Catfish host Nev Schulman takes us inside the addictive TV show

Nev Schulman hosts MTV's Catfish: The TV Show. Photo Credit: Courtesy of MTV.
Nev Schulman hosts MTV's Catfish: The TV Show. Photo Credit: Courtesy of MTV. /

Catfish: The TV Show is back for Season 8, and Nev Schulman told Hidden Remote how the show has gotten even better – and what still surprises him.

Catfish: The TV Show is one-part reality TV addiction, one-part social phenomenon. The MTV series is still going strong in its eighth season, which sees Nev Schulman continue to travel the country searching for the truth behind online relationships.

Season 8 has been a period of change for the show; each episode features something that fans have never seen before, while this is the first full season without Max Joseph, who left the show to pursue other opportunities.

With all of that in mind, Nev connected with Hidden Remote to discuss how Catfish has evolved in its new season, and what spending the better part of a decade solving Internet mysteries means to him.

Learn more about the new season in our interview with Nev Schulman below, then don’t miss the next Catfish Season 8 episode airing at 8 p.m. tonight on MTV!

Hidden Remote: Catfish the TV show premiered in 2012; the movie was in 2010. What’s it been like to spend almost a decade in this space of social media relationships and deceptions?

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Nev Schulman: I think about that a lot, actually—how I strangely ended up in this space and what has turned into a major defining label for my career. Even if I’m fortunate enough to move on in the future and have success in another entertainment-related space, I’ll probably always be the Catfish guy. That’s strange.

I certainly never anticipated going into this. I didn’t anticipate hosting a TV show, let alone one about internet relationships, but it’s great. Television shows don’t usually go that long or trends don’t usually last a decade.

I think what makes the show so viable is that in 2012 when it came out, we were all very much learning and becoming aware of the endless possibilities of social media connections and deception. While the show does have an element of mystery and surprise, what it’s really about is something we’ve all been dealing with and talking about forever, which is themes of self-love, insecurity, connection, commitment.

I love that I get to explore those things with people and help drive them into conversations—whether it’s people in the show or people watching—about very real, meaningful emotional stuff. Whether people come in from the beginning or they’re coming into the show now, they find it worth their time.

HR: One thing you do exceptionally well is you never lose sight of the fact that Catfish is dealing with real people and real relationships. How do you balance that with making a TV show?

NS: It’s tricky because I think with any job, you tend to get into a groove. You tend to find patterns and to some degree even become complacent, and I think that there was definitely a point in the last two years where I started to feel like I was struggling.

As much as I hate to admit it, Max leaving the show really helped sort of change that for me. All of a sudden, I couldn’t depend on him to back me up or take the lead in certain conversations or with certain issues that he might have been better with than me. I really had to find new ideas and new ways to explain those ideas and connect with people, and really push myself to dig deeper and grow and extend. I really enjoyed that.

It’s never hard to remember these are real people. The hard thing is to sometimes remember the situation they’re in, when I come at it from the outside, totally not having been part of it for the months or years that they have. To remember that this is a big deal for them. Coming on TV isn’t something they wanted to do; it’s like a last resort for them.

I constantly find myself asking, why would you want to come on television? And the answer is always they really care and this means that much to them that they’re willing to risk not just exposure, good or bad, but embarrassment and humiliation and heartbreak—in front of not just us and the camera guys [but] the world. That immediately reminds me how important this is to people.

Nev Schulman (left) with co-host Max Joseph in an episode of Catfish: The TV Show. Photo Credit: Courtesy of MTV.
Nev Schulman (left) with co-host Max Joseph in an episode of Catfish: The TV Show. Photo Credit: Courtesy of MTV. /

HR: You mentioned the departure of your former co-host, Max Joseph. Catfish has brought in some great guest hosts in season 8. Has that also changed the show, because every episode you’re getting a different point of view?

NS: I think it’s only bolstered the dynamic of the show. Max and I, while we had different life experiences, we come from very similar backgrounds. We’re both from New York, we’re both about the same age, we’re obviously both white men and Jewish. We have a lot of similarities, and while we’ve done our best to learn and pick things up and understand other people’s backgrounds and cultures and history, it’s just not in our DNA.

Bringing in new people from very different backgrounds, [like] female co-hosts, has allowed the viewer to connect deeply with the people on the show. The co-host is your conduit to the participants. If they can understand them better than me or Max, then the viewer gets to understand them better. If they can say something that makes more sense than I could ever say, then we can go deeper. I think it’s opened up more space for the show to go further, which has been great.

HR: You’ve had some pretty famous visitors, like NBA star Nick Young and rapper Machine Gun Kelly. Is there anyone that you’d like to see as a Catfish co-host?

NS: I’ve had this idea for a long time to let a fan come cohost an episode. I still think there’s a chance we could see it. We’ve been talking about it; I constantly try to bring it up. We haven’t figured out how to do it—is it a contest or what? I always liked the idea of letting people who watch the show be on it.

To give you sort of a more interesting answer, there was a lot of conversation I was having over Instagram DM’s with Drake. He’s a big fan and I was trying to see if there was a way to get him to co-host, but because of the schedule that didn’t happen, or hasn’t yet. Then I’m super-excited because most recently I’ve been DM’ing with Ariana Grande, who I just found out is a huge fan of the show too. So we’ll see. In the next season we make, hopefully, if there’s room for new co-hosts, either one would be a very welcome addition.

HR: Is there anything you’re still getting asked about Catfish? Anything that’s particularly stuck with you over the last seven years?

NS: I think there seems to be some confusion about what it means to be catfished. The easiest explanation is someone pretending to be someone else on the Internet, and if that’s all you think about, then obviously the immediate solution to that is to get them to FaceTime or video chat or send you a Snapchat. There are countless solutions or ways to easily avoid that specific reality.

What the show is really about isn’t Internet deception and fake profiles. I think a lot of the people that come on the show hoping to meet the person they’re talking to, they know something’s off. They even probably know to some extent they’re not talking to that person. Certainly the fact they’re going to come on Catfish to meet them should be a pretty clear indication. It really is a show about connection and the incredible power of hope.

When people ask me, how do you explain people staying in these relationships for so long, I ask them a question back—well, have you ever played the lottery? Most people have. Some people have been playing it their whole lives and have they ever won? No. But is there a chance? Does it gives them some sense of excitement and hope that maybe, just maybe, this week will be their week?

That’s exactly the same thing that’s been happening with these people. Every day, they invest a tiny bit of time and energy into this relationship, on the off chance that somehow they could be a big winner. When you zoom out and you look at it over the course of months or years, sure, it seems ridiculous. [But] I could say the same thing to someone about playing the lottery.

I just think that what’s exciting about continuing to make the show, and what’s special about this new season, is that every few years the show sort of reinvents itself as a new group of young people get online and get into relationships. There’s an evolution that’s happening in the world because of the Internet, because of politics and social media and our exposure to new ideas. Every day the dynamics are changing.

As a result, the way we connect and communicate with each other is changing, and I think that’s why the show continues to be relevant. It’s a reflection of ourselves as we all sort of stumble through the 21st century trying to figure out who we are and how to love.

Next. Why MTV's Catfish is so addictive. dark

Catfish: The TV Show airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on MTV. For more on Catfish and other MTV shows, follow the MTV category at Hidden Remote.