Though not know for covering the world of stand-up, Peter Sciretta, one of the writers over at /Film, has reported on a fascinating comedy story that supposedly took place during a taping of America's Got Talent this week.
It seems that during an audition taping in Los Angeles, a comic who calls himself The Greg Wilson (ugh) performed a routine about a couple fighting and did pretty well with it; the judges were all favorable and complimentary towards him and the audience laughed a lot. When it came time for Howie Mandel's turn to offer critique, though, things got uncomfortable; Mandel -- himself a stand-up comic for 30 years -- asked Wilson if he had written the bit, because Mandel said he had seen it before. After some back and forth in which Wilson insisted it was his bit, Mandel offered up the name of the comic he had seen perform it years earlier: Frank Nicotero (pictured at right), who -- TA DA! -- just happens to be the warm-up comic for AGT and was in the theater when all of this was going down.
Sciretta reports that things got pretty tense; producers came over and had a lot of hush-hush discussion with the judges and Nicotero was visibly angry about the situation. According to Sciretta, everything appeared to be real and organic -- not some staged publicity thing for cameras. Ultimately, the judges opted to judge Wilson on his performance and put him through, which set Nicotero off even more. No word yet on if there will be any further investigation as to whether or not Wilson stole the bit or if it's just a coincidence that two people came up with the exact same routine.
If Wilson did steal the bit (and plenty of big-name comics have been accused of plagiarism for their entire careers, including Dane Cook, Robin Williams, Denis Leary and Carlos Mencia), this becomes a completely crazy story. He was auditioning to be on a TV show; did he not think someone would see it and catch him? And could he have ever predicted that the comic from whom the bit was taken would be in attendance that night? Let's give him the benefit of the doubt for now, even if he does use a "The" in front of his name.
If nothing else, it gets us talking about joke stealing again, which is a topic that's always worth revisiting. In the age of YouTube, when everyone has everything on video and online, it's getting harder to do. Maybe this will be an instance where YouTube helps us get to the truth.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images