ANT isn’t afraid to tell it like it is.
The openly gay comedian and television personality, who will headline Laugh Out Loud during New Hope Celebrates Pride on May 17, has appeared on a number of TV shows, including “Last Comic Standing,” “Celebrity Fit Club,” “The Tyra Banks Show” and his own show, “U.S. of ANT.”
And while most TV personalities shy away from spilling the gory details and behind-the-scenes secrets, ANT has no problem pulling back the curtain.
Take VH1’s “Celebrity Fit Club,” which ANT hosts. Though he can deal with the outrageous personalities attracted to the show, it’s how the show is actually run that gives him pause.
“I go into the show thinking, Please don’t let someone win who has gained weight, because that has happened twice,” he said. “I was so mad. They were like, ‘Well, that’s the way the contest works out.’ Well, fix the fucking contest! Make it work so that people that lose the weight win. That’s the whole premise of the show.”
And he’s noticed that the whacked-out celebrities often generate more hit shows for the network.
“VH1 hopes the lunatics come out and they got one with Dustin Diamond,” he said. “They got one with Gary Busey. They got one with Jeff Conway. They got one with Daniel Baldwin. America should thank our show. If it wasn’t for us, you wouldn’t have Dr. Drew’s celebrity ‘Sober House.’”
They were even more shenanigans on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” on which ANT has appeared as a contestant and a judge a number of times. It’s well-documented that the competition isn’t as fair as it is presented on television but, even as ANT defends the show, he points out all its manufactured elements.
“People say, ‘Well, reality shows are all edited.’ Well, if you didn’t say it, they wouldn’t have it to use,” he said. “Everything you saw had to be said or done or they wouldn’t have it on tape. But they do take liberties. Any time you saw us down at the fire pit talking, it never happened that way, ever. They edited it that way so to make the story work. We were never ever all in a group that way, ever. But they did these single shots of us where they would just drop them in. It makes it look like I was talking to someone that I wasn’t. They did a lot of that. But if I didn’t say the words, they wouldn’t have it to use.”
He added that the only people who have a problem with the show are frustrated comedians.
“If you want to boil it down, they’re just jealous and envious because their careers are in the toilet,” he said. “The only comics you hear complaining and bad-mouthing comics are comics who aren’t making it — and Jim Norton. But he does that for everybody. My first meeting with Jim Norton, I went, ‘Oh, you’re Jim Norton. Nice to meet you, I’m ANT.’ And he goes, ‘A hooker just pissed in my mouth.’ And I went, ‘Oh my Lord, I just touched your hand.’ He’s so in your face. I think he’s hilarious. But don’t tell me a hooker just pissed in your mouth and then shake my hand. I’m germaphobic.”
But show business isn’t all hookers and golden showers, and ANT does have a serious side. When asked which of his TV projects he was most proud, his answer was surprising.
“None of them. Maybe the ‘U.S. of ANT,’ the pilot episode. I’m a perfectionist. I always think I can do something better. I see so many flaws in things. I would say that would be the show I would be the most proud of, if pressed. I’m not changing the world yet. That’s really what I want to do.”
Logo Network’s “U.S. of ANT,” which debuted in 2006, was a cut above most reality shows, as it followed the comic as he visited small towns all over the country to see how LGBT individuals lived outside of metropolitan settings.
ANT said the experience of making the show was draining, mainly because the fledging gay network had minimal resources.
“So they said to me, ‘Here’s the budget for the show, but you have to do it in three weeks,’” he said. “So I did the entire season in two and a half weeks. I was exhausted, dead. I was ready to die. We would do our interviews and then we were in the car driving to the next city. I was so sick and wiped out. You can see: The last episode we did was Florida and I am asleep the entire episode.”
He added that, at the time, Logo was fighting for its own survival.
“When Logo first started, they were a brand-new network and they had no money,” he said. “They were struggling against the religious right. There was a lot of pressure just to get the channel on the air. So many cable companies refused to carry it. So many. MTV, God bless them. I love [MTV president of programming] Brian Graden. If the gay community knew what he had done. Brian Graden has single-handedly changed the face of our community and given us a fighting chance because of his leadership role over at MTV. He fought for Logo. He put MTV’s weight behind it. He risked his job and went to cable companies and said, ‘If you don’t take Logo, we’re not giving MTV, VH1, CMT and Comedy Central. We’ll pull it.’ And they all backed down. He put his entire career on the line. Because if those cable companies would have said, ‘Fuck you, we don’t want them,’ they would have fired him in a heartbeat.”
ANT may be reluctant to pick a project he’s proud of, but for projects he wishes he hadn’t taken on, he’s quick to single one out.
“I was in ‘The Underground Comedy Movie” and I rape Michael Clark Duncan [“The Green Mile”] on a pool table,” he said. “The ShamWow guy [Vince Offer] was the director.”
Damn! That’s bad.
Apparently, the media outlets that bothered to see the movie felt the same way.
A review in The New York Times stated: “‘The Underground Comedy Movie’ stands as a monument to ineptitude and self-delusion.”
Sadly, ANT admitted he succumbed to temptation and bought a ShamWow.
Maybe if it was Jim Norton we could understand, because anyone who’s that fond of hooker secretions probably has lots of suspicious fluids he needs to clean up fast.
“I have two of them and I don’t even know why because I don’t clean my own house,” he said. “But, I bought two because I was up at 3 in the morning and I was like, ‘Wow, those look very absorbent and they’re not scratching the granite countertops. Wow, if I call right now, they’ll double my order.’ The next thing I know I’m ordering a ShamWow and I’m like, ‘What the hell am I doing?’”
When ANT isn’t embarrassing himself with infomercial purchases or taping one of his many television shows, he’s on the road performing stand-up shows in theaters and clubs and lecturing on college campuses. He said that, while his lectures are often humorous, the subject matter tends to delve a little deeper than his stand-up shows.
“I talk about sobriety,” he said. “I talk about the power of choice. I talk about being responsible for every word you say because they have a lot of power. I talk about gay things and I talk about my family. It’s all about empowerment yet still holding a higher sense of power or being that runs the whole show. Like, you’re not driving the bus. It’s the power ‘I can,’ but not really. It’s the power of ‘we can.’ They ultimately get that after the lecture.”
At the New Hope show, attendees can expect ANT to be in all of his adult-humor glory, as he doesn’t change his act no matter what the occasion.
“I don’t change my act a single bit because I believe that if you do that, you’re sending a message to people that this is somehow wrong or I’m being secretive,” he said. “I think that is detrimental. The same act I do for gay crowds, which is very risqué and over the top, I do for straight crowds. Funny is funny. Don Rickles told me that. It doesn’t matter if you sleep with men or women. Funny is funny.”
ANT added that, unlike most gay comics, the majority of his performances tend to be for mostly straight audiences.
“[Comedian] Alonzo Bodden is a friend of mine and he says, ‘ANT has levels of gay. Right now, at rest, he’s a 3, but on stage, he’s about a 7.’ That’s hilarious because that’s the truth,” ANT said. “Ninety percent of my work is heterosexual and 10 percent comes from the gay community. I’m very mainstream. Gays just never helped me. Straight people always offered me work, which is so bizarre to me. That’s just the way it went, I guess. When the straights really started being obvious, then gay people thought, ‘Well, I guess he’s worthy of our booking because straight people are booking him. He must be funny.’”
While ANT doesn’t change his jokes for straight or gay audiences, he does alter the flow of material.
“The reaction is better with straight crowds because it’s the first time that they are hearing it,” he said. “Gay crowds, you have to be really smart in the way you present your act. The order is different. I talk about being gay immediately with the gay crowd. With the straight crowd, I talk about my alcohol abuse, 12-step program, my family and then I go into being gay. With gay crowds, they have to know that you’re one of them right away or they’re going to hate you, unless you’re a fat black woman and then you’re OK.”
ANT performs at 3 p.m. May 17 at New Hope-Solebury High School Auditorium, 180 W. Bridge St. For more information or tickets, visit www.antcomic.com or call (215) 957-7981.