There are guilty pleasures, and then there’s FBoy Island. The HBO Max reality show is a little embarrassing to say out loud, let alone watch. But with its debut season last summer, the competition won over skeptics, less with substance than style. FBoy Island’s structure gestures at social commentary: three women date suitors who’ve secretly labeled themselves either Nice Guys, who will split a cash prize with their new partner if they win, or FBoys, who have a chance at hoarding it for themselves. In practice, though, the stakes feel as low as one would want from the platonic ideal of peak-summer TV—no thoughts, just SoundCloud rappers and chiseled abs.
Created by Elan Gale, a former producer for The Bachelor and its spinoffs, FBoy Island keeps the addictive appeal of those series while ditching the pretense. The stars of FBoy Island are unlikely to find true love at a beachside mansion in Mexico, and the show doesn’t ask us to believe they will. Instead, it pokes fun at the assembled himbos, plus the questionable taste of the women who lust after them. It’s a mindless distraction that’s also contemptuous of mindless distractions—which in turn makes it all the easier for us to turn off our brains.
Presiding over this three-ring circus is comedian Nikki Glaser. As the former host of the sex-themed talk show Not Safe With Nikki Glaser, star of her own E! docuseries, and longtime fan of reality TV, Glaser is well-equipped to spoof modern dating. Her role on FBoy Island is less MC than roastmaster. Glaser may engage in some light girl talk, but she clearly relishes exploring what her opening voice-over calls “the biggest, most important question of our time: How do we stop the FBoys?”
Once FBoys are eliminated—signature sendoff: “FBoy, F-Bye”—they’re dispatched to Limbro, a space that best captures FBoy Island’s gleeful fakery. A wooden compound sans showers, mattresses, or self-tanning oil, Limbro is where Glaser leads a pack of FBoys in activities like “bro-ga,” a puppet show starring “Consent Coyote,” or a lie-detector test conducted with “state-of-the-art coconut technology.” In one of last season’s most delightful sequences, an FBoy “broke out” of Limbro and returned to the main house in a clearly producer-sanctioned bit of pageantry. Of course the FBoys aren’t actually sleeping under the stars, but we can tell Glaser gets a kick out of delivering even a simulated piece of karmic comeuppance.
On Thursday, FBoy Island dropped the next three episodes of its second season. To break down the show’s addictive appeal, Glaser spoke with The Ringer about her own reality fandom, why she loves Limbro, and whether she gets sick of saying “FBoy” with a straight face.
I’m really excited to talk. I watched the Season 2 finale this morning, so I’m fresh.
Oh my God, really? Whoa. I haven’t watched. I’m starting them tonight, so I have no idea what to expect. We shoot so much. I’m so excited to watch the show. I’ve heard such great things, though. It’s been so fun to talk to people who have seen it.
Did you want to wait until the rest of the world could watch it too?
I’ve just been doing so much press that I have no time and I’m not around my family and friends. I don’t watch any TV unless I’m with someone to share it with. It’s like my weird fatal flaw. I can’t really enjoy anything more than a YouTube video if I don’t have someone to laugh about it with. So, tonight was the first time since it’s been out that I’ve had time to share it with someone. I’m going to watch with my boyfriend and his brother tonight and I’m so freaking excited.
What was it like watching last season with other people?
I don’t think I found people to watch it with, so I forced myself to binge a bunch of episodes and it was hard because I was watching it by myself. And when you get it by yourself, you forget the entertainment value, because you’re just watching for yourself and what [the editors] use, what they didn’t use. I become kind of obsessive. But I feel like this season is the one that I’m really going to give myself over to and enjoy like a true reality fan because my boyfriend has never seen the first season. He’s going to get into the show with me. It feels like old-school reality show days of me with my friends, like destination TV, which I haven’t done in a while and especially not with my own show. So, it’ll be a first.
Have you watched a lot of dating-competition-style reality shows?
Yes. That’s my favorite genre of entertainment, including classical music.
Bachelor, Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise; all of the VH1 reality shows from back in the day—Rock of Love, I Love New York. I love The Ultimatum. I love Love Is Blind. Love on the Spectrum is like my favorite show of all time. So yeah, I’m well versed in that. And I’ve been invested in all of it, too. I look at a reality show season, like a good Bachelorette season, and it makes me understand men with football. Like, “Oh my God, it’s coming! A new season is starting!” All my friends get together and we watch it. So, it’s been very important to me, reality TV and other people’s lives that I get invested in.
What’s drawn you to it?
I think because it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. Since The Real World was on—it was really popular when I was in college—I was like, “Oh man, I think I could get on The Real World.” And I would want to be on it because it’s so honest. I like honest TV. Taxi Cab Confessions was my favorite show as a kid because I was like, “This is the only real thing I’ve ever seen.” What I like about it is the same thing that draws me to stand-up comedy, which is just an honesty and people not acting and being fake. It’s ironic that people call reality TV fake so often when it’s so much less fake than anything scripted you watch.
I’m into psychology and sociology and these are social experiments. We get to see humans at their best and their worst. They’re brought to those points because of a production, for sure. There’s fake elements to it. But in the same way that a zoo would be fake. And you wouldn’t write off a zoo as like, “Zoos are so fake, why are you going to this zoo? Go on safari or don’t do it at all! I don’t go to any zoos.” Like how people say that they don’t watch reality TV. And it’s just like, “OK, well then you’re missing a way to observe humans in their natural state, in an unnatural habitat.”
As someone who’s a seasoned expert in this field, when you first were approached about FBoy Island, what made it stand out from other types of dating shows?
It was in an email from my agents. I had already given them the clarion call of like, “I want to be on a reality show or I want to host one.” So, it came to me in an email that was a bunch of upcoming reality series looking for hosts or in pre-production. And I remember seeing [FBoy Island] then and being like, “That’s funny. That show has a sense of humor, obviously, because that’s a joke of a name.” And then I got a call one day from my friend Elan Gale, who just texted me and was like, “Hey, I just want to talk to you about something.” And he was like, “Hey, I’ve created this show and I think you would be great for it.” I was so excited. I was like, “That was you? It was you the whole time!”
It was the first thing I’ve ever done in my career where they wanted me as much as I wanted them. They had a lot of people that could have gotten this role and they could have gone to [them]. I was, from what I understand, their top choice, which means so much to me because the show is so exactly what I love to do, which is be honest and also indulge in the fantasy.
I just get to watch it as a spectator, because I wanted to be a host that was not so involved in the production side of things. I am an EP on the show, but I just want to collect the money and have a hand in writing the jokes and saying what’s funny. That’s what I want to have a hand in in terms of production. But otherwise I want to stay out of it, because I like getting filled in on the date from the girls themselves, not from a producer.
What did Elan tell you initially about the show? Was he always like, “I want this to have a sense of humor”?
Yes. Well, I knew that from the get because he’s funny. I know him from his days at The Bachelorette and Bachelor, but I also know him from Twitter, where he is a very funny person. He was excited about it as his first real chance to really be funny. You don’t get a chance on those other shows to really spread your wings. And I didn’t even need to know what the tone of the show was, because I think the name said it all. Thank God for that name. It’s really just straight out of 30 Rock. I mean, MILF Island was on 30 Rock and that was the most parody name you could come up with.
So, instantly I laughed at the name and I knew that no show that had that name, that would hire me as a host, would ever want me to take this actually seriously. It’s so funny how much they love me to throw the whole genre under the bus. Like, they would encourage it. HBO Max just trusted us to have fun and be experimental about the comedy in this show because comedy on a reality show hasn’t been done this way, on a show that actually takes itself seriously. It has both. I think we did both really well. And I didn’t know that we could.
I get the sense watching you on the show that messing with these FBoys might be a little cathartic.
Yes, girl. Oh my God. I’ve seen the way these guys behave. They all are very reverential to me and so respectful. So I feel a freedom to call them out that I’ve never felt with men before. Any man outside FBoy Island, I would never feel this respected. I don’t know why, but somehow they’ve convinced them to respect me. And so I am able to go places comedically and make fun of them and, you know, talk to them about stuff that gets at the root of things. I can try to undo some of the damage that has been done, even in these little comedy sketches.
And I just respect anyone who goes on a reality show, even if they’re doing it because they’re so stupid and they have no idea how vulnerable they’ll be. It’s still brave to me in some way to put yourself out there this much. Because as much as you think you’ll have control over yourself in what airs, it is extremely vulnerable, and it’s a huge risk. Even though some of these guys probably do not deserve my respect, they get it because they’re acting like buffoons on television and anyone who ever dates them ever again is going to have this footage of them being horrible. I almost respect it because it is so honest, despite them coming on a show under a lie. It’s fascinating to me.
Are they also in on the joke or willing to laugh at themselves?
Yes. Especially once they’re eliminated and there’s no more money or women on the line, they relax and they become so fun. That’s why I have the best comedic moments in Limbro or in the Nice Guy Grotto. Because those guys are not so uptight. It’s really hard to laugh at jokes and make fun of yourself if you’re being knocked in front of the girls you like. They don’t really have the egos to withstand that. And nor should they! A lot of the mocking I would do under my breath so they wouldn’t hear me, because I didn’t want them to make them feel bad in front of these girls. But it totally changes once they’re eliminated. Then they relax.
It’s almost like a guy after he orgasms. They’re too tense beforehand to have any sense of humor. And then after they climax, they kind of regenerate back to their old self and you can joke with them. That’s how I feel once these guys get knocked out of the show. Their libido is settled. They’re just hanging out with dudes. Now they get access to a gym that 25 guys aren’t also trying to gain access to. There’s this freedom. That’s my favorite part of the show, is interacting with them after the fact.
My favorite part of the show is also Limbro. Are you writing those sketches and coming up with those concepts? What are those like to film?
Those are so random. They’re filmed in between me having a chat with the girls about the elimination ceremony that night, like a serious chat, and then me going to the elimination ceremony. They’re shoehorned in whenever we could get them because they weren’t the essential elements of the show. They’re additional material, but they were really important to everyone to get. That was conceived of by [executive producer] Bill Dixon and Elan. We get in there and there’s an earpiece in my ear and Bill is in the control room, shouting out wild lines. But it’s all on the fly. We’re really doing it in the moment. Sometimes my goal is to just riff and make the director, Michael [Shea], laugh.
I was definitely curious about what Limbro actually is, since I’m guessing you’re not cutting these men off from indoor plumbing and whatnot.
No, Limbro is just a place for sketches to be shot. But I will say that they are downgraded to accommodations that aren’t nice. They’re off campus at a hotel far off the beaten bath and then they’re kind of quarantined. So it’s not, like, great. They have to stay there because they have to wait until we bring them back for the Mansplain [segment]. So, they’re kind of just quarantined in Mexico, but they let them out on little excursions and stuff and some of them escape. We had FBoys escaping chronically, and I had to send a few of them home. But it’s hard to corral a bunch of FBoys! Especially when the girls and the money aren’t at stake anymore. They’re not actually punished, but it’s hard for these guys to be off social. It’s hard for anyone.
They just get bussed in for these little sketches that we film and it’s so fun and they love it. They love tearing up their clothes and looking hot and sweaty under the sun and then me just getting to mock all of them. It was really fun for them to finally feel free and, actually, some of them are really funny. Last year, too, I identified a couple of them like, “Oh, those are our guys that are good comedic actors and we can have fun with.” And so it was fun to interact with them in that way and empower them in a way. Like, “See, you don’t have to just lift weights the rest of your life. You can maybe be funny for a living in some capacity.”
Where did they escape to? Are they just going to bars or something?
Just like Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo [Cantina]. It’s like an influencer scene in Cabo, for sure. There’s places to go. I’m sure I’m going to get in trouble for divulging that, but I don’t care. These FBoys were hard to contain! You can’t force them to stay. There was a little bit of mayhem because these guys are shifty and they know how to sneak out. Boys sneak out in like sixth grade at summer camp. So, full-grown men in Cabo being told that you can’t because HBO Max says you can’t, that doesn’t mean anything to them.
As you said, you’re not necessarily like the most present host. You show up for these conversations, but mostly these people are freely mingling among themselves. So, what are you up to for most of filming? Are you reading on the beach?
Oh my gosh, I’m working, podcasting, doing press interviews. I didn’t get a lot of hang time. I mean, I went whale watching a couple times. I had some days where I caught up on sleep, but pretty much my shooting schedule was, we would shoot for six days and then have a day off every seventh day. I would shoot the first and third day of each.
So I was only on two full days out of that seven and it’s awesome. It’s the best job in the freaking world to be the host of a reality show, because you don’t have to do anything. The first season, I was like, “What am I doing here, guys? I need to be on more.” Now I’m like, “Oh wait, no, this isn’t about me.” It’s awesome that I just get to pop in whenever. But it isn’t a vacation. Next time I hope that I don’t have as much work to do every single day where I’m just holed up in my hotel room, and can explore more. But I did see so many whales. By the end of it, eight weeks, whales were squirrels to me. I was just like, “Oh, there’s another whale, don’t hit that whale.”
Something that jumped out at me when I was watching the show was the timeline. You’re there for weeks and weeks, and we get a tiny portion of that. Also we’re seeing the girls interact with one guy while there are 25 others milling somewhere off screen. What gets cut that we might be curious about?
The shooting schedule is insane for them. So, they really shoot most of what they’re doing and thankfully they all get downtime to just read a book. They can’t be on phones, but just relax, watch TV, and sleep. It’s mostly catching up on sleep when they are not on camera. So, anything that you’re not seeing just wasn’t entertaining enough. It’s them just talking to each other, or working out, or eating. I did my own reality show for E! and they didn’t film me a lot of times, because so much of the time is spent just doing nothing. We were more intentional about what we shot. I thought it was going to be more of a docu-follow, but we were like, “No, let’s just do these scenes of the important parts of my day.” It wasn’t as much of filming me napping and watching TV, which you obviously can’t film.
I’m guessing they cut anything that was boring, which a lot of this shit is. It’s just get-to-know-you conversations with people who don’t have a lot of life outside of lifting and influencing and going to the club. There’s a lot to cut around, but within that, like anyone’s life, there’s really dramatic, awesome moments. But nothing’s cut that is worth seeing. I’ll tell you that.
The conversations can feel pretty repetitive. I kept wondering, “Do you ever ask, ‘Do you have any siblings? What are your hobbies?’”
They do ask that! And I think that’s what gets cut. I say this as one myself: We’re dealing with a lot of narcissists on these shows that aren’t the best at talking about or asking about anyone but themselves. I think what you’re noticing is definitely conversations being cut that just didn’t make it, and also just people not being able to be curious about each other, which is a lot of what the dating scene is now. Like, “Are you ever going to ask her one thing about anything in her personal life beyond right now in this present moment and what color her hair is and what she’s wearing and what her one hobby is? And then you start talking about yourself for a half hour.” That actually happened. I think it might be a mixture of those two things.
It’s funny you say siblings. I also encounter men in my life. One in particular really came on strong, FBoy-wise: “I think you’re so amazing. You’re so interesting to me. I’m so intrigued by you.” And I go, “How many siblings do I have? Do you know? Because I don’t think you know anything about me.” And he was like, “Whoa, I don’t. You’re right. That’s such a good line for my movie I’m writing where this guy is called out as being a narcissist.” I go, “You still don’t know! You’re still talking about yourself!” If a guy doesn’t know how many siblings you have by the end of the first date or you don’t know his, you are bad at dating and you’re bad at getting to know people. I think that’s a good litmus question.
Do you ever get tired of saying “FBoy” constantly?
No. I did the first day. I was like, “How is this going to not feel ridiculous?” It feels corny. It feels cheesy. It’s so lame. And then by the end of the first scene, I just beat it into myself. It really wore off for me right away. And I didn’t think it would. It’s like getting used to your own BO. I was so in it that now FBoy is the normal thing to say.
A few times this season, a few people kind of drop the charade and straight up say “fuck boy.”
Yes. The producers just got tired of correcting us because it would happen all the time: “Just let it slide. We’ll just figure it out in post.” And I think they’ve had to just embrace it.
The format of reality shows is kind of a living document; you can’t repeat the same twists twice. Going forward, is there anything you’d like to change?
I wish there were more breakouts of Limbro. By now, the girls should know the guys are on the island and listen, if you want to see one again, go get one! That’s the thing about reality shows. There’s all these rules that are forced that you don’t have to follow. I would encourage the next season’s contestants to try to break them a little bit, because it’s really fun. My producers are going to cringe at me saying this, but you can get away with so much more than you’re doing. There’s no law. There’s no island law. So, break it a little bit. That’s what I hope to see. I hope that we facilitate them breaking those rules a little bit more.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.