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Vulture Asks Former American Idol Co-Host Brian Dunkleman About Ryan Seacrest’s Failed Joke

On last night's American Idol, Ryan Seacrest made a strange and unsuccessful joke. When announcing next week's "Idol Gives Back" extravaganza, Seacrest said: "I'll be handling the business here at this studio. And an all-star cast will do their bit live from the Pasadena Civic Auditorium ... And I can announce that Brian Dunkleman will host that portion of the show." The audiences gasped and then confusedly clapped at the idea that Dunkleman, Idol's short-lived first-season co-host, would return to the show after all these years. Seacrest, realizing his joke had fallen flat, corrected the record: "I'm kidding," he said. "That'll be Queen Latifah. She will be there to emcee that." We know Seacrest enjoyed the joke, but how did Dunkleman — the one who's not a multi-millionaire TV host — feel about it? We called the Celebrity Fit Club veteran (who is currently working on a web show, American Dunkleman, about, you guessed it, foolishly leaving American Idol after its first season) to discuss his surprise name-check.

Were you watching American Idol last night?
No, I don't watch American Idol — that'd be like getting divorced from somebody and then hanging out with them. Actually, my sister switched over from Dancing With the Stars, because she thought Glee was starting at 9 p.m., but she actually turned it on right when Ryan mentioned me, so she called me right away.

It was a pretty bad joke. Were you offended?
People are like, "Oh, it's so mean-spirited," but I didn't take it that way. I think he was trying to make a joke, and instead of laughs there was a gasp and applause, which I'm sure mortified him. I imagine everything just went white in front of him.

It must feel pretty nice that people cheered for you.
I'm flattered, if not touched, that people actually clapped. It's a good feeling. And hey, the Pasadena Civic Auditorium is literally walking distance, so if they need me, I'm available.

So you're making a show about leaving American Idol ...
Yeah, the premise is: What if the biggest mistake you ever made in your life is brought up to you on a daily basis? So maybe Seacrest's attempt at a joke could actually make it happen, because I was No. 2 on Google searches last night. It's pretty awesome; I appreciate him giving me free press. Anything that he can do that leads to me working, I am completely in favor of.

Do you think that Seacrest will call to apologize?
Why would he? I don't think that's going to happen. But I do find it odd that after eight years he still thinks about me.

Photo: Charley Gallay/London Entertainment