Italian TV host Alessandro Cattelan will be among the three MCs of the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest, along with Italy’s Grammy-wining singer Laura Pausini and Lebanese/British pop star Mika. In addition to preparing for the biggest night for music in Europe, he recently made his debut on Netflix with one-man show “One Simple Question.”
In the show, Cattelan embarks on a road trip in pursuit of a seemingly simple answer to a question from his daughter, Nina: “Daddy, how do you find happiness?”
The quirky six-episode series, which dropped in 190 countries on March 18, sees the showman display his trademark deadpan humor as he searches for happiness through interviews and set-pieces with celebrity guests ranging from retired Italian soccer star Roberto Baggio, who is a practicing Buddhist, and Oscar-nominated director Paolo Sorrentino (“The Hand of God”), to a couple who are amateur porn stars and former Google X exec Mo Gawdat, author of a book titled “Solve for Happy.”
Cattelan, who cut his teeth working for MTV and subsequently hosted the talent show “The X Factor” on Sky in Italy, talked to Variety about making the leap into the global streaming arena ahead of his gig for Eurovision, for which his main aspiration is “to make people laugh.”
How did the concept for ‘Simple Question’ germinate?
A dozen years ago I had an idea for a show where I would go on a road trip around the U.S. and visit the tombs of big stars and pop icons who had passed away. I had read a book at the time titled “The Geography of Happiness” that asked the question of whether there are some places where it’s easier to be happy vis-a-vis others, and I wanted to combine these two elements. This project never got made, but a couple of years ago I had this conversation with my daughter and it re-ignited the spark which led to this show.
You are good at putting people at ease. What stands out the most about your experiences with the show’s guests?
The thing that surprised me the most was being accepted by Baggio [considered one of the greatest soccer players of all time] because of who he is. He is someone who doesn’t usually appear in the [media] spotlight because he doesn’t need to, and probably doesn’t want to. But I think an important [Buddhist] message came out of our chat. He’s someone who values privacy at a time when everything is always being brought out in the open and told.
Why did you pick Sorrentino?
Sorrentino has a brilliant mind and is a great conversationalist. With him, we talked about spirituality and religion, which given his body of work [“The Young Pope,” “The Hand of God”] is something that tickles his fancy. This conversation brought out food for thought and deep personal observations that I think can resonate with a broad audience.
There is bit where you audition for ‘X-Factor’ in Hungary. Of course you hosted ‘X Factor’ in Italy for nine years. What prompted you to want to try to return as a contestant?
I thought it was a nice metaphor for what I discuss with a therapist in the first episode, where I talk about this condition I’m in where everything I have [in life] depends on how I’m judged by people who don’t know me. Of course, in Hungary nobody knows who I am and what I used to do [on TV].
How do you feel about hosting Eurovision, which has a global audience of over 180 million, most of whom don’t know you?
Eurovision has some similarities with “X-Factor,” even though it’s a bit more flamboyant. And each of us [three hosts] is going to have their [defining] moment. In the case of Laura and Mika, they will perform, each with their particular flair. My intention is always to try to get the audience to crack a smile and enjoy a particular moment of the show. And so I will have some opportunities to do this. My goal, ultimately, is to make people laugh.