Can Shaq, who once named himself "The Big Aristotle," transform into "The Big Lenny Bruce" with his new comedy showcase?
Shaquille O'Neal gave himself dozens of memorable nicknames over the course of his basketball career, ranging from “The Big Aristotle,” for his pithy post-game remarks, to “The Big Baryshnikov,” for his unique blend of size and agility.
Can "The Big Daniel Tosh" be next?
The four-time NBA champion is trying to use humor to build his brand, hosting a new Thursday-night comedy show on TruTV titled “Upload with Shaquille O’Neal.” O’Neal and comedians Gary Owen and Godfrey comment on assorted online videos and film their own segments with a green screen.
The show hews closely to his on-camera persona — mischievous, funny and playful.
“People that know the Shaquille O’Neal brand know he’s a funny guy with a great sense of humor,” O’Neal told TheWrap. “I would never do stand-up, but I can hit you with one or two bang bangs and get back up.”
In the first episode, which aired last week, the trio comment on everything from cat videos to a dancing grandma while a skit features O'Neal lifting weights and Godrey using a blow torch to motivate him.
It all reflects O'Neal's embrace of technology and new media – from his decision to retire via online video platform Tout to his 6.7 million Twitter followers (more than any basketball player except LeBron James).
An early investor in Google, O’Neal has his money in so many different companies he once told Fast Company he has “a triple retirement portfolio.”
“I don’t watch TV,” the analyst on TNT’s “Inside the NBA,” said. “I’m on the internet all the time — fights, baby stuff. One of my favorite videos is ‘Charlie Bit Me.’ Have you seen it?”
O’Neal offered up a quick summary.
“There’s two little babies and one is smaller than the other. The big brother pushes the baby and sticks his finger in his mouth. The baby bites it and the kid says ‘Mommy, Charlie bit me.”
O’Neal erupted in laughter.
That one video has charted more than 500 million views on YouTube — and it’s his recognition of the power of YouTube that made TruTV and Fishbowl want him as a host.
The big fella has tried television before, starring in a trio of reality shows between 2005 and 2011. There was “Shaquille,” an ESPN show that opened up Shaq’s life to fans, “Shaq’s Big Challenge,” an ABC show where Shaq helped obese children lose weight and “Shaq Vs.,” an ABC show pitting Shaq against athletes like Albert Pujols and Michael Phelps.
Neither ABC show was an unqualified success, sending the surefire Hall of Famer back to the drawing board. He came to TruTV with a series of pitches, including one titled “Shaq Inc.,” which would explore the empire of his own enterprise.
TruTV didn't bite, but it did think of O'Neal when Fishbowl Media, whose co-founder Vin DiBona created legendary clips show "America's Funniest Home Video," proposed what became "Upload."
“If you follow what Shaq has done on the internet over the last couple years, this is such a perfect fit for his tone and the direction he’s taken online,” Bruce Gersh, CEO of Fishbowl, told TheWrap. “He has a finger not only on the pulse of the Internet but all of social media.”
He can also bring friends, whether from his involvement with All-Star Comedy Jam or his playing days. Though O’Neal wouldn’t reveal many of the “legendary guests,” he offered this one kernel — Aaron Carter.
“A long time ago Aaron did a song called ‘How I Beat Shaq.’ I had to pay him back 12 years later,” O’Neal said.
The former Laker acknowledges that there are a lot of “clip shows” out there, from Comedy Central's "Tosh.0" to Fishbowl’s own “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” That's to say nothing of all the shows on YouTube.
So what’s going to set his apart? O’Neal says it will be more outlandish, a little more crazy than what you're used to.
Crazier than Tosh? Maybe not that crazy.
“Because of who I am, I need to be be socially and morally aware of what I say,” O’Neal said. “I don’t want to offend anybody and comedy does that sometimes.”
Shaq Inc. reporting for duty.