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Quibi host Chance the Rapper knows you watch ‘Punk’d’ to see celebrities get mad

Chance the Rapper hosts Quibi's reboot of "Punk'd."
(Quibi)

It’s wild to remember just how big an impact “Punk’d” made on pop culture: IMDb lists more than 150 shows and films which have referred to the groundbreaking prank series since it premiered in 2003. Chancelor Jonathan Bennett, known more commonly as Chance the Rapper, is taking on hosting and producing the Quibi edition, and he’s pretty sure he knows why the show made such an impact back then.

“Prior to ‘Punk’d,’ there was ‘Candid Camera,’ and then there were prank segments on other shows,” he says. “But the reason why it was so revolutionary [was] because it was celebs, and it was at a time when, for me, I didn’t have any images of my favorite celebrities other than the picture-perfect version. There was no Instagram. There was no way of knowing what these people look like without makeup or on a random off day.”

What host Ashton Kutcher and original creator Jason Goldberg made possible for viewers like Bennett, who watched the original series when it aired on MTV, was getting to see celebrities outside of their comfort zones. “Not just on a regular day when they’re just going to get their mail or at a store or parking their car. This is what they look like when they get mad.”

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When Bennett pitched himself to Goldberg and the “Punk’d” team as a potential host, he didn’t have a ton of non-musical on-camera experience, beyond having hosted “Saturday Night Live” twice; last fall, he served as a judge on Netflix’s hip-hop reality competition “Rhythm + Flow.” The show, though, has revived as a short-form series — arguably the perfect length for the concept, with each prank clocking in under 10 minutes (per the Quibi promise of “quick bites” of content) to deliver both setup and payoff.

Bennett’s role as host is mostly spent behind-the-scenes, laughing while celebrities like Megan Thee Stallion, Adam Devine and Liza Koshy are tricked into believing that their dogs have been kidnapped, their cars have been destroyed or that they’ve broken a young girl’s face. “This is extremely run-and-gun, extremely DIY. We didn’t have trailers, and a lot of times we didn’t have craft services,” Bennett says. “It was very light, very authentic, like nothing I ever worked on before.”

While references to “Punk’d” have been a cultural mainstay, it’s been 17 years since the show premiered. When the revival was in production last fall, neither the show’s existence nor Bennett’s involvement was public knowledge. (For perspective’s sake, one of the celebrities featured this season, actress Sabrina Carpenter, was 3 years old when it first premiered.) So Bennett and the team were genuinely able to surprise their subjects.

Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman run Quibi, a digital platform creating bite-size shows for millennials to watch on their smartphones.

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The key, for Bennett, is that the celebrities picked for the first season are mostly people he considers friends; he worried about pranking people he didn’t already know. “I love the Rock, and I wanted to do the Rock so bad. But he’s gigantic. He could do great, great bodily harm to me,” he says.

Now that the secret is out, though, he feels that as he’s recognizable as the official “‘Punk’d’ guy,” it’ll be easier for him to take on strangers. So if there’s another season — watch out, Dwayne Johnson.


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