Entertainment

Marc Summers was the face of ‘Double Dare,’ where slime and trivia ruled. Behind the scenes, he ‘was battling OCD while hosting the messiest game show on the planet.’

Marc Summers always encouraged his game show audience to “take the physical challenge.” Now, he’s taking the emotional one.

The 72-year-old television personality, best known for hosting the Nickelodeon series Double Dare from 1986 to 1993, is bringing his life story to the stage in an off-Broadway production The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers.

“It’s part game show, part memoir and all heart,” Summers told Yahoo Entertainment on the same stage where he’ll be performing for the next 16 weeks. Behind him is an enormous prop nose equipped with thick glasses and over-the-top eyebrows, similar to the one he shared the stage with during his Double Dare days.

The prop nose on the stage for “The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers.” (Kelsey Weekman)

The one-man show mimics the style of Double Dare, too. The children’s game show pitted two teams against each other with trivia questions, rewarding points to the team with the right answer. When stumped, a pair could “dare” the other team to answer the question instead, avoiding a penalty. But the other team could then “double dare” the other team to answer. If both teams punt the question, they can “take the physical challenge,” competing in comically messy games. They might have to beat a timer to pull as many flags as they can out of a giant, slime-filled nose, or smash dozens of eggs against their foreheads.

Some of those iconic games appear in Life and Slimes, and audience members get to participate. Stepping back into a host role, Summers guides them through kooky games. In one, a contestant operates a makeshift catapult to fling a whipped cream-covered pie at another contestant, who must catch the pie in a pair of oversize pants provided to them.

Amid the fun and nostalgia, Summers weaves in stories about battling obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), beating cancer and surviving a life-altering car accident.

“I was battling OCD while hosting the messiest game show on the planet,” Summers told Yahoo Entertainment. “During rehearsal, I broke down a couple of times because I talked about things most people never discuss.”

A pie-flinging contraption.

A pie-flinging contraption plays a major role in “The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers.” (Kelsey Weekman)

Summers has had the “theater bug” since he saw Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway as a teenager, but he decided to start pursuing it a decade ago after facing some of the physical challenges he talks about in Life and Slimes. While acting in a local New Jersey production of Grease, he met Drew Gasparini, who helped Summers bring his life story to the stage.

“We had two-and-a-half minutes of collective stage time, so we spent a lot of time hanging out backstage,” Gasparini told Yahoo Entertainment. After their Grease run ended, those backstage chats turned into other outings involving Gasparini’s friend, Alex Brightman.

“One day I said I wanted to do a one-man show, and Alex Brightman said ‘You could never do a one-man show, you’re not compelling,’” Summers recalled. “And I said, ‘What the hell do you know about me?’”

For the next year and a half, Summers went to dinner with Gasparini and Brightman, and they grilled him about his life. A few months later, they handed him a script for a one-man show.

Brightman is credited as the show’s writer and Gasparini is its composer. Nickelodeon and Viacom were not involved in the making of Life and Slimes, but the show taps into the fond feelings that people had for that era of television.

“If you’re not laughing, smiling, crying or being entertained, you will also have a sprinkle of, I think, the most intangible, valuable thing in life: nostalgia,” said Chad Rabinovitz, the show’s director. “Come see the show. Lots of boogers, kids,” Gasparini added.

Summers told Yahoo Entertainment that it’s a bit uncanny to be remembered for something he did more than three decades ago when he’s lived so much life since then, hosting multiple long-running Food Network shows and raising a family. He doesn’t mind using nostalgia to get people in the door as long as they leave with something more than that.

“Double Dare” host Marc Summers instructs a contestant during an episode. (© MTV/Courtesy of the Everett Collection)

“Some people hang around after the show to talk to me about their OCD, and they all mention how hard it is even now to be open about it,” he said. “The whole purpose of life is to pay it forward … if I can perform and help people work through their issues, that would make me really happy.”

He wouldn’t mind if Life and Slimes got him some other stage gigs, either. He still thinks about how he was turned down for the role of “Old Joe” in Waitress a few years ago for “playing it too young.”

“I’m hoping someone will see this 72-year-old guy and say, ‘He might be good in that part,’” Summers said. “’Til then, I’m having a ball.”


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