When “Double Dare Live!” splats onto the stage at the Akron Civic Theater on May 16, Marc Summers, the man many identify as the face of the long-running franchise, will be on stage just as he was for the original iteration of the show’s 482 episodes.
In “Double Dare,” two teams, usually made up of children and teenagers, answer trivia questions and perform physical challenges to win cash and prizes. It was originally created to fill a void in children’s television; at the time it first aired, there weren’t any game shows designed more towards children. As such, the physical challenges in Double Dare were famous for their messiness; for example, in one challenge, the contestants must attempt to catch eggs using cymbals. Afterwards, the team with the highest score gets to take a crack at the show’s obstacle course, which featured more messy challenges, such as Pick It, which featured a giant nose and contestants had to reach their arms up the nostrils to search for the flag needed to advance.
Generally speaking, if a team went home from “Double Dare” and wasn’t an absolute mess, they probably weren’t very successful.
Summers, who served as the host in the original run of the show, which ran from 1986 to 1993 on Nickelodeon as “Double Dare,” “Super Sloppy Double Dare” and “Family Double Dare,” has not onlybeen hosting the live version of the show but also performs a color commentator role in Nickelodeon’s revival of the series, now in its second season, providing support, as well as his insight and knowledge of the game to new host and YouTube star Liza Koshy.
Summers, speaking by telephone from his home in Los Angeles, said he both is and isn’t surprised to see Double Dare still going strong 33 years after its debut. He has hosted 25 different shows, including “Restaurant: Impossible” and “Unwrapped” on the Food Network, but he’s often most identified with the Double Dare brand.
“It’s interesting that show had such a dramatic impact on a particular generation and now they have kids the same age they were when they started (watching),” said Summers. “And there’s a need for it, there’s nothing like it on TV. And it’s funny to me that these kids who know nothing other than cell phones, iPads and computers get excited about throwing a marshmallow in a cup because they’ve never experienced it. The parents are watching their lives repeat through their kids and it just works. We’re selling out theaters throughout the country, the energy is not to be believed. It’s all about timing, I think.”
The current iteration of Double Dare is actually Nickelodeon’s second revival attempt; Summers wasn’t involved in the short-lived “Double Dare 2000.” However he isn’t surprised the network decided to try again with the show, in fact, Summers said he’s the one who has been motivated to bring it back this time.
“I have been after Nickelodeon for 10 years to bring it back, they kept telling me I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about,” he said. “Guess what? They were wrong.”
Summers said “Double Dare Live!” is similar to the show on Nickelodeon, though more audience members get to participate. They also incorporate a game called Musical Pies from the 1990s Nickelodeon show “What Would You Do?” which Summers also hosted, and lastly they have the obstacle course, with each successful obstacle passed earning the contestant $100 and if they can perform all eight in 60 seconds, they earn $1,000. The live show, like the new TV series, mixes up classic obstacle course challenges with newer ones; Summers said the new challenges might actually be harder than some of the old ones they had only had three $1,000 winners in the 13 live shows they had put on so far this year.
“Pick It seems to be the classic one everyone wants to do,” he said. “Actually, the other day we had a family getting ready to run the obstacle course and I asked who was going to do Pick It and this 11-year old starts walking toward it. The father literally pushed him out of the way and said, ‘Nuh-uh, I’ve been waiting to do this my whole life.’ I had to laugh.”
And yes, the story about Summers wanting to be a rabbi when he was younger is true, at least, in spirit. Summers set the record straight on what happened with the Cleveland Jewish News.
“I had done my bar mitzvah, and I got up on the pulpit and thought, I’m entertaining, this is great,” said Summers, who added he had performed magic at a couple small shows as well. “There’s something magical about having the 300 people or so sitting down watching my bar mitzvah. I thought, ‘well, this is cool, I think I want to be a rabbi.’ But then I had the show business stuff and doing magic and kids shows. I couldn’t make a decision.”
He said he rode his bike over to his synagogue and asked to speak with the assistant rabbi for a few minutes.
“I said, ‘didn’t you major in radio and TV at one point?’” said Summers. “He said, ‘yep.’ I said, ‘then you became a rabbi.’ He said, ‘yep.’ I said I was kind of confused, because those are the same interests I have. Now, I’m 13 years old, and he said to me, ‘why do you want to be a rabbi?’ I said to him, ‘because I want to help people.’ He said to me, ‘as a rabbi, you can help a small amount of people a lot, but in the entertainment business you can help a lot of people a little. Whatever direction you do, I don’t think you can go wrong.’ So, I made the decision to do the entertainment thing. ... I thought he gave me great information.”