By Rob LeDonne
One of North County’s very own is a finalist on the popular NBC show “America’s Got Talent,” alongside some of the best and brightest up-and-coming entertainers in the country. Comedian Taylor Williamson, 27, who grew up in Del Mar, has been pursuing comedy since a young age and is thrilled about his brush with fame on “Talent.”
“It’s such a dream scenario for a stand-up comedian,” explained Williamson from New York, where the finals are being taped at Radio City Music Hall this week. “When I first tried out, I was terrified; I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The people in the audience aren’t there to watch comedy, which is not ideal. Plus, how could I make people like a German Supermodel laugh?” explained Williamson, referring to judge Heidi Klum, who anchors the panel alongside Howard Stern, Howie Mandel, and Mel B.
Williamson’s path to national television has had its ups and downs like any performer waiting for a big break. His interest in comedy was first sparked as a defense mechanism while a student at Torrey Pines High School.
“I used to get picked on a little and learned that comedy made people want to hurt me less, which is nice,” Williamson said, half joking. “I was never the class clown, but I’d be the guy who enjoyed asking a question with a serious face so the teacher wouldn’t get mad at me but the students would laugh.”
Doug Gilbert, currently a 12th grade teacher at Canyon Crest Academy, taught 10th grade at Torrey Pines when Williamson was a student and remembers his wit fondly.
“He definitely was a funny guy in school, but in a clever way. At the time, I thought he’d go into either entertainment or politics; he was not afraid to voice his opinions on things. He has this huge smile, and an ability to make other people around him feel relaxed.”
Upon graduation, Williamson attended Cal State Northridge for a short time but dropped out to pursue his dream as he was already paying his bills doing comedy at age 21. Since then, Williamson’s career is checkered with proud accomplishments: he was the youngest comedian to appear on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” and also had stints on MTV, Comedy Central, and another NBC competition series, “Last Comic Standing,” where he was a semi-finalist.
Throughout it all, his mother (who raised him and his brother on her salary as an artist) provided full support.
“Two weeks before I got ‘America’s Got Talent,’ I was ready to get a day job for the first time in my life,” Williamson remembers. “My mom loaned me money, and I said to pay her back I was going to get a real job if I didn’t start making more money doing comedy.”
Fate, however, intervened. On Tuesday night, Williamson’s act will face the nation and it’s up to the viewers at home to decide if he moves onto the next round.
“The voting starts at the end of the show; they’ll give viewers a number which you can vote up to 10 times,” said Williamson of the process, which can also be done online via www.nbc.com/AGT.
Williamson is hoping San Diego will rally behind its homegrown star, and Gilbert says he’ll be the first one calling to vote.
“I’ve been supporting him for quite some time. He’s one of the top up-and-coming comics in the country, not just in San Diego. He’s a real genuine person who’s followed his dreams and made things happen for himself,” said Gilbert. “I think his recent success shows that he really is an exceptional individual.”
Reiterated Williamson: “It’s a dream come true.”
“America’s Got Talent” airs this Tuesday and Wednesday at 9 p.m. on NBC 7 San Diego.