How Johnny Bananas Turned 15 Minutes of Reality TV Fame Into a 15-Year Career

Take a second and suppose of your most beloved actor or actress, after which marvel at the truth that — whoever they’re — Johnny “Bananas” Devenanzio has in all probability been on TV longer than they’ve. With 20-plus seasons of actuality tv underneath his belt (starting with MTV’s The Real World: Key West in 2005 and together with the longest ever run on The Challenge in addition to a current stint on the Food Network’s Worst Cooks In America), he’s been on the air greater than twice so long as Jerry Seinfeld or the forged of The Office. The forged of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which just lately turned the longest-running stay motion comedy of all time by being renewed for a 15th season, continues to be seven seasons behind him. By that measure, he’s been on TV longer than Law & Order.

Over the course of 15 years (a number of of which featured a number of seasons), he’s managed to carve out a profession for himself as one of the best actuality TV personas of all time, a smirking antagonist who refers to himself as “the man, the myth, the legend” and boasts the C.V. — six Challenge wins, incomes him $684,720 in prize cash thus far — to show it. His accomplice Sarah Rice on The Challenge: Rivals III was shocked when he stole her half of their winnings in that season’s finale, however anybody who has frolicked watching Bananas might have predicted the transfer; the person is aware of what makes for good TV. It’s why there have been no arduous emotions when his longtime rival-turned-ally Wes Bergmann determined on the final second to face off in opposition to him in an elimination on Wednesday night time’s episode. Two former enemies who spent the season constructing a friendship going head-to-head to earn a ticket to the ultimate? It’s positively Shakespearean, and as Bananas — who in the end despatched Wes packing — all the time says, “All’s fair in love, war and Challenges.”

But he’s been capable of parlay his success on The Challenge into a lasting profession, together with a gig internet hosting NBC’s late-night journey present 1st Look. It’s a savvy transfer: might Devenanzio, who turns 38 later this month and has spent the bulk of his grownup life as a actuality star, be priming himself to lastly stroll away from the bodily demanding MTV competitors present? We caught up with him to search out out whether or not he’s mulling retirement, the adjustments in actuality TV he’s witnessed over the previous decade and whether or not or not he’s actually such an asshole in actual life.

InsideHook: This is your 20th season on The Challenge. Was there a particular season or second the place you first realized, “I can make a career out of this, I’m not just here for a few seasons, this is what I want to do”?

Johnny Bananas: Not actually. It wasn’t a second. I believe when that actually turned a actuality was once we went from doing one Challenge a 12 months to 2, after which they really threw in Champs vs Stars there for a couple of years, so then we had been really doing three. Obviously, like another job, the longer you’re employed, the extra engaging the wage will get for displaying up, and clearly that’s the case with us as effectively. Put successful apart, if I movie two Challenges a 12 months, I’m making a very comfy dwelling doing that. You add on a win, and now we’re in a complete totally different realm. Once I acquired my internet hosting gig for 1st Look, it actually turned apparent that I might positively proceed doing this for a whereas now and make a very first rate dwelling out of it. The wrestle has been simply making an attempt to remain wholesome — not the wrestle, however now clearly to remain wholesome and keep in form and keep mentally sharp and simply not get burned out. Doing 16 weeks of The Challenge a 12 months is greater than sufficient to deal with, after which throw on prime of that every one the free time I had in between Challenges now’s mainly being occupied by 1st Look and different initiatives. So extra than something, it’s nearly having the ability to discover a steadiness and simply having the ability to only have sufficient bandwidth to have the ability to tackle every little thing that’s coming my approach.

You talked about 1st Look, and I’m curious how that got here to be. Were you all the time concerned with internet hosting?

I simply felt like for me, that will be a pure transition. I all the time preferred internet hosting as a result of I simply really feel like I’ve simply acquired a knack for coping with folks and pondering outdoors of the field and pondering on my toes. I’ve by no means been a massive fan of scripted issues, which is why appearing was by no means all that engaging to me. I all the time thought that I used to be simply higher as me, sort of going off the script. Even to today, even when I’ve a script, I by no means learn it phrase for phrase. I prefer to put issues in my very own phrases, and I prefer to say it the best way I need to say it, simply because it doesn’t sound as canned and extra pure. Obviously, I do know I’m not going to be capable of do Challenges without end and there’s no changing TJ, in order that’s not even one thing I’d think about. TJ is the host of The Challenge. So I simply figured, “Listen, there’s other opportunities out there, and I think I would be a great host in other areas.” And 1st Look simply fell into my lap as a result of it simply so occurs that a girl who does casting for numerous NBC properties, they had been searching for a new host on 1st Look, and given the make-up of 1st Look and what 1st Look is all about, which is having the host discover all these off-the-wall, out-there jobs and professions and journey places and all this stuff around the globe, it was simply a pure match for me. I believe that I couldn’t have chosen a higher match for me and what I’m good at. It mainly enhances all of my strengths. Between The Challenge and 1st Look, I’m doing every little thing I need to do. I get to compete, I get to expertise new issues. I get to fulfill new folks. I get to journey and I receives a commission for doing it. So yeah, I’ve one way or the other discovered a fairly good couple of gigs. Good area of interest to be in.

This season on The Challenge you labored with Wes. Going into this season, did you see it as type of a one-and-done sort factor, or had been you pondering there was potential for a long-term alliance with him?

I didn’t know if it was going to final a day. Okay? I imply, pay attention. Yeah. You have a arduous sufficient time trusting people who find themselves your pals, individuals who you’ve labored with up to now. Trust is such a arduous factor to come back by in The Challenge. To attempt to set up belief with any individual that you just’ve primarily spent your whole profession being at odds with and making an attempt to screw over and making an attempt to control and making an attempt to work in opposition to — whereas the thought sounded nice, and it’s like, “Hey man, we’ll do it and we’ll work together and no one will see it coming and we’ll be able to make this thing happen” — as a lot as I wished to, going in, suppose that this was going to work, I by no means thought that it really had a probability. And the truth that it’s labored in addition to it has and that we’ve not simply been capable of make it work, however we’ve been capable of make it work effectively and that he’s really held up his finish of the cut price when push got here to shove is really simply stunning. I really imagine now that something is feasible. If Wes and I can work collectively on a Challenge and put variations apart, I don’t suppose there’s something on this world that may’t be achieved.

Before the season began, you probably did your own version of that Tom Brady video where he teases retirement. Have you began to consider what number of extra Challenges you’ve got left in you?

I don’t prefer to quantify it with a quantity, proper? I’ve by no means believed that there are specific ages or there are specific occasions that issues must occur. Like once you’re 21, you want your school diploma. And once you’re 30, you should be settled down and married and have youngsters. And once you’re no matter 40, you should be retired. Whatever it’s. The approach I see it’s I simply really feel like issues are simply naturally going to occur. I really feel like for me to take a seat right here and to place some type of an synthetic time or quantity on what number of I acquired left or what number of years I have left, I simply don’t know. It is perhaps too many; it may not be sufficient. You know? So I similar to to suppose that the place I’m at proper now, bodily and mentally, I really feel like there’s nonetheless a large quantity that I convey to the present. I really feel like I can nonetheless compete and I can nonetheless hold with guys who’re over a decade youthful than me. And do it effectively. I believe as soon as I’m not capable of sustain mentally or bodily with the trials of The Challenge, I believe that’s my time. But I do know that proper now, primarily based on going into this season, the best way that I’ve carried out up so far, I don’t essentially see the top in sight anytime quickly. So that is perhaps excellent news for some folks. That’s in all probability dangerous information for a lot of different folks, however yeah, I’m not going to be one of these Challenge forged members that claims they’re retired like Jordan, who retired years in the past and now has come out of retirement and he’s like, “Oh, this is what I’m going to do for the foreseeable future.” So I don’t need to be that man. I don’t need to be the man that retires and unretires. If and once I do lastly hold it up, it’s going to be for good. But yeah, like I mentioned, that’s not going to be any time quickly.

Do you’ve got any targets or something left to test off on The Challenge earlier than you retire? I imply, clearly one other win could be nice, however are there another milestones you continue to need to hit?

At this level, clearly one other win could be nice, however I don’t know what else I might probably accomplish. I really feel like at this level, any transfer I make on The Challenge is I’m transferring laterally, which is okay. I sustaining, I’m holding myself there. But yeah, I believe that seventh elusive win would positively be what I want for a lot of causes. There was a time that I actually did take successful for granted. I simply felt like, “Listen, it’s just going to happen. I’m going to show up every season. I’m either going to make it to the final or win a final. That’s just going to happen.” Because for a whereas there, it was like clockwork. And then after Rivals III, I’ve positively had a string of performances the place some of them … I imply, I used to be nearly there, proper there, proper on the end line. And I simply couldn’t get the ball over the end line. Lots of folks have attributed it a lot of totally different causes. The most typical idea is I’m cursed. I don’t imagine in being cursed. I don’t suppose it’s a curse. If something, it’s a byproduct of my success, and the extra profitable you might be and the extra you win, the much less folks need to see you achieve success. And this isn’t simply forged members. This is manufacturing. This is all the best way to the highest. There must be some parity in the event that they need to preserve this factor entertaining. So I’m not stunned that my street has been troublesome because it has, however greater than something, greater than proving all of the haters flawed — and I need to show that curses don’t exist, or at least in relation to me, they’re made to be damaged — however greater than something, I simply need to show it to myself that I nonetheless have what it takes to make it to a remaining and to win. Like I mentioned, I believe I took remaining appearances and wins as a right for a very long time. If I ever did make it again there, it might imply a lot greater than it has within the previous.

You’re additionally on Worst Cooks, and whereas that’s one other competitors present, it’s clearly a complete totally different ballgame. Has your expertise on The Challenge ready you in any respect for it? Does it translate in any respect?

Absolutely. They had no concept what they had been getting with me. And like I mentioned, I’m used to competing at a very, very troublesome, very excessive degree in opposition to different very hungry, very athletic, very scary rivals. And that’s simply the depth that I convey with me anytime I compete. I don’t care if I’m taking part in beer pong, cornhole. It doesn’t matter. I’m going to present it my all. I’m going to do the finest that I can. I’m going to try to win it. I’m going to do every little thing I can to win. So going into Worst Cooks, I believe a lot of these different folks weren’t actually anticipating the depth of the challenges that we did. I suppose a lot of folks didn’t convey that aggressive edge. They may not even essentially have it. I mainly introduced my A recreation, and I introduced every little thing that I’d to a regular problem and I believe I blew a lot of folks away in that regard. People had been taking a look at me like, “Holy shit, this guy means business.” We simply did a problem on Worst Cooks once we had been blindfolded, we needed to put a thriller ingredient in our mouth, determine it, bounce on a bouncy ball horse over to a board, choose the item off the board that we put in our mouth after which bounce again, and the first one to place it on the rostrum wins or gained that spherical. I used to be going so arduous. I used to be flying by way of the set. I used to be knocking over hay bales. I nearly took out the chef at one level. These individuals are taking a look at me like, “Dude, calm down. It’s just the game.” But that’s the depth I convey all over the place.

I additionally introduced technique with me, too. On Worst Cooks, the primary plate that we did, the primary prepare dinner that we made was mainly no matter we wished to make. It could possibly be something. What we’re going to convey to a banquet. Going in, I’m like, “Alright, this is an elimination show. We’re going to be judged based on our performance. Right? So if I go in and I lay down a zero, if I put my worst effort out there and I just have fun doing it and make a complete ass of myself and I start from the bottom, then there’s only up from there.” Everybody else went and so they tried to throw down their ace. Everyone was, “This is the best dish. This is as good as I can possibly do.” And it’s like, then for those who set the bar that top, you’re going to must preserve elevating the bar. I went in pondering like, “If I set this bar incredibly low and I go in and they think I’m a terrible cook and then I come out and I like, do anything. I could peel a piece of garlic and they’d be impressed.” So then clearly getting in folks’s heads, I acquired underneath some folks’s pores and skin already, the cooks and my rivals as effectively. I simply know the best way to get underneath folks’s pores and skin. I do know that if you get flustered mentally, you’re presupposed to be concentrating, and that’s what this present’s all about, concentrating. And if I can get underneath their pores and skin and if I can of rattle them a little bit, it’s going to have an effect on their efficiency. So I did that as effectively. So I simply introduced every little thing that I might to the problem, and I tried to create as a lot levity and hysteria as doable. I don’t know any different approach. I positively went again and dipped into my arsenal a little bit, and I introduced some of the outdated tips out and I don’t suppose they had been prepared for that.

I’m positive you noticed that a few weeks in the past, The Ringer had a bracket of the best actuality TV characters of all time, and it got here all the way down to you and CT within the remaining spherical. What’s your response to that?

I imply, simply the truth that out of 64 of the largest names in actuality tv — I imply, Kris Jenner and Snooki, The Situation, Jeff Probst, Gordon Ramsay. The names that had been on there … I bear in mind taking a look at this bracket— I was an 11 seed from the start, which I’m nonetheless a little bitter about — however I’m taking a look at these names and I’m like, “I’m going to be lucky to make it past week one.” These are some actually heavy hitters on the market within the actuality tv realm. The undeniable fact that I used to be capable of simply preserve plugging away and preserve placing down Ws and making it by way of. We acquired to the ultimate 4, and I’m like, “Dude, this is insane.” CT was nonetheless there. You know what? It was humorous although, as a result of we had been in opposing brackets and I assumed from the start, I’m like, “listen, the only appropriate way for this bracket to end is me and CT to face off again in this bracket.” I believe a lot of followers agreed, and simply making it once more to the ultimate and simply being me and him, whereas a lot of folks checked out it like, “This is just some dumb bracket,” I didn’t see it like that. The Ringer takes these things actually critically. I believe a lot of their followers did. I imply, the quantity of individuals who had been voting, the quantity of individuals who took half in it — not simply followers of ours, however simply individuals who watch tv. In my opinion, it was a actually massive deal. I used to be simply actually blissful to be a half of it. And once more, the truth that it got here all the way down to an all-Challenge remaining I believe simply says a lot about not simply the fan base that CT and myself have, however the quantity of followers that The Challenge itself reaches and the way it actually is, in my view, the best actuality tv present ever. It’s the longest operating, it’s probably the most profitable. We primarily invented the fact tv style and all people else, in my view, is simply paying lease in it. So it was solely acceptable for the 2 kings of actuality TV to face off on the finish.

What’s been the largest change to actuality TV that you just’ve seen because you first began?

Social media. Social media has been a blessing and a curse in relation to actuality TV, primarily as a result of of folks’s motivation for happening actuality tv. So once I first began, once I went on The Real World, after which once I went on The ChallengeThe Real World it was like, you wished to be a half of this expertise. You wished to go on since you watched this and also you’re like, “This is the coolest experience ever. This is like a coming of age.” It’s like everybody wished to be casted in The Real World as a result of they wished to expertise that. When I went on The Challenge, I wished to go on as a result of I wished to compete. I noticed all these different those who I actually checked out as celebrities, the Mark Longs, the Landons, the CTs, all these guys. Brad, Derrick — I beloved these guys. And I’d be like, “Damn, I want to be like them. I would love so much to go on.” It was like a dream, proper? Social media didn’t exist. Now, I really feel like folks need to go on as a result of their number-one precedence and their number-one concern is their following. “How is this going to help my following? How am I going to be able to increase my likes?” Instead of folks happening for the love of the sport, as a substitute of folks happening as a result of they need to be a half of this historic franchise, folks go on as a result of they need to see what number of Instagram likes or what number of TikTook views they get. You know what I imply? And it actually has sort of modified the motivation, and it’s modified the sort of individuals who go on.

What additionally has modified is the truth that The Challenge was once an MTV household franchise primarily. If you had been on The Real World, for those who had been on Road Rules, that’s the way you get on. Unfortunately, each of these exhibits are not, so that they needed to clearly begin pulling forged members from totally different franchises. And now you simply get each Tom, Dick and Harry from no matter is the favored present on tv proper now, and other people come on once more for the flawed causes in my view. It’s these folks that I really feel like had this glimmer of this second of fame, whether or not it was on Big Brother or whether or not it was on Survivor or whether or not it was on Love Island or no matter present, they’d this little style of fame, and so they’ll do something to get that again. The Challenge gives you with the chance to be on tv for a very long time. So I simply see folks popping out of the woodwork. I simply really feel prefer it encourages the flawed sort of folks, or individuals are approaching the present now for simply the flawed causes in a approach. I assume that’s simply the pure state. That’s simply how issues are actually; however it’s simply over time, simply watching that transition and watching the caliber of forged or expertise that’s on now’s simply utterly totally different than it was once. And that’s unlucky, however that’s simply the best way issues go.

This is a totally different technology too, although. People’s pursuits and simply the approach society and the best way social media is and norms and sensitivity and political correctness and all these things. It’s a totally different world we’re dwelling in as effectively. So I suppose that’s modified on the similar time. Everybody has entry to all people now. Back once I first began doing Challenges, Twitter didn’t exist. Instagram didn’t exist. So followers weren’t capable of have a direct connection to you. Now, oh my God, dude, you do one factor, you slip up within the smallest approach, and you’ll be buried. I believe that that’s actually modified issues a lot too. I believe individuals are appearing now otherwise on tv as a result of they’re both afraid to be criticized or they so desperately need to be accepted and need to be beloved that it’s actually affecting the best way that they arrive throughout on tv. And that’s what they’re most involved about. They aren’t being themselves. They’re extra involved with being no matter model of themselves that followers are both going to simply accept or deny.

Do you are feeling like you’ve got a totally different model of your self, on the present versus in “real” life? What do you suppose is the largest false impression folks have about you?

That I’m the identical particular person. I don’t prefer to suppose that I’m a totally different particular person on TV, or no less than on The Challenge. I’m simply a way more colourful, over-the-top, in-your-face model of myself. It’s not like I am going on and I’m not true to who I’m. But I do go on and I placed on my producer hat once I go on The Challenge, and I’m like, “What is going to make great TV?” At the top of the day, the best way I see it’s we’re there to make nice TV and we’re there to entertain. And for those who adopted me round in a day in the life at my home, I’m one of the least entertaining folks. I get up, I’ve my tea, I’ve no matter landscaping/gardening mission I’ve happening for the day. I don’t exit. I prepare dinner all my meals at residence. I watch Netflix, I drink wine. I spend time with my household. I stay a very totally different life. I’m not this man that’s in Vegas popping bottles and dwelling this loopy wild way of life, always stirring shit up and being manipulative, being conniving. It’s simply, I do know once I’m on TV, I understand how to make friction. And that’s what makes good tv. Friction. And I understand how to go in opposition to the grain and the best way to be a thorn in folks’s facet and the best way to get underneath folks’s pores and skin.

That’s to not say that I don’t have a component of that as effectively once I’m residence. You might ask my girlfriend or my youthful sister. I grew up terrorizing her. I simply beloved being sort of mischievous, and I preferred to get a rise out of folks. That’s how I’ve all the time been. I simply actually up the ante once I’m on tv. And folks all the time say, they’re like, “Oh my God, you’re such an ass.” And it’s like, “Listen. If I went on and I was the person I am at home, I’d never be cast for the show again. OK?” So I do know what makes good tv. I do know I’ve perfected over time what makes good TV, what folks need to see, how to start out a fireplace, the best way to preserve a fireplace burning.

At 1st Look, I mainly needed to undo every little thing that I did; every little thing that I’d constructed, every little thing I’ve created, I then needed to put the brakes on and utterly undo every little thing that I’ve executed and uncreate this character sort, as a result of the Johnny Bananas on The Challenge is in your face. Everything needs to be some type of a tongue-in-cheek joke or sarcastic humor or every little thing needs to be a punchline. The Challenge is all about absorbing all of the oxygen within the room and never letting anyone else get a phrase in edgewise and also you sort of being the star. Whereas internet hosting is the precise reverse. Hosting is you taking a backseat and whoever you’re interviewing is the star. It’s about being as a substitute of being attention-grabbing. Not every little thing needs to be a punchline, and never every little thing needs to be a joke, and never every little thing needs to be humorous and never every little thing needs to be sarcastic. And it was so arduous for me to study — and I’m nonetheless to today studying — that it’s okay to be a extra docile, dialed-back model of myself.

One of my producers advised me, he goes, “A joke every five minutes. One joke every now and then makes the information go down easier.” And it hits higher. If every little thing out of your mouth is a joke and every little thing’s a punchline, nobody’s going to take you critically. But for those who’re informative and for those who say clever issues and you place clever issues on the market, and each as soon as in a whereas, you drop a little joke right here and there, it’s more practical. And it would allow folks to see you from a totally different perspective, that you just’re not simply this jokester that doesn’t take something critically. You know what I imply? You have a severe facet. And 1st Look actually has been such an incredible expertise and alternative for me to develop, to actually hone and actually sharpen my capacity to be on digicam and to have multiple instrument in my toolbox.

What’s the standing on capturing all of these numerous exhibits as a result of of quarantine? I’m assuming every little thing’s delayed?

Luckily, with The Challenge and Worst Cooks, we acquired these two within the can earlier than all this occurred. It’s simply loopy how timing works out, the place I filmed these two enormous exhibits for 2 enormous networks and it simply so occurs that everybody’s caught inside in quarantine, social distancing, captive viewers, bam. They’re each out. 1st Look is a little bit totally different. We’re doing a lot of episodes nearly. So we’ve created this factor referred to as the Box Challenge. Whoever my visitor is, we now have a bunch of totally different celebrities who we’re working with presently. Basically, we do a problem the place a random field that the producers will ship, and I don’t know what it’s both, will present up every of our doorways. We must report ourselves doing regardless of the activity within the field is. It could possibly be something. It could possibly be LEGOs, it could possibly be a puzzle, it might be no matter. Take care of an animal for a day. Nobody is aware of what it’s going to be. So we’ve been doing these digital field challenges. We additionally began this phase referred to as Athletes at Home, and I’ve been interviewing NFL and Major League Baseball athletes whose seasons are in hiatus proper now. And simply mainly speaking to them about what they’ve been doing in quarantine, how this has affected their respective sport, and simply what they foresee the long run of their sport to seem like and the way a lot totally different that’s. It’s loopy as a result of we have a look at celebrities and we have a look at athletes, particularly skilled athletes as being nearly godlike figures which might be above what regular society has to take care of. But it’s nearly loopy how the coronavirus has put all people on a degree taking part in area. And even athletes, we’re mainly on the identical taking part in area with respect to this virus as athletes are. They’re dealing in the identical approach, and on the finish of the day, we’re all human beings.

So I’ve been doing that. Then we’re doing one other phase the place we’re revisiting a lot of the small enterprise house owners that we shot 1st Look segments with. There’s a zoo in Miami referred to as Jungle Island. There’s an aquarium in Arizona that we shot with. And mainly simply, “Hey, what’s it been like being a business owner, working for a zoo or a place that takes care of animals, what’s it been like during this pandemic? And what’s the outlook, and when you guys going to reopen? How’s that been?” So we’re doing follow-up tales on some of the previous segments that we’ve had. So imagine it or not, as loopy as quarantine has been, it’s been nonstop for me. It hasn’t been a lot of a break.


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