-Welcome to the show! -Thank you for
having me on your show. -For anybody who watched,
that might just look like a regular game show,
but this is about people — it’s both raising awareness
of the student-loan debt problem
and also helping people pay off their student loans.
-Absolutely. It’s a show that highlights
the student debt crisis. Gives away money
to some fantastic people. That woman was Ashley.
She’s gonna be — She’s now freed up
to be a midwife in Chicago, which is fantastic work.
We point the finger at the groups we see
complicit in the problem — that being our government,
the loan services, the universities themselves.
And at the end, we say, “This Is a very dumb way
to pay for education.” -Yeah, and what — Is this
something you knew? [ Cheers and applause ]
-Right? -Is this something
you were aware of while you were going to college?
Like, what opened your eyes to exactly how dumb
the system is? -I was incredibly privileged.
When I was looking at schools, my parents took out a second
line of equity on their home. They said, “Go get into the best
school that makes sense for you. We’ll pay for it.”
And that allowed me to be a theater major,
which is a dumb decision. -Yeah, yeah, yeah.
-If you’re gonna owe money to someone,
do not be a theater major. -Right. [ Laughs ] -So I learned about it
when I met my wife. She owed around $40,000
when we met. And she was making it work.
She was hustling, grinding — you know, babysitting,
side hustle, doing everything it takes
to pay off these loans and still have
a semblance of a life. And we could only really
pay off those loans after I booked
an underpants commercial. -Yeah.
-It was my first — For real. It was first big
national commercial. I did a Hanes commercial
with Michael Jordan. First time I ever had money
in my pocket, and we looked at
the interest rates on her loans. They were just insane.
And we said, “Let’s write a big check
and just wiped this out. And we’re getting married and,
you know, fresh start.” And we wrote the check,
we put it in the envelope. And my — my wife
just started crying. And I was floored. I felt so embarrassed that I didn’t really appreciate
what she had been going through. -Sure.
-You know, what it means to carry that burden with you
every day. And at the same time,
I was super aware of how lucky we were to
find ourselves in this position and how stupid it was that it
was an underpants commercial that got us there.
-Yeah. [ Laughter ]
-Because, let’s be honest, not everybody —
[ Applause ] Not everybody gets to rock out.
[ Both laugh ] You also — you played
a corrections officer. A pretty bad guy…
-Yeah, not a nice person. -…on “Orange Is
the New Black.” -If you like someone,
you don’t do that to them. -You don’t like someone — yes. And did that influence this
as well, in any way? -Well, it did because working
on “Orange” woke me up to what it feels like
to create a show that is artistically and
creatively satisfying, but also have a social impact.
-Sure. -I was approach by a woman
on the street, who said, “Thank you for making a show
that helps me feel seen.” She had spent time in prison,
and that show really highlights that no one’s story
is black-and-white. You know?
And again, to a person who is a horrible character.
-Yeah. -So, she appreciated
what I had done. -A horrible character,
amazing prosthetics. You had — You had a stroke?
-I had a stroke on the show. So, I had a mask.
-So, this is your prosthetic, and I hope that’s your child.
-Yes. -‘Cause that’s a very scary face
if it was — yeah. -That’s a bad day
to bring your daughter to work. [ Laughter ] -We had Claire McCaskill here,
a former Senator of Missouri. She was talking about the fact that when she was
out of college, she actually went on a game show and paid off her loans
that way, as well. What kind of stories are you
hearing from people? Like, are they — Does everybody
have student loan debt for the same reasons,
are you finding out, or is it sort of different?
-First, her situation is, sadly, not unique.
When we created this show, the casting department
came up to me and said, “Thank you
for making a show where I don’t have to
tell people to lie about what they’re gonna do
if they win.” Because when you’re
on these other shows, nobody wants to hear
about your student debt. If you win “Wheel of Fortune,”
they don’t want you to come out and be like, “Oh, I’m kind of
just back at zero, gang.” -Right.
-“Thanks so much.” -Yeah.
-They want a better story. So they were like,
“At least we can be honest.” So, kind of, we’re
lifting the veil on why people are going on these
game shows in the first place. -You have — And again,
this isn’t just the same, week in and week out. You have different
theme episodes that shine a light on
different parts of this issue. What are some of themes
you guys cover? -Well, we’ve done
“Back in the Nest” for people that are still
living at home. We did an episode
called “Made in America.” It’s coming up, actually.
That’s for people who were — are first-generation
born in the United States. You know, someone whose family
took this risk to move to the United States to create more opportunities
for their kids. Maybe even moving from a country
that has socialized education. And now their kids are stuck
under this mountain of debt, which is clearly not
where they want them to be. -And what about — People,
I know, can watch at home and also win money to help
pay off their debts that way. How does that work? -We’ve got this new
call-in feature. So, now, if you
watch the episode, you pay attention to
when we’re doing it, and at the end of every show,
you can call in and win money
towards your student loans. And you call
the number on your screen, you answer
some recall questions, like, “Who was
the first person eliminated?” “What was the number-one answer
on this poll?” You get $1,000 per question. We gave away $11,000 last week
to people all over the country. And it’s a way for us
to reach more people who are maybe just
discovering the show and also continue to tell
the stories that are out there, ’cause that’s
what it’s all about. -It certainly doesn’t seem like
any legislation has been passed in recent years
that’s making this better, but it does seem
like it’s a topic that more people
are talking about. Do you feel any optimism
that there will be any reform in the future that will help
people who are under this debt? -I do. I have to feel optimistic
for it, because it’s necessary. Education is a human right.
You know? And — It is.
[ Cheers and applause ] And that’s — I mean, that’s
not a bold thing to say. Sadly, because that’s
a controversial statement, but when FDR put out
his Second Bill of Rights, it was the right
to a good education, ’cause he knew that if we
don’t have good education, the economic disparity
will just continue. And unfortunately, that’s
what’s happening right now. Education is becoming something that is exacerbating
economic inequality, as opposed to being
this opportunity that is supposed to
lift people up. -Well, it’s a really cool show.
And it’s great that you’re both
helping people out and also shining a light
on this issue. And thanks so much
for being here tonight. -Seth, thank you having me.
I appreciate you, man.