Street Smarts

Host: Frank Nicotero
Broadcast History: Syndicated (daily) Oct. 2, 2000 - Sep. 23, 2005
Packager: Dawn Syndication, in association w/Telepictures

Two studio contestants try to predict how 3 people in on-the-street interview clips will answer general knowledge questions.

"Street Smarts" is played between two contestants (usually man vs. woman) who try to predict how 3 people (known as "street savants") in pre-taped location pieces responded to a variety of general knowledge questions. The game consists of 4 rounds, each of which will be described below:

ROUND 1 ("Who Knew It?"):
In this round, the contestants try to predict which of the street savants knew the answer to a particular question (a total of 3 are asked), w/a payoff of $100 for each correct prediction.

ROUND 2 ("Who Blew It?"):
In this round, the contestants try to predict which of 2 street savants asked a particular question gave an incorrect answer (there's always one savant who gave a correct answer, and one who gave an incorrect one, so it's a 50-50 chance for the contestants). As before, 3 questions are played, but each correct prediction is now worth $200.
This round also features a unique gimmick: the "dunce". Immediately after a question is read, if a player thinks his/her opponent won't be able to answer it correctly, s/he may force the opponent to do so by pressing their buzzer and placing a dunce cap (located directly in front of the contestants) on the opponent's head. If the opponent answers incorrectly, the first player receieves an additional $200 (and the opponent must continue to wear the dunce cap for the rest of the question!), but if his/her answer is correct, it's the opponent who gets the $200 (and the first player must then don the cap). Only one dunce is offered per round, however, so it must be used quickly and wisely.

ROUND 3 ("Pick Your Pony", later renamed "Pick Your Brain" for season 4):
This round begins with each of the players choosing a street savant to "ride" the rest of the round with (hence the round's original name), w/the player who was trailing at the end of round 2 getting first pick and his/her opponent choosing from the remaining two (in the event of a tie at the end of round 2, a coin toss is used to determine who gets first pick). The players will then spend the entire round predicting if his/her savant gave a right or wrong answer to each question; the savants are asked 3 questions apiece, and payoff for each successful prediction is $300. Also, the "dunce" is once again offered to the players; it works exactly the same as in round 2, but the payoff is $300.

FINAL ROUND ("The Wager of Death"):
At the start of the round, the players are read the final question that was asked of the street savants and then secretly decide whose answer they want to predict, whether that person got it right or wrong, and how much of their earnings they want to bet (which can be all, any part, or nothing of what they currently have). Unlike the other rounds, however, an incorrect prediction will cost a player whatever s/he wagered (hence the name of the round!); in any event, the player w/the most money at the end of this round wins the game and gets to keep their money, unless both players lose everything on their final wager, in which case no one wins.
(NOTE: In the event of a tie, a tiebreaker question is asked of the contestants, w/the player who buzzes in first given a choice to answer it him/herself or make his/her opponent do so. However, if a player buzzes in before the entire question is completed, s/he must answer based on only the info read up to that point, while if s/he opts to pass, the opponent gets to hear the entire question before answering; in any event, if the answering player is correct, s/he is declared the winner, otherwise the game goes to the opponent)


"Street Smarts" was created and is produced by Scott St. John, the man behind such late-night syndicated relationship shows as "Change of Heart", "Swaps" (which he also hosted), and most (in)famously, "Studs". He also co-produced Game Show Network's short-lived 1998 series "Faux Pause".

Occasionally SS will do theme shows, w/corresponding questions, costumes, and set decorations (the pre-Super Bowl "Pigskin Special", the memorable Valentine's Day "Sweet Smarts" show [where Frank dressed as Cupid!], "The Luau Show", etc.). These episodes often proved so memorable that a "Theme Show Spectacular" episode, devoted to nothing but clips of theme shows from the past 4 seasons, was aired in May 2004.

Prior to SS, host Frank Nicotero was a contestant on two game shows: "Debt" (1997) and "Ultimate Fan League" (1998), in addition to serving as line producer of the aforementioned "Faux Pause" and occasionally participating on-camera in sketches. He also appeared as a guest comic on Comedy Central's 1997-98 revival of "Make Me Laugh" during its 2nd season.

Originally, the show was to have 3 "field reporters" who would appear on location w/the street savants and ask the questions, w/the main host appearing only in the studio. However, this idea was scrapped (mainly because of the lack of talent from those who auditioned), and Nicotero, who had originally signed on as a field reporter, was promoted to host in addition to doubling as the former.

For the first season, the contestants sat in chairs, used a trilon w/the street savants' names on it for the first two rounds and "Right/Wrong" paddles for the 3rd round, then wrote down their final wagers; starting with the 2nd season, that arrangement was replaced by a long podium that the contestants stood behind, w/buttons used to lock in their choices for each round and make their final wagers, which were visible via an electronic display that also doubled as the scoreboard.

The show's strong point is the (mostly unintentional) humor that comes from the often outrageously incorrect answers given to questions asked of the street savants, as well as the sometimes unusual nature of the savants themselves. Among those featured have been:

  • Street performers
  • Transvestites (most notably a "Miss Texas" who went by the name Erica K.)
  • New Age fanatics
  • Party animals
  • Damien, the Michael Jackson impersonator from Las Vegas
  • Jennifer, an adult baby(!)
  • Laura, a dead ringer for Pamela Anderson
  • Nibbles, who was noteworthy solely because of his name
  • Some that words can't describe (so I won't even try!)
    ...but many savants are everyday people, though no less funny w/their incorrect answers. :-)

    A special "Revenge Week" was traditionally aired each February, w/10 of the season's most memorable street savants playing as studio contestants.

    Beginning w/the 2nd season, SS began having occasional special episodes w/celebrities playing for charity; on these episodes, the winner was guaranteed at least $1,000 for his/her charity, even if s/he won w/less, and the loser received $500 for his/hers. On the rare occasion that one of these shows ended w/a $0-$0 tie, each celeb still received $750 for their respective charities.

    Early in 2003, SS had a 2-episode "Game Show Showdown" w/hosts competing against one another; the first show saw Mark DeCarlo vs. Mark L. Walberg, and the second was between Todd Newton and Kennedy.

    For its 5th and final season, SS added a Tournament of Champions; each day's winner was offered a chance to give back his/her winnings for a spot in the tournament, w/the 32 contestants who chose to do so returning at the end of the season to compete in a series of elimination rounds over six weeks; for these tournament episodes, the game was played for points instead of cash. When only two contestants remained, they faced off in a final game for the $100,000 grand prize, known as "The Six-Figure Showdown" (which also served as the last episode of the series).

    Reruns of SS later aired on both WGN America and GSN.