America’s Got Talent drama: contestant accused of stealing bit from comedian who was at the audition

Actual drama erupted at a taping of America’s Got Talent on Thursday night in Hollywood, when Howie Mandel called out a comedian for doing an act similar to one he’d previously seen performed by another comedian–who just happened to be the warm-up comedian at the audition that night.

/Film’s Peter Sciretta was in the audience and posted a detailed account of the audition and its aftermath, calling it “the strangest thing” and adding that it “was not staged. I wouldn’t be surprised if this whole incident is never broadcast on television.”

A comedian, Greg Wilson, performed, and Howie, who’d been friendly with him before the performance, started questioning the source of his material. After some drama with the other comedian, who was backstage and described it below, the judges actually decided to send the comedian to Las Vegas.

The warm-up comedian, Frank Nicotero, who hosted Game of Life on Hub and the syndicated show Street Smarts, confirmed this happened, writing on Twitter, “I did get very upset as you can imagine. NOT set up. Personal. I can’t talk much more about it.” He referred to the other comedian as “that hack Greg Wilson. He stole from me.”

On Facebook, Nicotero wrote a note asking “all comics help me out” and “please comment what a piece of shit he is.” It said, in part,

“I’m not much for fighting but I went backstage and called him out and rushed him. Security held me back (not hard) and we screamed. He said I stole. I BEG OF YOU, MY FRIENDS. Please write in the comment section how many times and for how many years you’ve seen me close with that bit. As a comedian it’s the worst thing that can happen. He’s SO FUCKING DUMB HE STEALS AN ENTIRE BIT AND NOT A ONE LINER.

I then see him again and had to be separated by security. Thanks guys…he’s not worth getting sued over. People he stole it exactly the way I do it but 100 times less funny.

As I left the producers had already told me they got my back and you will never see his performance on the show. He’s was being talked to by the shows lawyers when I was whisked out. No vegas trip…just one to hell for being a horrible person.”

Some defended Greg Wilson, saying that two comics may have just independently come up with the same bit. But Nicotero also said “I have TAPES from the 90’s doing the bit. ripped off.”

Perhaps the most shocking part about this is that the show will apparently not air any of it, even though it was real, unscripted drama.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.