HOLLYWOOD — Nick Cannon is no stranger to comedy. The aspiring funnyman first honed his stand-up skills at the age of 12 and four years later he was already landing gigs at famous venues like the Comedy Store, the Improv and the Laugh Factory.
Now the 24-year-old is revisiting his roots with his new sketch-comedy program, "Wild 'N Out," debuting July 28 on MTV. The show's roster is an eclectic blend of rap, hip-hop and comedy performers.
"It's amazing. I just got all my comedic friends together, introduced them to my hip-hop friends, and we just created this big, huge improv sketch-comedy show that's unlike anything you've ever seen on television," Cannon told MTV News backstage at the BET Awards. "Common came through. Kanye West, the Ying Yang Twins, Method Man, [Cannon's longtime girlfriend] Christina Milian. Comics like Kat Williams and Wayne Brady. It's just like a party in every episode."
Ever the industry chameleon, the multi-tasking Cannon also has five films in the works (see "Nick Cannon Flexing His Mogul Muscle In Hollywood"), plus his sophomore LP, Stages, which drops this fall. The video for the album's first single, "Can I Live" featuring Anthony Hamilton, which Cannon directed, recently debuted at #1 on BET.
Longtime friend Kanye also worked on the new record, which will include a track featuring Talib Kweli.
"The record I did with Talib was real soulful stuff," Cannon said. "I was just trying to express myself more than anything and really get out what was inside of me. On my last album, I worked with R. Kelly and P. Diddy, and that was amazing, but I didn't feel like I really put myself out there. On this I feel like I [did] and showed what I could do as a producer, as an artist and as a musician."
As for the slew of films in his arsenal, the actor is most looking forward to "The Underclassman," a Miramax project he stars in, wrote and produced. Out August 5, the film features Cannon as a baby-faced detective struggling to gain respect from his peers. When he is sent to investigate the murder of a posh private school student, he stumbles upon an underground auto-theft ring.
"It's like the new 'Beverly Hills Cop.' It's my baby," the actor said. "It really is like watching your kid go to school on the first day. You just hope for the best. But however it does at the box office, it doesn't matter. I'm proud of it, and how often can somebody say that a kid who's under 25 actually wrote, produced and starred in his own film? So that's an accomplishment in itself."
Next up, Cannon can be seen alongside Bow Wow in the '70s-inspired roller-skating flick, "Roll Bounce," dropping September 23. Currently, he's filming the political thriller "The Beltway," for which he's also executive producer.
Finally, the actor will play the brother to Forest Whitaker in the indie gambling drama "Even Money" (formerly titled "Jump Shot"), featuring Hollywood heavyweights Ray Liotta, Kelsey Grammer, Kim Basinger and Danny DeVito. The film, which incorporates multiple story lines à la "Crash" and "Traffic," is slated to hit theatres later this year.