Sarnia-born comedian advances on America's Got Talent

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Sarnia's John Wing Jr. has earned a spot on NBC's America's Got Talent.

In an episode that aired recently, the veteran comedian was picked by the show's celebrity judges to move on to next round.

"You never stop having the dream," Wing said in an interview shown with his audition.

"It's not like just because I'm 53 that I've given up on that."

Wing said he was invited to try out for the talent show after a producer saw him perform in Montreal.

"When the opportunity arises, you don't say no," he said.

A long series of auditions led to a final round in front of the celebrity judges in Las Vegas where Wing was one of 60 performers picked by Mel B, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel and Howard Stern to move on to the upcoming live shows at New York's Radio City Music Hall.

That will be a thrill, Wing said.

"I'm from Sarnia, Ont., and this Aug. 20th, I'm playing Radio City Music Hall."

He's also feeling good about his chances.

"It's kind of like being in the last 60 of the World Series of Poker," Wing said.

"I know I can play well, will I get lucky?"

There are about a half dozen standup acts among the 60 and Wing said he expects at least one will make it to the finals.

"I know it's going to sound egotistical," Wing said, "but I have assume it's going to be me, or else there's no point going in."

Wing spent the first 19 years of his life in Sarnia. The son of a lawyer, and one of five kids in a family that also produced an opera singer and a playwright, he went to Our Lady of Mercy School and the former Central Collegiate.

"I grew up in a small town where it wasn't really feasible to imagine yourself being a comedian," Wing said on the show.

He left the University of Windsor to move to Toronto in the 1980s, first to be the drummer in a rock band and then a comedian who worked his way up the ranks at Yuk Yuks.

Wing told the America's Got Talent audience that he eventually moved to Los Angeles, and also spoke about his struggle with drug addiction.

"I stopped being funny for a year or two, and I had to come back and find out why I was funny and rewrite myself," he said.

"Now I'm a recovering drug addict, which works much better I think."

Wing has published a memoir of the early days of his career, as well as seven collections of poetry, with an eighth soon to be published.

He has also built a career as a comedian that includes performing at the Just for Laughs Festival and more than 150 television credits, including The Tonight Show.

Wing is also heard often on CBC radio, including the show The Debaters.

With family still in Sarnia, he has returned home to perform often in the city, including a 2010 fundraiser at the Imperial Theatre.

In his audition for the talent show, the married father of two girls told jokes about the differences between his father's time and what it's like to raise kids today, in the age of Oprah.

Wing's oldest daughter is enrolling this fall in a creative writing program at the University of Windsor, the school her father traditionally says he "neglected to graduate from."

He said, "I wish I'd graduated, but the fact I didn't means they've never asked me for money."

Wing said that when they were selling a house in Los Angeles a dozen years ago and looking for a new home, his wife told him, "You know, we could live anywhere.

"And, I said, 'I'm not ready to give up on L.A. yet,' plus I really like non-humid weather."

In the years since, Wing found a niche working cruise ships, comedy festivals and making appearances on television and radio in Canada.

"And maybe this changes it," he said.

"And maybe it doesn't, too . . . you just have to go with what comes next."

And what's up next for Wing is making sure he does a good 90 seconds of standup on stage at Radio City Music Hall next month.

"And," he added, "picking a nice bow tie."



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