‘Name That Tune’ Host Jane Krakowski on Playing Herself, Working With Randy Jackson, & More
“My family would be yelling at the TV, trying to out-name the tunes,” she recalls. Now she’s hosting Fox’s revival, where contestants guess popular songs in hopes of taking home big money. American Idol‘s Randy Jackson is also on board as in-house bandleader.
Taping in Australia in front of a live (and COVID-safe) audience, the show’s main focus, Krakowski says, is “obviously winning the contestants a lot of money.” Three rounds yield the chance to take home a near-$200,000 purse. The first rotates between six games, like Mix Tape (songs from Krakowski’s playlist). The second is the always tense Bid-A-Note, where contestants challenge each other to “name that tune” in a certain number of notes. The Golden Medley Round (worth up to $100,000) gives the winner 30 seconds to identify seven songs.
We chatted with Krakowski about her latest gig.
This is your first time hosting a quiz show. Was it timing, or has it always been on a bucket list?
Jane Krakowski: It came about, first of all, because a lot of my friends were hosting game shows, like Alec Baldwin, Tituss Burgess, and I was guesting on them, and loved being a guest on them. Being on RuPaul’s Drag Race was one of the highlights of my career. So we were literally brainstorming and thought, “What about Name That Tune? Nobody’s done Name That Tune.” And I loved Name That Tune growing up as a kid. I grew up in a pretty musical family.
We looked it up, and there was a reboot in process, so I was like, “Can I meet with them? I want to do this. This sounds really, really fun because I love music.” I have a musical background, and I just thought it would be a hoot to do, and here I am. I just completed hosting Season One, and it was so much fun that I really hope we get many more seasons to come.
What kind of host are you? Are you getting in on the fun? I know I want to hear you sing…
When it comes to the singing, just try and stop me. That’s my motto. I believe it became as much of an entertainment show as a game show. It will be one hour of television but there’ll be four different contestants that come through — two half-hours in one hour of television, [Being in] Australia to film it, the live band, the live audience, it felt like being at a live concert every taping, every night. And the audiences really appreciated it and loved it.
How has it been working with Randy?
I’d never worked with or met Randy, but he’s a legend on Fox and he’s bringing all of his American Idol goodness and vast last musical experience to the show. And we got along so fast and furious. I think we partly bonded because we had to quarantine for 14 days. We checked on each other every day, we were playing sample games [on] Zoom every single day in quarantine, and by being quarantined in a foreign country together for so long we really bonded.
Our chemistry was pretty instant once we got together. On set, I think the show evolved, and it’s comedy evolved from our initial and immediate friendship and chemistry together. Randy is really, really funny, and he appreciated my humor, and so that banter just naturally grew out of our friendship and relationship.
I’ve been rewatching 30 Rock reruns during the pandemic…
Oh, thank you!
It must be a different kind of challenge not playing a character.
That was one of the reasons that I wanted to do it as well. I feel like I’ve been lucky enough to play amazing characters, but they’re all pretty heightened characters and heightened people. And to be honest with you, that might’ve been the greatest challenge for me was to feel comfortable enough to fully just show my sense of humor, my comedy, and my level of support and empathy to the contestants, which came naturally.
What was weird for me was to go home after and be OK with everything that I shared because that’s what I’m not used to. I’m used to being under the security blanket of it being a character, not me; I just hope I did a good enough job for the character or the writing that was given to me. I was being full on me and, hopefully, that will be OK in the end for the show.
Name That Tune, Series Premiere, Wednesday, January 6, 9/8c, Fox