New game show quizzes Pittsburghers on wacky news stories


Image via Hearst Television Inc.

“Wait, What Happened?” game show poster.

By Renee Dubaich, Staff Writer

When Frank Nicotero got the opportunity to host a new local game show that would take him to the streets of Pittsburgh, he was ecstatic.

“I flipped out,” Nicotero said. “I thought, this is the perfect job for me because I am a comedian. I did a show in the early 2000s called “Street Smarts” which is all man-on-the-street interviews, and it was filming in my hometown Pittsburgh. So I was like, I definitely want to do this.”

The new Pittsburgh based show “Wait, What Happened?” quizzes local contestants on wacky news stories from around the country. The show debuted on May 3, and new episodes come out every Wednesday for the next eight weeks until June 21. The first four episodes are shot in Pittsburgh, while the last four are shot in Orlando. It is now streaming on the local Pittsburgh free channel “Very Local” by Hearst Television, available on all mobile and connected TV devices.

Nicotero started his comedy career in Pittsburgh back in 1988 doing stand up at the Funny Bone. He also used to do comedy shows at Pitt back in the early 90s. Since then, Nicotero moved to LA and fully immersed himself in the world of comedy and TV. He hosted game shows such as “Street Smarts,” “Primetime in No Time” and “The Game of Life”, and continued doing standup at the Laugh Factory.

Nicotero said he loved the idea for the game show as it brings to surface many broadcasts of crazy stories that sometimes go unnoticed. Unlike his show “Street Smarts,” which quizzes random civilians on their knowledge of basic facts, “Wait, What Happened?” is based on stories that most people have never heard about.

“The Hearst network had all of these news stories sitting on a shelf, and someone had the great idea, let’s make a gameshow out of it,” Nicotero said. “No one is going to know every answer, unless you watch every newscast. These stories are the fun news stories that you see on TV and you never know to believe or not unless you see some video, and we have the video to prove that these stories actually happen.”

The game show works like this — Nicotero asks contestants a series of true or false questions about unusual news stories taken from the Hearst-owned TV stations. The contestant watches a short video clip of the story to gain a bit of prior context. For each correct answer, the contestant earns 25 dollars. For the final double or nothing round, contestants answer a multiple choice question. A contestant can walk away with as much as 200 dollars.

Nicotero explained that the show is all about having fun and isn’t as high-pressure as other game shows, which are usually high-stakes. 

“On this game show, there is no pressure,” Nicotero said. “Stephen Hawking could get one of these right, but an eight-year-old could also get it right. A lot of the times we’ve had people say it was a bucket list thing they wanted to be on a game show, and so here they were. This show is just purely about fun, and if you get lucky you walk away with some cash.”

The episodes feature the recognizable sites of Pittsburgh including the yellow Roberto Clemente bridge, a view of downtown, Acrisure Stadium during a Pitt game and a shot of the Strip District. Nicotero interviews contestants right in the city environment.

“I’ve always been a fan of stuff that shoots on the street, you just get this experience and element that you don’t get in the studio,” Nicotero said. “I think people just love having that live interaction on the streets, and that’s what this show did. It’s not a set. You’re always seeing different locations and picturesque backgrounds. Getting back to the streets was a blast. I just think it brings an exciting element.”

On one episode, a news story was prefaced to the contestant as “Delivery Drivers Attacked in Wisconsin,” and Nicotero explains that the drivers are actually being attacked by wild turkeys. Just like the contestant, the audience is just as involved in the show, as they are trying to figure out if the unlikely story is true or false. Once the contestant answers, Nicotero reveals if the story is true or false, then explains the story more in depth and shows clips from the broadcast to prove that it actually happened. 

The topics of these strange stories range from geography, like the shoe house in York, PA, and scientific, like the parachuting Joro spider that travels across the country. Nictotero said he encourages viewers to play along and for a chance to learn something new.

“It’s just great to have fun with these stories and when you watch a game show the play along factor is so important, so i’m glad people at home can play along, you can play with kids or your grandparents, it’s family friendly,” Nicotero said.

Nicotero said he encourages students at Pitt to watch “Wait, What Happened?” because it’s a fun and humorous show that you can watch with friends, especially when in need of a study break.

“If you need a study break, put our show on. It’s mindless fun. I guarantee you’re gonna laugh at stuff, and you’ll probably wanna share these stories with your friends because you wouldn’t believe some of these news stories of what happened” Nicotero said. “You might even see someone you know on the show and if they win money, and they owe you money, call them up and get the cash!”

Pittsburgh casting is currently closed for this season of the show, but those who are interested can stay in the loop for future casting opportunities at