The aughts were a weird time for television, man. For every Joe Millionaire or Simple Life, you had dozens upon dozens of copycats. Such was the case with Punk’d, which birthed a veritable prank show boom in the mid-2000s. Noted “scumbag” Jason Mantzoukas was involved in one such prank show, which he reminisced about to Conan on Wednesday night. Or maybe reminisced is the wrong word? Looked back on in abject horror? Yeah, that’s probably a bit more accurate.
Fresh off the Groundlings, Mantzoukas was overjoyed to land himself Roommate Wanted, a prank show that took place in a sweet Tribeca loft, in which producers would find some poor, down-on-their-luck schmo to be methodically tortured by a bunch of unbeknownst-to-them actors (Mantzoukas included) over the course of four weeks or so. Oh, it was the long-con of reality prank shows.
Unfortunately the series never made it to air due to the fact that every single person “pranked” on the show would literally burst into tears when the prank was revealed to them, asking, “So… wait a second. Is this apartment not even for rent?” Mantzoukas says that at the end of every soul-crushing day, they would all feel like awful, awful people. 2000s reality TV, in a nutshell.