Killer Karaoke (2012) Review

With so many reality/game shows on television, cross-contamination was an inevitable consequence. Everyone enjoys watching people get scared. Everyone enjoys watching people sing. Everyone enjoys watching people get hurt. And everyone really enjoys watching people make fools of themselves. Throw all of those things that people love to watch into a blender, and out comes Killer Karaoke. While it’s a little more mean-spirited than similar television concepts that came before it, it’s still a fun show that will have viewers cringing for all the right reasons.

Sing while creatures are dropped on your face!
(Courtesy of truTV)

Hosted by Steve-O from Jackass infamy, Killer Karaoke pits three couples of amateur vocalists against each other in separate elimination rounds. The victors of those brackets ascend to a final sing-off for a chance to win up to $10,000. The catch, however, is that each singer must perform while being subjected to some kind physical ordeal. In one segment, a woman is placed on a swing while singing and is then dipped in ice cold water. As the song progresses, large snakes are tossed into the water. Towards the end of the song, a couple of alligators join her as well. In another segment, a man is tasked with serving Steve-O a seven-course meal while singing. What makes the task difficult are the five electrified collars attached to the singer’s neck and appendages. Elimination is decided by audience vote. In the final round, the remaining three singers perform while standing on a spinning platform that won’t stay level. The last person remaining gets the prize money that could total up to $10,000, depending on how long the contestant stays on the platform.

Worldly viewers will instantly see the similarities between Killer Karaoke and its international inspiration Sing If You Can. The difference here is that the latter seems to focus more on the singing while the former, Killer Karaoke, appears to be more about watching people experience pain and/or humiliation. For instance, one challenge requires a contestant to navigate a path littered with cacti while singing. The catch is that the singer’s vision is severely limited by a mask, so getting stabbed repeatedly by cactus needles is a sure bet. In truth, most of the challenges look rather painful, or they require the singer to do something that actually impedes their singing. So while Steve-O forebodingly instructs them, “No matter what, don’t stop singing”, it’s obvious that no singer will be able to fully comply.

So that begs the question, “What exactly is the audience voting on?” How can a contest be judged on singing when their face is being smashed into a cream pie, or when their vocal cords are being shocked by a dog collar? It seems more like contestants are judged on how much audiences enjoyed their “performance”. So even if a singer is faced with a relatively tame challenge, like sharing a jump suit with a dancer who forces the contest to smash him or herself with a fish, it would be wise for the singer to ham up their reaction in order to get audience votes. The reality television “acting” is apparent at times, but for the most part the reactions seem genuine. It seems normal that someone would scream if a game show host placed a scorpion on their chest out of nowhere.

Ironically, the best part of Killer Karaoke is host Steve-O. He’s quick on his feet, charismatic in a juvenile sense, and looks perfectly suited for this kind of humor. Seeing his face twisted by Schadenfreude is a big part of what makes the show as enjoyable as it is. His little dance right before announcing the winner of each round is also silly good fun and seems to mock the time-filling gimmicks of other hosts before big announcements.

Ultimately, Killer Karaoke achieves the “killer” part, but not so much the “karaoke”. In truth, the singing could be replaced by any activity, like painting a portrait or juggling or carrying a tray full of cocktails, all while being subjected to physical pranks and the result would be the same. So viewers expecting even a semblance of singing should beware, but for everyone else there’s enough of the right kind of misery to spare.