LOS ANGELES (KSAZ) - When American Idol burst onto American Television screens in 2002, the show had two hosts. There was Ryan Seacrest of course and Brian Dunkleman.
Dunkelman did not come back for Season 2, did he quit, was he fired, did Seacrest force him out?
Whatever the reason, he missed out on a chance to make millions.
September 4, 2002, when 23 million people watched the Season One finale of American Idol, Brian Dunkleman was just 30-years-old. He would reach more people that night than he would in his entire career.
American Idol was on the brink of making television history, but Dunkelman would not return for season two.
"I don't dwell on what my life could be, because if I do, it's too much," said Dunkelman.
He's come full circle to where it all began, the Improv Comedy Club in Hollywood.
"If my life were a movie, I might have walked out by now," joked Dunkelman during a show.
It's where producers first took notice of the kid from Buffalo, one of them urged him to audition for Idol.
"I went in and literally auditioned 3 times in 2 days, and was onset the following day," said Dunkelman.
He beat out over 3,000 people who wanted the job. In the final audition, he was paired with Ryan Seacrest.
"We met that morning, we had breakfast, and came in and tested together, and it went well and the next day we were working together," he said.
The show became a hit; Dunkelman was getting huge exposure, but he was dissatisfied with his role.
"I knew I was unhappy because I cared comedically what people that of me," said Dunkelman.
He struggled over how contestants were treated.
"I wish I could have handled it better, but emotionally it was very difficult for me and Paula because we've been those kids, we've been in that situation, and we know how hard it is," he said.
There was a growing tension between him and Seacrest.
"I wish I could go back, and I wish we could have gotten along great, but there's a point where we just drifted apart, and we were kinda antagonizing each other," said Dunkelman.
Dunkelman worried if he continued on the show he would be typecast, possibly derailing a budding acting career. And then he was not re-signed for season 2.
"Three weeks later they're saying no decision, and I said I've made my decision, so we released a statement in Daily Variety," said Dunkelman.
He announced he was quitting the show. He was out as the show became a national obsession. Seacrest would use it as a springboard to build a media empire.
"I almost wish I had been fired because a few years later it got so huge that people were like hey this guy is an idiot," he said.
He was compared to the Beatle's first drummer Pete Best, who was replaced by Ringo Starr months before the band reached super stardom.
Brian Dunkelman was a broken man, and worse yet no one would hire him.
"My opportunities went away; that is what I was upset about. I let it get me so down, and I withdrew as a person, and I became very bitter," said Dunkelman.
As the years passed, he learned to accept his fate, and 14 years later he can finally joke about it on stage.