Sewickley native Dan Cortese, a 1986 Quaker Valley High School grad, is hosting the second season of "Guinness World Records Unleashed" (8 tonight, truTV), formerly titled "Guinness World Records Gone Wild."
It's his latest TV effort in a career that has mixed scripted TV ("Veronica's Closet," "Surviving Suburbia") with unscripted show hosting duties ("MTV Sports," "My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad").
Q: How does season two differ from season one, other than the title change?
A: You know whether it's a scripted series or a series like this, the first season you're just trying to find your way and what the show really is. On paper it's one thing but then a lot of them take on a life of their own. With season two, the reason they ordered twice as many is the stage is bigger, the acts are bigger and broader and everybody's identity on the show is well-defined -- me as host, Stuart Claxon from Guinness and Zach [Selwyn] and Liz [Smith] as commentators -- and it was a well-oiled machine in the second season.
Is it fair to describe this show as "Stupid Human Tricks: The TV Series"?
Um, you know I guess you could say that. Not all of them. I feel this show has a lot of heart and is extremely endearing for a few reasons. Trying to get in the Guinness World Records is like the everyman attempt to get an Olympic Gold Medal. You may not be able to go up against Usain Bolt in the 100-meter dash but Guinness World Records is something anyone can attempt. People ask me, how much money do they get? They don't get money or a trip to Hawaii. They're doing it for the sake of wanting to be the best in the world at something and they do it because they want to hold a plaque that says they're a Guinness World Record holder. I love the fact -- and we do it more in the second season -- that we magnify who these people are before they get into their attempts. We get to know them and want to pull for them.
What's the ratio of success and failure?
In our first season we had about 42 attempts and I believe we had 20 successes and 22 fails.
Which is the greater challenge, acting or hosting?
They're both challenging but I would have to say probably acting. With hosting jobs I tend to get or take, I'm just being myself. I'm not an anchorman or the guy you get to read off the TelePrompTer and necessarily be very professional. For this they said to me, "We want you to be you. We want you to be the viewer on camera, react the way people react at home. Be yourself. Have a good time." It's fun, it truthfully is. I did an interview last week where I said, you always have to promote what you're doing and from time to time you're promoting something you know is not good but this I actually really enjoyed working on and I really enjoy watching this show. Both [acting and hosting] are fun to me, and both beat working for a living.
Are you concentrating more on hosting than acting these days?
It's not necessarily that I'm concentrating [on hosting]. It's just that this show was a long time in development. I got hired a year before we shot the first season and in all truthfulness when you're under contract with a show you're going to host and then to go and get an acting job and have to tell the producer you're in [second position for the acting job], it's more difficult to have both at the same time. It's cyclical too and nowadays you just want to get yourself out there and get the exposure and this show is doing that for me and it's fun in doing so.
What's the wildest record-breaking attempt this season?
There are a few. In the first episode we have a guy that attempts to break the record for highest bungee jump where at the bottom -- and he starts out over 200 feet in the air -- there's a table on the ground with a cup of coffee and he jumps and bungees with a doughnut and he's attempting to dip the doughnut in the coffee.
We have a guy running through the most consecutive panes of glass.
We have a human cannonball who tries to make it through a ring of fire and he's trying to be shot the highest of any human out of a cannon.
What's the most disgusting record-breaking attempt this season?
We've got good stuff like that. In the first episode there's an older gentleman who tries to eat the most spaghetti through his nostril in a minute.
Any world records you could break?
I always get asked that and I always say, no. I'm part of every attempt [on the show] because I'm literally two feet away from all these people and whenever anyone breaks a record, I feel like I'm a part of it. Maybe I could go for the most Primanti Bros. sandwiches in a minute. I can throw down if I need to.
Do you get back to Sewickley often?
I was actually just back in September. My parents are still back there and my oldest brother. I try to get back at least once a year.
Any traditions when you come home?
You always have to make a Primanti's stop. That's a prerequisite. I've lived in California for so long where everything is organic and has to be healthy for you, I have to make up for it with Primanti's when I get back there. And obviously it's hard to find Iron City Beer out here. We went to see the Pirates though, it was a little more difficult to get tickets this year. It was a great year for them, I'm really happy for them. The Steelers, on the other hand, that's a whole different story.
TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.