Who is that guy standing with Kelly Clarkson and Ryan Seacrest? That would be Brian Dunkleman.
“Who,” you might ask, “is Brian Dunkleman?” Well, he could have been as well known as Ryan Seacrest, he could have been on TV and radio for years, he could have been crazy rich… he could have been a lot of things.
The first season of “American Idol” premiered in June of 2002. It was won by Kelly Clarkson and was co-hosted by Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman. When “American Idol” premiered in January of 2003, Seacrest was the lone host and the juggernaut of reality TV has never looked back.
Winners would come and go, judges have shuffled through, but one thing has remained constant. Ryan Seacrest has appeared in every episode of “Idol” and now hosts about every other special on the planet.
Brian Dunkleman, on the other hand, left the show after the first season ended and faded into relative obscurity.
He has since admitted that leaving “Idol” in its early days was not his smartest move, but he really wanted to be a comedian and actor.
“Listen, I’d like to say I was just young and stupid, but the truth is, I really wasn’t that young,” he said. “I mean listen, I was a comedian and an actor. What I wanted to do with my life is be an actor and that’s going great (gives a thumbs up).”
Since leaving “Idol” Dunkleman has had small guest roles in “Ghost Whisperer” and “NYPD Blue”, as shown here:
He also left because he found it hard to watch the contestants get criticized and demoralized. The environment was toxic, to say the least, and it is hard to blame the guy for wanting to get out of a situation affecting his mental health. He’s also in good company. Ellen DeGeneres left the program after one season for basically the same reasons.
History is a cruel mistress and hindsight is always so clear, so Dunkleman gets the dubious distinction of joining the ranks of obscure founding members like Pete Best of The Beatles and Ronald Wayne of Apple, Inc.
But at the end of the day, there are worse fates than leaving “American Idol”. He had his “fifteen minutes” and hasn’t come out on top of the entertainment world, but these days Brian Dunkleman is a loving husband, committed father, and an actor who continues to tour and take guest spots on a variety of shows. It isn’t “American Idol”, but it certainly isn’t bad.
As a refresher, here is a quiz on all the greats (and not-so-greats) who have come and gone from “Idol’s” stage: