shows, it's the greatest gig on TV. It's like an extension of stand-up.
Q: Which ties perfectly into my next question - why do you think comedians are so good at hosting game shows?
Fitzsimmons: Because game shows have built-in drama, so we don't have to deal with it. The raising of the stakes in any game show is natural - it's the game itself that provides the tension and drama. For us, it's an easy job because all we have to do is go in there and keep the energy up, tease people a bit, and make it like a party. It's like stand-up in a way, because I don't do any two shows the same, so I don't do any two game shows the same.
Q: A few of my readers have complained that the $1,800 prize on Pumped is too low. How do you respond to that>
Fitzsimmons: You get people who want to be on Jeopardy, and they study for that like they're taking their SATs - the stakes are much higher. Pumped focuses on the element of surprise - it's a guerilla-style game. For most people, the money isn't the main reason they agree to play. They get to have some fun, be on television, and then make a bit of cash. And most of the time we paid for their gas too.
Q: So it's more like buying a lottery ticket than applying for a grant.
Fitzsimmons: Not even that because you have to spend money on a lottery ticket. It's more like finding money on the street.
Q: Before you go, tell us about your book!
Fitzsimmons: It's called Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons: Tales of Redemption From an Irish Mailbox. I wrote the book last year, and the audio version is coming out on November 19th I think. It's based on a collection of letters that my parents received whenever I got in trouble as a kid, which is a lot. They got a good laugh about the letters and saved all of them, and I found them in a box at their house.
Thanks so much for your time, and I hope the show is a big success!
You can check out the podcast (which has featured the filming of Pumped), pick up the book, and keep up with Fitzsimmons at his website, GregFitzsimmons.com. Pumped airs on Speed Thursday nights at 9pm, starting November 17th.