'American Idol's' Brian Dunkleman has let it go

Story highlights

  • Brian Dunkleman was a host on the first season of "American Idol"
  • The comedian, actor wouldn't talk about the show for a long time, now wishes it well
  • "Idol" is going off the air after this season

(CNN)For years, Brian Dunkleman wouldn't talk about "American Idol."

You remember Dunkleman, right? He was the guy who famously -- or perhaps not so famously -- co-hosted "Idol" with Ryan Seacrest during its first season and then made the decision to leave the show on his own.
    Who knew then that it would go on to become such a TV juggernaut?
    Certainly not Dunkleman, who struck out on his own to pursue a acting career. Fourteen years later, "American Idol" is starting its final season -- and Dunkleman is still looking for breakthrough success as an actor.
    But he's OK with that. Now, anyway.
    Brian Dunkleman
    "I was very upset about it for a long, long time," Dunkleman, 44, who calls himself a "television history footnote" on his Twitter bio, recently said. "You got to make up your mind that either you are going to be that angry guy for the rest of your life, or you gotta move on. It's taken me a long time to get there."
    He was a standup comic and actor when he joined thousands of others trying out to host a reality singing competition in which America would get to vote on the music industry's next star. He was paired with another unknown, a guy with blond tips and a radio voice named Ryan Seacrest.
    The show very quickly became a hit, and soon Dunkleman had a fan base.
    "It was great, but it's very jarring to go to the store and have people want to take pictures with you," he said. "You can't really understand until it happens to you."
    And then he walked away from it all to focus on his acting career. As the world now knows, Seacrest went on to become THE "Idol" host, not to mention the multimillionaire head of a very successful production company, one that includes the Kardashians in its stable.
    Meanwhile, Dunkleman has had to battle the perception that he was fired from the show ("All anyone had to do was ask Fox to find out that wasn't true," he now says). He's been roundly mocked by late-night hosts and fans for making one of Hollywood's worst decisions.
    Does he regret it?
    There's no simple answer, he says.
    "I know it seems like such an easy question, but it's not an easy answer for me because there are so many variables," he said. "I don't even know who I would be if I was still on that show. ... I knew that if I had stayed, I wouldn't have had a chance (to pursue acting)."
    He does regret missing out on the money, however.
    "Of course, when it comes to the financial aspect, of course there are regrets. I wouldn't be human if I said no," he said.
    Now a married father of a 3-year-old boy, Dunkleman said he is not unhappy with his current life.
    He has appeared on a few shows over the years, including VH1's "Celebrity Fit Club," has continued his standup and is shopping a pilot inspired by HBO's hit documentary "The Jinx."
    In the pilot, Dunkleman plays a fictitious version of himself who is found to be a serial killer after a documentary film crew is hired to follow him around. The show's creators "said they got really drunk one night and they thought of me."
    He said he thinks it's time for "Idol" to come to an end. The show no longer pulls the astronomical ratings it once did, attracting more than 30 million viewers a night during its heyday, nor does it have the same impact on the music industry. The swan song is one of the reason's Dunkleman decided to speak about the show.
    And he wishes it well on its final season.
    "It's a celebration of show that had a huge cultural impact, and I was a part of that," Dunkleman said. "I'm proud of the fact that I got the job in the first place. It's an accomplishment that can never be taken away from me, regardless of my outcome."