Stand-up Screech

Dustin Diamond has allegedly posed as Marilyn Manson; fallen asleep in a hotel bathtub and drowned; was even beheaded in a grisly motorcycle accident with "Saved by the Bell" co-star Mark-Paul Gosselaar.

But he just stands back and has a good laugh.

"One of my favorites was that I overdosed in a shack in the woods in Montana slumped over a firewood log," Diamond said in a telephone interview about the rumors he's heard about himself. "I'm like, "Wait a minute, who's making this stuff up?' So any of those I just admit to. I say 'Yeah, I died in a shed and a bathtub. It's all true.'"

In reality the actor, best known for his role as the goofy but lovable Screech on the television show "Saved By the Bell," has been honing his stand-up comedy skills, singing in a band and continuing to take roles in such films as "Made" and "Big Fat Liar." Tonight at 7:30 he will reminisce about his years on the popular teen sitcom, when he performs in the Student Center Tally as part of the University Programming Board's Laughter at Half-After series.

"I talk a lot about the show, because people obviously want to know about that, but I also talk about everything from traveling and seeing different groups of people to gambling," Diamond said. "My act can get a little raunchy at times. I've had people who didn't like my act, but those are the type of people, that if you went to a big party with them, they'd be like 'Oh my, they're serving alcohol.'"

Diamond got his start doing commercials when he was 8. He had small roles in television shows such as "The Wonder Years" and "It's a Living" before getting hired for "Good Morning Miss Bliss," the precursor to "Saved by the Bell," which took place in an Indiana middle school and aired on the Disney Channel in 1987.

A Saturday morning staple on NBC from 1989 to 1993, "Saved by the Bell" chronicled the misadventures of a group of California students at the fictional Bayside High. Diamond played Screech for 11 years in the various incarnations of the series which included the short lived prime-time spin-off "Saved by the Bell the College Years" and ended with "Saved by the Bell: The New Class" which finished its run in 1998.

Most recently, Diamond appeared on Fox's "Celebrity Boxing" in May when he took on Ron Palillo, who played Horshack on "Welcome Back Kotter."

"He was not a good opponent at all," said Diamond who won in the second round. "He couldn't defend himself. It was like hitting a turtle."

Gone is the bushy hair, the tacky outfits and suspenders and the high pitched crackling voice. The 25-year-old Diamond now sports a goatee and his head still maintains some of its curly locks, but much more closely cropped.

While Diamond has tried to distance himself from the Screech character, which, apart from his love for chess, he claims to have almost nothing in common with, he appreciates the fame the show brought him.

"It was just fun getting a 10-year taste of being on a successful series. That's something any actor or actress strives for," he said. "The show made me known around the world. I've had people in Zimbabwe write me telling me how much they loved the show. It's amazing we reached all the way across the world like that."


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