In the realm of cooking competition series, nothing else on TV compares to Netflix's baking-fails show Nailed It!, which champions humor and disasters above anything resembling first-rate baking skills. Audiences are used to seeing famed guest judges such as The Good Place's Maya Rudolph and legendary French chef Hubert Keller. However, it was a shock to the senses when the latest batch of Nailed It! Holiday episodes introduced Black Monday star and podcast extraordinaire Paul Scheer as a full-blown guest contestant.
Paul Scheer spoke with CinemaBlend for this year's Television Critics Association winter press tour, where he and his Showtime co-stars were on hand to promote the upcoming second season of the coked-up financial disaster comedy Black Monday. Beyond talking up Don Cheadle and Regina Hall in the cable satire, Scheer was perfectly happy to talk Nailed! It, saying it was far more harrowing to experience in person than it is to watch from home. Here's how he put it:
[When] you get on the show and there's an element of like, 'Oh, I'm cocky. I know how to cook. I like cooking. I like baking, and I could do this.' And then once they reveal that first thing, you're like, 'I know nothing. I'm terrible. I need to kill myself. Why am I doing this to myself?' It was the most nerve-wracking thing I've ever done. I think the only rule of advice I would give to anyone is, when they hit that timer in the beginning, and you see the first seconds clock down, take your time. Because that's where I think the mistakes are made. People don't take their time in the beginning because they're rushing, and the beginning is the most important part, because that's the stuff that you need to get right.
Considering Paul Scheer managed to be the big winner in both rounds for his Nailed It! appearance, his guidance in this case is pretty salient. And he's hitting upon topics that regular Nailed It! viewers have definitely thought about before. How many times have we heard the great Jacques Torres describe the importance of proper cake batter preparation, and how many times have we seen contestants speed through that mixing process without due diligence?
One big reason why Nailed It! hopefuls absolutely need to get the beginning stages just right is that they're apparently responsible for keeping track of their own time, which obviously adds to the stress-load. According to Paul Scheer:
But it's weird, the other thing that was really hard is there's no timers. So like, if I need to cook a cake for 25 minutes, I have to like mentally keep track of it. But I don't have a watch, so I have to look [wherever I could]. It made it hard. It was really, really hard.
In the midst of high-pressure situations like that – and yes, crafting a jelly-doughnut menorah counts – keeping track of time can seem impossible, especially with someone like host Nicole Byer getting loud and ridiculous elsewhere in the room. I wonder if it's against the rules to just constantly ask Jaques or Wes what time it is.
Considering I might not have gotten a chance to get this question answered by any other Nailed It! winners in the near future, I had to ask Paul Scheer what is the biggest question I've had since Nailed It! first started: do the contestants get full recipes to use? Rather unsurprisingly, here was Scheer's answer:
No, no, it's very basic. It's like everything is set up there for it to be the best show that it is, right? Which means there's a difference between it being a great show and it [showcasing] a great baker. You know, they want to create drama, and they want to create tension and panic, and they get all those things. It was really, really fun.
It has always astounded me when contestants botch ingredients as soon as a round starts, considering the tablets at their stations give them recipes to follow. But now that I know those recipes are intentionally simplified and might be easy to misinterpret, I might feel slightly less judgmental disdain the next time someone grabs the granulated sugar instead of the powdered sugar.
While fans might have assumed that Paul Scheer secured his spot on Nailed It! thanks to his fellow How Did This Get Made? podcast host Jason Mantzoukas, who first appeared in Season 2 and returned as guest judge in the first episode of the second Holiday season. However, Scheer told me it was actually his then-neighbor and Nailed It! producer Sam Hanks that got him on after he expressed his love of watching it. Though she initially wanted Scheer to be a guest judge, as it always went before with the celebs, Scheer was more interested in competing, and around a year after that initial conversation happened, his Nailed It! legacy began in earnest.
As a bizarro fun fact, there was the slightest chance that Paul Scheer's Nailed It! debut would have been a gag within a gag, as it was planned for the former The League star to take on a false persona for his appearance. Here's how Scheer explained it:
What was kind of fun was, we were talking about it and I was like wouldn't it be funny if I come on Nailed It!, and I just say, 'My name is Phil Ontario, and I'm a pharmacist, and I live in Pasadena,' and we never comment on it. And Nicole would just be like, 'Well, you look familiar to me.' So we went down the road a little bit, doing it that way, and then they called and said, 'You know what? We want you to do it as yourself,' which is such a better idea.
To be fair, I kinda wish there was a version of that Nailed It! episode that did indeed start off with Paul Scheer eschewing his own identity in order to take on a character, if only because it's such a bizarre concept for a "reality" show. Not that Netflix isn't well-versed in bizarre reality show concepts.
In any case, let's all give Phi...er...Paul a big round of applause not only for winning Nailed It!, but also for splitting his prize money between his two competitors. It's the reason for the season, after all.
Though Paul Scheer only appears on one episode, every current installment of Nailed It! – from the regular seasons to the holiday seasons to the international adaptations – can be streamed in full on Netflix. More importantly for Scheer fans, though, is the upcoming premiere of Black Monday Season 2, which will arrive on Showtime on Sunday, March 15, at 10:00 p.m. ET.