Howie Mandel "Catches" Comedian Stealing Another Comic's Material During 'America's Got Talent' Taping?

I know /Film really isn't a place to blog about competition reality shows, but I thought this story was interesting enough for a post. For the record, I don't know if the contestant stole the bit from Frank Nicotero, I'm just presenting my strange experience from the taping last night. Here's how the events unfolded.

Last night I attended a taping of America's Got Talent at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood (please don't judge, I'm a big Howard Stern fan). The talent show reality series holds audition shows in cities around the country, which are edited to death and eventually televised in highlight packages in the weeks before the show goes live from New York City. The tapings are usually pretty long with a warm up comedian trying to keep the audience entertained in between the various acts.

The strangest thing happened during the taping Thursday night, something which was not staged. I wouldn't be surprised if this whole incident is never broadcast on television.

A comedian contestant named Greg Wilson came up to present his comedy act. He praised Howie Mandel, one of the show's judges, saying he had seen his stand-up show in Dallas during the 1990's. The two bonded in the pre-act interview. Wilson went on to perform his routine, which was basically a reenactment of a wife and husband fighting in a car. The unique angle is the bit is done from the point of view of a driver in another car, and the fight is reenacted without words, only a visual performance.

The bit killed, the audience loved it. So did the judges. Howard Stern praised the routine. Eventually it got to Howie who opened with a strange question, paraphrased, "Did you write this yourself or are you performing someone else's material?" Wilson on stage claimed that he created the bit himself, much like Howie created his own bits. He seemed very offended by the question. Howie seemed unsure how to handle the situation. Something was off. After one of the other judges prodded, Howie admitted that he had seen this same act before, performed by another comedian.


Wilson seemed to become very defensive, claiming that he has been doing the bit for a long time now so if he had seen another comic doing the routine recently, it was possible they stole it from him. He seemed nervous, frazzled. Howie eventually reluctantly revealed the name of the comedian: Frank Nicotero.

Here is a video of Nicotero performing a very simular bit from a few years back:

Here is Greg Wilson's performance of his AGT bit, from a video on youtube from a performance late last year:

And it just so happens that Frank Nicotero was the warm-up comedian at this LA taping of America's Got Talent. Now I know this might seem too good to be true — like something that could have been orchestrated for television, but it didn't feel like it. I can usually smell a set-up from a mile away. Everyone involved seemed uncomfortable, and the whole thing felt awkward and unplanned. If the producers were involved in a set-up, it seemed clear to everyone at the taping that Howie, the contestant and Nicotero weren't in on it.

The AGT cameras tried to get Nicotero, who was off to the side of the theater, to come on stage. Nicotero was pissed and didn't want to be on camera. There were a couple minutes of awkwardness as the producers scrambled to figure the situation out. Howie began backtracking saying that is is possible that two comedians could have come up with similar concept. He then backtracked further, saying the producers could edit this whole thing out if they wanted. Time was ticking so it was decided that the judges had to make a decision, they had to move on to the next act. The judges decided to judge the comedian based on the performance alone, and they agreed to let the contestant pass to the next round in Vegas.

The video cameras stopped and everything got even more awkward. The producers came over to the judges and had a discussion, unmic'd. Moments later, Nicotero went up to Howie at the Judges table and began screaming and ranting. He also wasn't mic'd, so none of the audience heard what he said. He was visibly pissed.

Nicotero slammed his microphone down on the floor and stormed off.

There were a few more acts before the taping ended, and Nicotero who usually entertained the crowd in-between set-ups, never returned to the mic that evening. We saw him visibly shaken, complaining to a crew member in the back of the theater about how his entire routine was ripped off. For the rest of the night Howie seemed a little distant.

When we left the taping, we got to exit through the backstage area where the talent prepares. While we walked through, we saw what looked like an AGT producer having a long discussion with the auditioning comedian. I'm guessing that NBC is going to have to investigate the comedian's claims (ie does he have any tapes from performances in years past).

(For the record, I don't know if Greg stole the bit from Frank Nicotero, I'm just presenting my strange experience from the taping last night.)

Update: Frank Nicotero claims on twitter that he never slammed the mic down, I could have been mistaken. Here are his tweets (mistakenly adressed to someone other than me on twitter):

Some people on twitter are corroborating the fact that Frank Nicotero has used this bit for as long as 15 years now:

Meanwhile, other comedians are coming to Greg Wilson's defense claiming that sometimes two comedians write the same joke (which, yes, is entirely possible):

Another Update: Comedian Jim Krenn appears to have posted a complete e-mail supposedly written by Nicotero about the incident on Facebook:

ATTENTION ALL COMEDIANS AND CLUB OWNERS: The "comedian" Greg Wilson is a total fucking thief and a horrible person and was just busted on national TV.As many of you know I've been closing with a bit in my act FOR YEARS – The fight between a girl and a guy in a car where I pantomime the entire bit. Tonight I was doing warm up at America's Got Talent and that fat piece of shit The Greg Wilson went on tonights taping and DID MY BIT EXACTLY LIKE I'VE BEEN DOING IT FOR YEARS.I rushed to the producers table to talk to the Executive Producers and point blank said he is stealing my bit. I was shaking with anger.THANK GOD FOR HOWIE MANDEL....Howie pointed out that he's seen the bit before and it's from our warm up guy Frank Nicotero. That piece of shit said, "he stole if from me...I'm a headliner on TV and he's the warm up guy! I have a mic and he doesn't!" Funny thing is I DID Have a mic and chose to not jump in and ruin the show.Needless to say I lost it. That bit is personal. It's the bit people request. It's my "Free Bird!"HERE IS THE BEST PART. What are the odds that I'm there!!! THANK YOU COMEDY GODS. That could have made the air and it would have destroyed my heart. It's personal folks....comedians you get it. It's not a one liner, it's a piece.He then got voted thru to Vegas (BECAUSE IT'S A GREAT BIT EVEN THOUGH HE BUTCHERED IT the judges thought he was funny because he claimed somebody stole it from him!)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.Backstage one of our great stage mangers Harve, showed me doing the bit on YOUTUBE to the producers. LET'S SEE YOU PRODUCE THE BIT ONLINE, Greg! I just did a search and I have several online....fat guy ZERO!By the way I have TAPES, THAT'S RIGHT VIDEOTAPES of me doing that bit. So a note to the Anchorage comedy club KOOTS. You have a piece of shit thief playing your club next week. Let me know if he tries to steal MY bit again!PLEASE FORWARD THIS – REPOST – ALL COMICS HELP ME OUT. AND PLEASE COMMENT WHAT A PIECE OF SHIT HE IS.Here is a link to MY bit...not that fucking hack in a cheap argyle sweater...have fun in Alaska hack and El Paso....I hope you wander into Mexico and get killed for thievery.And now I'd LOOOOOOOOOVE to see him respond. Don't even try....just you would have on the show had you done your own material. Oh that's don't have 90 seconds apparently. And yeah I did the warm up, Love doing it, it's a blast and I made in one night what you'll make for a week in Alaska!Frank