Anthony Clark, <EM>Last Comic Standing</EM> Anthony Clark, Last Comic Standing

NBC apparently didn't get the joke behind Last Comic Standing last season, relegating the contest to Comedy Central weeks before a winner was crowned. Now the Peacock is giving the American Idol-for-funny-people another shot, with the new season's episodes airing Tuesdays at 9 pm/ET. TV Guide asked new host Anthony Clark why Last Comic merited a second chance, as well as why his sitcom, CBS' Yes, Dear, didn't.

TV Guide: Is hosting Last Comic Standing a sweet gig for a stand-up comic like yourself?
Anthony Clark:
It's great for me, 'cause I'm coming off a six-year sitcom. I started out as a stand-up, and I'm like the biggest fan in the world. It's an art form that's never going away.

TV Guide: How far would you go on Last Comic if you were an unknown?
Not very far! I still don't believe that people laugh at some of my jokes. I don't even understand them!

TV Guide: Since the previous season's final rounds aired on Comedy Central, what's new and better?
The amazing thing is that I really didn't know the show. For me, TV is sports and the news. I haven't seen a movie since Throw Momma from the Train. I have no Blockbuster card, no computer.... I have an Etch-a-Sketch and a shredder. I'm an idiot savant from the mountains of Virginia.

TV Guide: Seriously, what are the changes? We know the comics in the finals this time are being housed on the Queen Mary cruise ship moored in Long Beach. I assume there's no gay theme despite it being, well, the Queen Mary.
Well, I've been called "the Queen Mary" a few times, so I don't take any offense to it! [Laughs] I told someone it's because it's a boat going nowhere  just like most of their careers. And, of course, Jay Mohr was the host last time. I don't know why he's not there anymore.

TV Guide: You didn't arrange to get him out so you could take over, did you?
Oh, no! I have no power. My postman even spits at me. I was one of the celebrity judges at the finals a year and a half ago. I feel very privileged that they asked me, because for the past 12 years, I have done nothing but film and sitcom. I was recurring on Ellen, then I went to Boston Common, then saving souls [on Soul Man] with Dan Aykroyd, and finally to Yes, Dear for six years.

TV Guide: Yes, Dear never got any respect from the critics. Any last thoughts? Are you proud of it?
The critics hated it! And I hate them! No, you can't take it serious when you read about yourself. If you do, you're not made for this business. This little CBS sitcom was around for six years! I've got a house in Laguna Beach and one in the Hollywood Hills. Yes, I'm proud. I will say when I first got the script, I was like, "Eww." But my management [challenged me to] prove that I can play this uptight and anal married guy who is completely opposite from me. I mean, he has kids. Do I like kids? No. [Laughs] They love me, though. When I go to hang out with my former costar Mike O'Malley, his kids crawl all over me!

TV Guide: Yes, Dear producer Greg Garcia is now doing the hit My Name Is Earl, and O'Malley has paid a visit. Do you want to guest-star, too?
: I would do anything for Greg. It's a great show.

TV Guide: How's the action in the Last Comic house this season? Screaming, shoving, things breaking...?
All of that. [Laughs] There's definitely some drama. But I'm not supposed to talk about it. I can tell you, the five comics in the finals are hysterical. They're so good at what they do and with such different styles. They're just complete opposites. I think whoever takes the top spot, it will be because it's their crowd watching that night.

TV Guide: Any surprise twists we should look for?
There are definitely new challenges. One's called a Heckler Ball where one of the comics has to heckle another on stage. I have never seen an audience laugh like that. It was a pitbull fight! And really, really funny.

TV Guide: What happened to the past winners? Despite getting NBC development deals, they're not popping up on NBC shows. 
Are they Robin Williams? No. But it definitely made their live appearance money go through the roof. These guys made maybe $100 bucks a show and now they could make $20,000 to $50,000 headlining five shows. I know they all own their own houses now. [Laughs] This season the winner will get their own comedy special on Bravo, and they win money like, $50 to $100 thou[sand].

TV Guide: Do you see yourself as a Simon Cowell-type meanie? 
Absolutely not. I am the Ryan Seacrest, but hopefully a little more funny. And I know how hard it is to get a break. I came from the comedy-club circuit, and I know that struggle. I used to sit at the bar at Catch a Rising Star in New York with Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and Jon Stewart, begging to be put on. I can empathize with these people.

TV Guide: You've done pretty good for a kid "raised on a tobacco farm." Or is that a myth?
It's true. I'm from Gladys, which is 30 miles south of Lynchburg. My uncle Jim Moon was the copastor of Jerry Falwell's church.

TV Guide: So are you the black sheep in your family?
I think they like me because I send them money in their Christmas cards. And I always promised to buy my mom a Cadillac. I finally did last summer, and I told her I'd drive back from LA. in April, after Yes, Dear was finished. She'd go, "Well, I might be dead in April. I'm flying your brother out and he's getting it right now!"

TV Guide: What else is going on with you? 
I have a movie coming out June 23, called Cry Uncle, with Kathy Najimy and Gabrielle Union, directed by and starring Peter Paige from Queer as Folk. I play Peter's best friend. I'm also going to produce some films. I'm kind of over acting. I mean I'm just so rich. [Laughs] I kind of want to open up my own restaurant and comedy club at some point, somewhere down South. I ain't goin' nowhere else.