The 36-year-old comedian recently sat down with ET’s Kevin Frazier while filming “Wild ‘N Out: Live in Times Square,” where he opened up about not wanting to be “defined” by his job, whether it’s as the host of a hugely popular reality TV show, a musician, a producer or a stand-up comic.
“The entertainment industry itself [can] compartmentalize you,” Cannon shared. “[People] get caught in a sense of like, ‘You should be happy to be here,’ or, ‘It is the dream job. Things like this don’t come along to everyone.’ But things like that don’t define me.”
Canon announced in February that he intended to quit as host of the hit NBC competition series after he was allegedly “threatened with termination” due to jokes he told in his Showtime stand-up special, Stand Up, Don’t Shoot, that he says some members of NBC top brass supposedly thought “disparaged their brand.”
As Cannon wrote in a lengthy statement posted to Instagram at the time, “This isn’t the first time executives have attempted to ‘put me in my place’ for so called unruly actions.”
“I will not stand for it. My moral principles will easily walk away from the millions of dollars they hang over my head,” he continued. “It’s never been about the money for me, what is difficult to walk away from is the fans.”
According to Cannon, who served as the show’s host for eight seasons, he understands “operating within a system,” but feels that he doesn’t “have an employee’s mentality.”
“When people start to put restraints on my creativity, as an artist, I just have to stand on my square and stand for something,” Cannon explained to ET. “I’ve never operated for monetary gain. Money isn’t one of the things that moves me or inspires me.”
“I love [money]. I embrace it the way everyone else does on this planet, but I don’t make decisions based off of it,” he said, adding that his decision to quit wasn’t emotional.
“Everything I do is calculated,” Cannon said.
The outspoken entertainer — who is currently expanding his MTV improv comedy series, “Nick Cannon Presents: Wild ‘N Out,” with the “So You Wanna Wild Out” talent search — says that “at the end of the day, I don’t blame anyone.”
“I feel like change is growth,” he shared. “I wish everyone the best. I wish all the new people involved the best. I wish the brand to continue to flourish. I’ve got love for the network, I’ve got love for the production, and I feel like I’m growing as an artist, and as a human being, to bigger and better things.”
And as for “Wild ‘N Out” — which Cannon debuted in 2005 and is now in its eighth season after being revived on MTV2 — the comedian says the groundbreaking series is still “near and dear to my heart.”
“When I created it, this was before people knew who Kevin Hart was, knew who Kat Williams was, knew who Mikey Day and all these people who are now off having amazing careers [were],” Cannon recalled. “I feel like I was a integral part of building that, and when I look back at things that inspired me as a young person, from “Def Comedy Jam” and “In Living Color,” this generation is inspired in the same way by “Wild ‘N Out” and it continues to grow.”
“I’m diversifying the business in the sense that it started off as a TV show and now we’re a digital component,” he added. “We’re a game component, we’re opening “Wild ‘N Out” sports bars and comedy clubs across the country, tapping in with different sports teams and just really taking that brand that myself and Viacom built and allowing it to expand.”
Outside of his multitude of professional pursuits, Cannon is also a father of three. Last month, he welcomed a new son, Golden “Sagon” Cannon, with ex-girlfriend Brittany Bell, and he shares 5-year-old twins Moroccan and Monroe with ex-wife Mariah Carey.
While Cannon and Carey called it quits in 2014, the actor has shown nothing but respect and appreciation for his ex-wife, with whom he shares an amiable co-parenting relationship that he says is based on “unconditional love” for both Carey and their kids.
“That woman is a queen,” Cannon said of the “I Don’t” songstress, adding, “She’s a magnificent mother.”
“I have nothing but respect and admiration for that woman,” he professed. “I will never have a bad thing, a negative thing, to say about her.”
Cannon says that he and his ex-wife have “such a respect for one another,” that you can “see it in the children. You can see how happy they are, you can see that they’re loved unconditionally. At the end of the day, that’s our number one priority.”