Sometimes the greenest grass is under your feetI remember once Howard Stern was interviewing me after a couple of seasons of Survivor and he said, now please tell me you’re not going to be an idiot and quit the show to do something else. There was certainly a period after Survivor had become a huge hit where I wondered what the next step was – whether I should be trying to get into movies or look for a bigger challenge. In this business it’s always about what’s next, so initially it was hard for me to feel like I could just stay put, but now I am so grateful that I did. Doing Survivor has allowed me to grow not just as a host, but as a producer and a performer. Each season brings new challenges and opportunities, and I am just so glad and grateful to be where I am. I probably wouldn’t have made a very good movie star anyway.
Part of preparation is rolling with the punchesIf I were a contestant on Survivor my strategy would be no strategy. You really just have to pay attention and be prepared to react to whatever happens. I’ll have contestants who have obviously spent so much time before hand thinking, ‘Okay, this is how I’m going to play the game.’ On the first day, they’ll be telling me about their plan for day six and I’m thinking, ‘Buddy, you’re probably not even going to be here by then.’ At it’s core, Survivor is a game about different personalities and how they work together and I think to do well, you really just have to pay attention, keep your wits about you and react in the moment.
When in doubt, flirt with Sandra Bullock
At the end of the auditions for the Survivor job it came down to me and Phil Keoghan [who is now the host of The Amazing Race]. I ended up getting it and later Mark Burnett told me that it had been really close, but that he decided to go with me for two reasons. One, I had more experience doing live TV and two, on my reel I had included a clip where I am interviewing Sandra Bullock back when I was working for Access Hollywood. In this particular interview we had a sort of flirty back and forth going on and Mark said he really liked that. Of course, not in a million years would Sandra Bullock remember this exchange or have any idea what I am talking about, but it ended up being an important episode in my life. It’s funny because I really didn’t enjoy the work I did for Access Hollywood, but it really paid off in the end.//
To get the best out of people, know their back storyEvery contestant on Survivor has a story – I don’t mean the story they write down on their application, but the one that unfolds as you get to know them a little bit. My job as the host is to get to that story as quickly as possible, to understand how each person works and then to figure out how to use that understanding to get the best out of them by making them feel valued. Some people need to be bossed around a little bit, others need to feel like I’m their best friend, so that’s what I do. Ultimately, the success of the show is about seeing all of these vastly different personalities interact. So the more I can bring people’s guards down and have them acting as their most authentic selves the better.
This interview has been edited and condensed