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Dave Roepke, Published February 05 2009

Screech speaks

‘Saved By the Bell’ actor defends past

Dustin Diamond has no shortage of negative press.

The career arc of the 32-year-old actor-turned-comedian has had a consistent slope downward since he last played the role that made him famous – gangly geek Screech from kiddie sitcom “Saved By the Bell.”

That was in 2000, when Diamond was finishing up 11 years of playing Screech in the fourth series to feature the character. Tonight he comes to Moorhead to start a three-night run of performing stand-up at Courtney’s Comedy Club.

Usually, the spotlight has swiveled back to Diamond only to catch a clear view of the fall. He sold T-shirts to help pay for his house near Milwaukee, a fiasco he blames on a shady real estate agent. He was a jerk two seasons running on VH1 reality show “Celebrity Fit Club.” He’s writing a “Bell” tell-all book, and a “private” video of Diamond’s that you really, really don’t want to know about was publicly sold.

For snark sharks looking for fresh blood, this has all been easy pickings. But anyone battered by blogs should get a chance to defend himself. So here, in excerpts from an interview last week, we let Diamond speak filter-free:

On ‘Saved by the Bell’

• People wrote up articles and stuff – “They’re ruining Saturday-morning cartoons.” To which, on a side note, everyone else was like, “How dare they, how dare they?!” Inside I was on the set going, “They’ve got a point.”

• What school do you know where the girl’s walking in a two-piece, scantily clad, skimpy bikini in a high school, just chilling down the stairs in her bikini? That doesn’t happen. There’s no point to that, except to show off Kelly’s (Tiffani Thiessen) bod.

• There were a lot of benefits. There were a lot of good things that came out of it. But I was never one of them. And that’s one of the weird things. A lot of people stress that – put you in that, “Oh, a former childhood star,” and whatever else. I have more in common with the guy who doesn’t even barely watch TV than the people who are in TV, even though I grew up in it.

• I used to hook up with all the girls, all the extras and stuff. I was like Casanova on that set, you know? And every week they’d bring in 30 different girls.

• I like the darker side of things. I would have never watched the show.

On post-‘Bell’ life

• The A-list is not thousands of actors. It’s only a small handful. It’s not just me, it’s everybody.

• I’m not Hollywood. I’m not out there, “I’m better than you because I drive a fancy car, and I’m better than you because I have a better job and make more money.” I moved away from that. I live in Wisconsin now. I like the Midwest.

• To me, it’s not the house that makes the home. It’s the area you live in that makes the home. I like Wisconsin. I’m going to fly the flag of Wisconsin for a long time, if not forever.

• The sex tape? Unfortunate, you know? It was an accident.

• If it’s going to get out there anyway, I might as well make some money off of it.

On his comedy act

• Everything from grandma porn to the problems with drug culture and the kids today wanting to get involved in all the drugs. I don’t have a message, per se, to my act. But definitely you’re going to come away a little smarter than when you left.

• I like that comedy at its base form is an elite form of puppeteering emotions.

• When they leave, they’re either going to absolutely hate my act or they’re going to absolutely love it.

On ‘reality’

• I was asked to be that way. The whole “Fit Club” thing is they needed a bad guy. When I was first approached, they took everybody and said, “We need a bad guy.” I said, “I’ll do it.” It’s not like you’re banging down my doors to play the evil guy in a movie or something. So shoot, I’ll do it. And they’re like, “We don’t think – you played the lovable character. You can’t do it.” I said, “Come on, I’m an actor. Let me do it.”

• I would have never let the cat out of the bag. When I went and saw “Blair Witch,” I loved it. I truly thought that what I was watching was real.

• Keeping it real in Hollywood can cost you.

If you go

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535