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Craig Robinson: 'Caraoke Showdown' is more than a mashup of other TV shows

Craig Robinson stars in

Craig Robinson stars in "Caraoke Showdown." Photo Credit: Spike

It would be easy to write off the new Spike game show “Caraoke Showdown” as just a mashup of the viral “Carpool Karaoke” segments from James Corden’s “The Late, Late Show” and the game show “Cash Cab.”

But host Craig Robinson quickly shuts that down.

“You could say it’s a blend of those two,” the former “Office” star says, “and that would be an easy pitch. But it’s not that. It’s something different.”

So what is it, then?

amNewYork spoke with Robinson to find out.

How does “Caraoke Showdown” work?

Well, I pull up to unsuspecting passengers like Uber. They just think they’re getting in the car to go to their destinations and they’re on a game show. Bam! And it turns out to be “Caraoke Showdown!” ... There’s the games, like anything from putting marshmallows in your mouth and then if they guess the song that you sing, you put more marshmallows in and keep going to keep guessing the words. [Also ones where] you got to fill in the missing blanks. There’s a lot of those.

What are some of the challenges of hosting a game show in a car?

Well, that is a great question that I am prepared to answer. Technical difficulties galore. It was tough in the early going. ... There were definitely some kinks to work out. I think at one point the van had overheated and we had to lose a day of shooting. ... And I couldn’t hear in my earpiece. ... Then, of course, I’m a musician. Not everyone who sings karaoke is musically inclined. And a lot of people didn’t know the words to stuff, so there were some challenges there, too. But it turned into this whole bowl of love and fun.

How it is to play a cab driver?

It kept it going. Like when you’re acting on a set, if you’re not in a scene, or even if you are in the scene, you’re just in the background for a long time with nothing to do really except to kind of be there. [laughs] Or you might be in your trailer or whatever. So this kept it just active and moving and the days went quick. Then I was like, “Oh, wow! I’m actually tired instead of sitting around all day.” So it was cool.

Do you have a lot of patience for bad karaoke singers?

My patience, it grew. Because I knew from the first thing we shot, that I was like, “I avoid these situations. What am I doing?” So it turned into finding the fun in it and the way you do that is you get to know the people who are riding with you. Then you actually are pulling for them and then you actually are astonished at what comes out of their mouths some times. So we have some really good singers in there and we have some really nonprofessional singers in there.

How do you think you’d do on the show?

I would murder the show given the right song. I would destroy on that show. Many times I was like, “I wish I was back there! I would kill it!”

Do you have a go-to karaoke song?

There are several. One of them would be “Hurt” by Johnny Cash. “My Funny Valentine,” the Michelle Pfeiffer version, from the “Fabulous Baker Boys.” I have some Prince in there, you know, “Purple Rain,” “Baby I’m a Star.” If I really want to kick some butt, rock out the crowd, Saturday night midnight, everybody’s drunk, I might hit Nirvana’s “[Smells like] Teen Spirit” or something like that.

I’m a big fan of your reoccurring role of Doug Judy on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” Can you talk about that role?

Thank you very much. ... That’s easily one of the most fun things that I do. I love going over there. Man, we just, we improv. We shoot out ideas at each other. I just watched the two-parter on Sunday, the finale. I mean there’s so much stuff on the cutting room floor. ... There’s a ton of stuff. I can’t wait to see the extras.

On TV: “Caraoke Showdown” premieres on Jan. 12 at 10:30 p.m. on Spike.

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