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Hall Finds No Humor in 'Improv' Edit

September 02, 2002|Greg Braxton

A little not-so-funny business is surrounding NBC's "Diet Coke With Lemon Celebrates 40 Years of Laughter: At the Improv"--and not just that title. The special, scheduled to air Tuesday at 8 p.m., is planned as a tribute to the legendary Improv comedy club, where comedians such as Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Jerry Seinfeld and Billy Crystal worked early in their careers.

Jay Leno, Kevin Pollack, D.L. Hughley and Jay Mohr are among top comedians who performed fresh stand-up material for the program during a taping last month. But one participant isn't laughing.

Arsenio Hall, who is featured prominently in ads and press material for the show, said he was informed by producers last week that he was being edited out because his material was too "outrageous."

"I didn't use any vulgarity or anything," Hall said. Among his targets were James Brown, Anna Nicole Smith, Elvis Presley and Verne Troyer, who plays Mini-Me in the "Austin Powers" films.

Adding to Hall's ire is the fact that he had already performed much of the material on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and had received a congratulatory call from NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker. "I feel frustrated," he said. "I did two days of work for this, and now my contribution is gone."

An NBC spokeswoman said that every performer was being edited to "some extent," and Hall was expected to appear. "There seems to be some misunderstanding," she said.

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