- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 4, 2001

Chris Wylde is not a typical talk-show host. The manic comic actor leaps from backstage at the start of his show, jumping on audience members, spinning frantically and sweating profusely as he makes his way.
This is a far cry from the laid-back humor of David Letterman or even the slightly zany antics of Conan O'Brien, which is why Comedy Central is banking on the show to be a hit.
The virtually unknown Mr. Wylde will helm the first late-night talk show in the station's history, "The Chris Wylde Show Starring Chris Wylde." It makes its debut at 11:30 p.m. tomorrow on Comedy Central.
"The last talk-show host to have his show 'starring' him was Johnny Carson," Mr. Wylde says of official show titles, his voice somewhat husky on the phone. "It's just so audacious, and no one's got it so far I'm being ironic."
Although still a bit player in the Hollywood scene, Mr. Wylde will be familiar to some D.C. residents. He had a standout show on American University's student-run TV station. He also had a role in "Hair" at the Studio Theater Secondstage, which won the 1998 Helen Hayes Award for resident musical.
For those who saw the experimental late-night talk show that he aired at AU from 1995 to 1998, Mr. Wylde's Comedy Central show will seem eerily familiar.
"It's 30 percent of the same jokes," Mr. Wylde says, breaking out into laughter.
The setup follows the late-night format a little too closely (opening monologue, studio guests, set pieces) but manages to gain momentum from the sheer energy behind his shtick.
Mr. Wylde (real name Chris Noll) grew up in New Jersey. After graduating as a theater major from AU in 1998, he went to California to make a name for himself.
Small parts in "Space Cowboys," "Evolution" and "Coyote Ugly," brought him to the attention of Comedy Central, where he was cast in the short-lived series "Strip Mall."
"It was the three slowest, most boring years of my life," Mr. Wylde says of his time in California. "Back in school I was constantly working. I didn't have a half-hour to myself in college.
"You can be a successful actor and work only two days a month in Hollywood," he says. "In the busiest month I had worked maybe a week."
Mr. Wylde pitched a made-for-TV movie to Comedy Central. He was told that the channel wasn't interested but that it was looking to start a late-night talk show. Mr. Wylde leaped at the opportunity (he recorded more than 50 episodes of his show while at AU) and brought seven other AU alumni with him to Comedy Central, including his brother, his cousin and his old co-host from his AU days, Brian "40" Walsh.
"We're brassy and loud and we curse too much," Mr. Wylde says. "It's not your daddy's late-night talk show."
The first episode of Mr. Wylde's show highlights his strengths and weaknesses as a host. He works best in the location pieces (such as exploring a Renaissance festival or taking an audience member to a carnival), but the show often slows when Mr. Wylde and Mr. Walsh banter onstage.
Although the format worked well for a local college crowd, many of the jokes fall flat. A mass audience seems unlikely to tune in to the humor. Still, Comedy Central deserves credit for taking a risk on the show.
"We're these two guys who don't look like they belong on TV," Mr. Wylde says. "I'm not out there to be safe. I want people to talk about this show.
"It pushes as many buttons as we're allowed to push, but at the same time, we do it in good fun," he says. "I didn't get here because I compromised."

WHAT: "The Chris Wylde Show Starring Chris Wylde"
WHERE: Comedy Central
WHEN: 11:30 p.m. tomorrow

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