If you’ve seen Kirk Fox on Comedy Central, HBO, “The Tonight Show” or as Sewage Joe on “Parks and Recreation,” you know the Fox can be really, really funny. So what’s a rising off-the-wall comic and actor doing hosting a syndicated “conflict resolution” show called “The Test”?
Coming to us beginning Sept. 9 from CBS Television Distribution and Tribune Broadcasting, this chat offering is a little bit “Maury,” a little bit “Jerry Springer” a little bit several others – but with the central conceit of DNA tests, lie detectors and other science and technology being employed to get answers for folks who have paternity and other answerable disputes. It’s being brought to us by exec producer Jay MacGraw.
Putting this together with a stand-up comic as host sounds like a recipe for exploiting and mocking the poor souls who are willing to lay their personal problems out before the public.
Not according to Fox. He tells us, “I am dealing with every guest with compassion and respect. Everyone who comes on the show – they need an answer, I’ll give them that answer. This isn’t a joke for these people, so it’s definitely not a joke for me.”
But he’s a comedian.
“I am a comedian, but — it’s just the way I was raised — I care about people. And I’ve got to tell you, none of my comedy, really, is ever at the expense of anybody but myself. I’m a comedian but I just like to think I like to listen to people, and I care. Listen, I’ve been a tennis teacher, I’ve been everything. So people enjoy talking to me because they feel they’re not being judged.”
Is there a lot of fighting on “The Test”? Do people come close to throwing blows?
“It happens just about every episode,” he says. “Tempers flare and then we try to resolve it. These people are finding out information that’s a life-changer. They find out someone is cheating or someone stole something. Listen, there’s going to be anger. I’ve got to be honest. There’s a lot of conflict, but there’s always going to be a resolution, and there will be some comedy, but never at the expense of the guests. This is a whole different muscle for me, and I’ve got to tell you, I love it.”
Also, according to Fox, “We have an after care specialist. If these people get an answer that’s more than they can deal with, there’s after care for them, as long as they need it. I just nudge people in the right direction. I’m not there to go home with them. I told them if they need to talk to me they can reach out to me as well. I’m totally there for these guests on any level.”
Fox’s gift for down-the-rabbit-hole sincerity makes it challenging to know when he is being serious.
What drives people to come on a show like this and detail their intimate grievances?
“I think a lot of people, they just need an answer to something,” answers Fox. “People feel safer baring their soul to millions instead of just one. They feel safer on TV. I don’t know why they’re coming on, but they sure are coming on.”
They sure must be, since Fox says he already has about 150 shows in the can thus far, with from one to three stories each episode, and they continue to tape. MacGraw developed the show, Fox auditioned.
“They liked what I did and felt it was a fresh take, and they realized I was more than just a comedian. They suddenly realized that I have a following, and that I really do care. And everything just lined up for this show and where I was in my life. I couldn’t be happier. I really love doing it and I totally believe in it.”
And its reception will rest mostly on how Fox comes across and deals with the guests.
“Without question,” he says. “And they’re going to see that I’m fresh, I’m unique — because there will be some comedy involved. There will be comedy and it will never be clunky and slow down the show. If anything, it makes the guests feel a little more comfortable. They never feel that the jokes are about them. They realize I’m funny, but I’m not a mean guy.”