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Become a Successful Stand-Up Comic Using this Weird Old Secret!

It’s a favorite refrain of crusty coaches and cynical salesmen: “Nobody remembers the second guy on the moon.”

However, the secret to success in one particular field seems to hinge on being first runner-up.

In his interview with a winner of the San Francisco International Stand-Up Comedy Competition, KikAxeMusic writer Steve Hofstetter noted as an aside that, when they were first starting out, competition contestants Robin Williams, Kevin Pollak, Ellen DeGeneres, Mark Curry, Marc Maron and Dane Cook had all finished second.

And sure enough, the competition’s past Top Fives are, well, comical. I'm ashamed to say I don't recognize many of the first place winners. Rob Schneider placing last in 1987 (almost) renews my faith in cosmic justice, but Louis C.K. taking that spot in 1991, and Patton Oswalt two years later?

Was the festival venue built on top of an old vaudevillian burial ground?

That said, I wasn’t surprised to see Nick DiPaolo’s name among those second-placers (back in 1990 no less) and I say that as a fan.

You could call it a "running gag" if only it was funny: DiPaolo’s been “the next big thing” since the first Clinton administration.

As he recently told the LAist:

[W]hen I did my first couple open mics, 20-something years ago, I remember somebody saying "You're going to be popular because you're politically incorrect and that's going to be big." It's still not true, each year since then, and that was in 1988, it's getting more politically correct, and I'm still waiting for it to swing and it's not going to.

He also talked about how much he loves doing radio. DiPaolo’s long been a favorite guest of Howard Stern, Opie & Anthony and Dennis Miller, who calls him one of the only comics he’d pay to see. DiPaolo briefly hosted his own show in New York until the station changed formats, and he told the LAist back in May he’d “love to get back on.”

Now he is. DiPaolo and his old Stern Show pal Artie Lange just signed a lucrative three-year deal to host a late night sports talk radio show.

The pair scored a big “get” last week: in his first post-"controversy" interview, Hank Williams Jr. called in to set the record straight about his notorious Godwin’s Law violation.

Williams told Nick and Artie he hadn’t been fired by ESPN, but had quit on principle. The singer vowed to keep fighting censorship and creeping socialism -- just before he abruptly and inexplicably hung up:

When Nick and Artie talk about sports, I may as well be listening to African bushmen “clicking” away about antelopes. I’d prefer three hours of DiPaolo on politics, but I’m just happy he’s finally making good money, and getting known as more than just “the mean guy on Louie.”

I’m especially thrilled that he gets under the skin of the snotty, overrated host of The Daily Show. As DiPaolo mentioned in that previous interview:

Jon Stewart said something about me, and I know him, he's funny and talented, he definitely deserves all of his fame, but we have completely different politics. But he said something to Colin [Quinn] or one of my buddies, "If DiPaolo breaks through it will be frightening"because there's this blue collar angry white guy mentality that's out there. I have a cult following, I'm taking the long road...

Here’s to frightening Jon Stewart, and mean guys finishing second.

Next: Why can't anyone ever STOP being famous?