Nick Cannon remembers spending about $100,000 to film a pilot starring emerging comedian Kevin Hart, hoping to gauge interest with TV networks that didn't understand the show's concept.
It certainly made sense to MTV.
"Nick Cannon Presents: Wild 'N Out" ultimately gave extra exposure to several eventual big names in stand-up comedy, including Hart and Katt Williams who were mostly unknown to mainstream audiences at the time. The show also helped launch the careers of Affion Crockett and Taran Killam.
"This is our generation's version of an 'In Living Color,'" said Cannon, referring to the hit '90s sketch comedy TV series. "I wanted to give this generation the same opportunity to bring out their own comedic voice."
The seventh season of "Wild 'N Out" premieres Wednesday night on MTV2. Hart makes his third appearance, along with a variety of celebrity guests such as Shaquille O'Neal, Jordin Sparks, Snoop Dogg, Pete Wentz and Ne-Yo.
"The show is a platform for comedians and guests to have fun and display their talents," Cannon said. It became the highest-rated series in MTV2's 20-year history last year, according to the network.
"Wild 'N Out" premiered on MTV in 2005, airing four seasons before going on a six-year hiatus and then returning in 2013 on MTV2. Two teams of comedians compete in a series of improvisational comedy games — one led by Cannon and the other by a celebrity guest. Guests have included Kanye West, Serena Williams, Snoop Dogg, Mariah Carey and Tara Reid.
"It really helped the audience embrace them in an intimate way," said executive producer Michael Goldman, who has been with the show since it premiered. "When Kanye came on the show, it was a significant moment. It was a badge of honor for the hip-hop community. If Kanye can do it, we can, too."
Goldman said many "Wild 'N Out" alumni have gone on to star in films, headline comedy tours and become cast members on "Saturday Night Live."
Cannon feels a sense of pride each time he sees comedian Pete Davidson appear on "Saturday Night Live."
"Just to see his career taking off is amazing," Cannon said. "He's going to go far. And just think, his first time on television was on 'Wild 'N Out.'"
Newcomer DC Young Fly, who also appeared on the show, became an Internet sensation, using social media to post his video skits.
"This is a chance for me to show the world how funny I really am," the Atlanta-based comedian said.
Cannon hopes to open "Wild 'N Out" sports bars and comedy clubs across the country, along with home game versions of the show.
"Everything you grew up loving the last 10 years, you'll be able to have in many different environments," he said.