A Couple of Questions with…Bill Bellamy and Peter Engel

“Last Comic Standing” is returning for its fifth season…but it’s doing so without host Anthony Clark. (Some, like our own Mike Farley, would say that’s a blessing.) Now fronting the mike for the series is Bill Bellamy, who, if you’re really old, you might remember from his days as an MTV VJ. We spoke with Bellamy, along with the show’s producer, Peter Engel, during a recent teleconference.

Bullz-Eye: Bill, you’ve been working on “Who’s Got Jokes” recently, for TV One.

Bill Bellamy: Yes.

BE: Will you be bringing the Pope of Comedy over to “Last Comic Standing” with you?

BB: Uh, no. (Laughs) No, no, we won’t! He’ll definitely have his throne on “Who’s Got Jokes,” but we have on “Last Comic Standing,” man, we have amazing, amazing fun with our talent scouts. I mean, we got Kathleen Madigan, Alonzo Bodden, we got ANT, and these guys…I mean, they’re like three Popes in one, in a way, ‘cause they’re bringing so much laughter and, also, y’know, critiquing and just different elements to the show that we didn’t necessarily have before.

BE: Do you know if it was your work on “Who’s Got Jokes” that caught the eye of the producers, or were they just still remembering you fondly from your “Def Comedy Jam” days?

BB: Uh, yeah, I’m hoping it’s all of it… (Laughs)

Peter Engel: (Helpfully) Well, I’ll answer!

BB: …but I would have to leave that one up to Peter Engel, who’s the executive producer, because it actually just came out…it felt like just came out of nowhere, and it felt like a great fit.

PE: Actually, once Jay Mohr (the show’s original host) couldn’t…I had my eye on Bill for a couple of years. In fact, I wanted Bill last year, but we couldn’t clear schedules. He doesn’t even know that. In fact, he doesn’t know it until this call!

BB: (Surprised) Right! (Laughs)

PE: And I wanted Bill from way back when. I just thought he would be a perfect fit…and he is. So when we were deciding who to go to, there were no other choices here, actually. (NBC President) Kevin Reilly, I said, “Bill Bellamy.” And Reilly said, “Get him!” And that was it!

BB: It’s a lot of fun, man. I want to say, like, for me, coming into “Last Comic Standing,” the thing that I liked about it was this whole new international feel, because we traveled to different places, and, y’know, as a comedian, a lot of these places I had never been before. And what’s cool about it is to see that humor transcends everything, no matter if you’re from a different country. As long as there’s no language barrier. You know what I’m saying? You get an Australian joke, you get a guy or girl from London, you get somebody from Canada. It doesn’t matter, as long as you bring the funny. I think it’s a beautiful thing.

BE: And, actually, Peter, I was going to ask you about that: did the senses of humor of the comedians from outside the States different dramatically from those from the U.S.?

PE: In Australia, there was a little regional situation, where the regional-ness of it didn’t transcend. But about 90 to 95 percent of it did. London was fine, and Montreal was off the hook. So it was very relatable.

BE: (Stifles laughter at the mere concept of the former executive producer of “Saved by the Bell” trying to successfully use the phrase “off the hook” in conversation) So, uh, Bill, do you happen remember your personal best comeback to a heckler?

BB: Oh, man! I had a really funny one I said one time. This lady kept heckling me…not, like, real bad, but she was drunk; it was, like, one of those bachelor party type situations…and I don’t know why I said this, but I was, like, “Look, lady, I’m trying to do my job. Do I ever come to the strip club and put oil on your pole?”

PE: (Bursts into laughter)

BB: (Laughs) I don’t know why I said that, but the whole place went crazy! They were, like, “Omigod! Oh, my GOD!” I don’t even know how I made that up; it just came to me. She was just so wild, and she was dancing around, so maybe she kind of looked like a stripper or something…but, after that, she sat down. She didn’t have anything else to say to me after that.

BE: I would expect not. And, lastly, your Wikipedia entry suggests that you may have been the first person to ever say the phrase “booty call” on television.

BB: (Proudly) I am the first person to ever create that whole thing.

BE: A-ha!

BB: Yeah, most people don’t realize why they’re saying “booty call.” They think they just heard it somewhere, and it sounds cool. But, originally, it came from a joke that I wrote. You can go look at it on “Def Comedy Jam”; you’ll see where it all came from. It’s a very, very funny joke about how if a girl comes into your hotel room at 2:00 in the morning, is that or is that not a booty call? And I just said it, just like that, and it went…everybody went… (Provides a very decent approximation of the sound of a crowd going completely apeshit) Now, since then, Bill Clinton’s had a booty call, everybody’s had a booty call!

BE: Yeah, but do you get royalties?

BB: Nah, nah. I just ask people to send a dollar to their favorite booty foundation.

BE: Fair enough. Thanks a lot.


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