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# 67: Everywhere He Goes, The People Love Him!


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USA Today Interview:


WASHINGTON — The runner-up label seems to be part of Clay Aiken's narrative now, whether as an entertainer or political candidate.

Aiken came in second to Ruben Studdard on TV'sAmerican Idol singing competition show in 2003 and lost to Arsenio Hall on Celebrity Apprentice in 2012. After putting his singing career on hold, Aiken ran for Congress last year as a Democrat and lost to GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers in a heavily Republican district in North Carolina.

A four-part documentary series focusing on Aiken's congressional campaign begins airing Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on the Esquire Network. The title, of course, is The Runner-Up, but Aiken says he believes he still came out a winner even if the voters gave Ellmers a third House term.

]"I've got a microphone," Aiken told USA TODAY in an interview last week. "If I use that microphone for people who didn't think they had a chance ... that's even more powerful than winning."

That means talking more about veterans' issues, jobs and the economy and what Aiken said he believes are the flaws in the political process — such as the gerrymandering of congressional districts.

In the documentary, the travails of a first-time political candidate are apparent. Aiken shows his frustration with his campaign staff and makes uncharitable comments aboutKeith Crisco, his rival for the Democratic nomination who died after an accidental fall about a week after the primary. Crisco, 71, was a former North Carolina secretary of Commerce.

"I have a lot of regret in how I felt during the primary about a man who did a lot of great things for this state," Aiken said.

Aiken, who touted his previous experience as a special education teacher in his campaign announcement video, said he learned priorities are out of whack in politics. One example he cited: The constant need to raise money, which he said took him away from listening to the needs of North Carolina's 2nd District residents.


In the end, Aiken raised and spent about $1.2 million in the race. "I said throughout the year the people I'm running for don't have $5 to give to my campaign," he said. "There were people who argued I spend all my time with people who could give $2,600."

The Runner-Up will air every Tuesday in April. Aiken said he has not decided what he'll do next, but didn't close the door on a political race after 2018.

"I imagine I'd get involved and run for something again," he said, without specifying which office.

As you might expect in politics, the House GOP campaign committee is ready.

"Given that Aiken lost by 18 points in 2014, the NRCC would be first to roll out the red carpet for him to make another run," said Ian Prior, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Follow @ccamia on Twitter.

MSNBC Interview: http://www.msnbc.com/thomas-roberts/watch/clay-aiken-on-gerrymandering--political-goals-423727683821

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IAm A Woman Of Worth‏@Uniquely_sweet_

Lunch time with Clay Aiken 1f60e.png


LOVE the sunglasses!

Tweet from Larry Flick:

Larry Flick ‏@LarryFlick 3m3 minutes ago

I've always dug @ClayAiken. He's a good man with a big heart. Loved talking w/him on #TheJOLT today. @SIRIUSXM @OutQhttps://soundcloud.com/siriusxmentertainmen...-have-a-problem

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People's Biz: Documentary of Clay Aiken's Run for Congress Starts Tuesday

People's Biz: Documentary of Clay Aiken's run for Congress starts Tuesday

By Paul Woolverton | Posted: Monday, April 6, 2015 6:28 pm


The Runner Up

A promotional photo for "The Runner Up," a documentary about entertainer Clay Aiken's 2014 run for North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District. The four-part series begins broadcasting 10 p.m. Tuesday, April 7 on the Esquire Network.

Political nerds seeking an inside look at a Congressional campaign and others with an interest in former "American Idol" star Clay Aiken will want to tune into "The Runner Up," a four-part documentary that starts airing at 10 p.m. Tuesday, April 7, on the Esquire Network.

The series charts Aiken's 2014 attempt to win the 2nd Congressional District seat held by Republican Renee Ellmers.

In Fayetteville, the Esquire Network is on channel 114 on Time Warner Cable, channel 191 on the Dish Network and 380 and 1380 on Centurylink Prism.

Part one focuses Aiken's primary against fellow Democrat Keith Crisco, the former N.C. Secretary of Commerce. Aiken narrowly defeated Crisco in a fierce contest.

The first episode mostly ignores the third Democratic candidate, Toni Morris of Fayetteville. She unexpectedly nearly forced Crisco and Aiken into a run-off primary, something Aiken was desperate to avoid. The episode discusses that risk without naming Morris.

It shows Aiken getting dressed - literally putting on his pants - before heading out of the house to campaign. We see him traveling throughout the district, including parts of Cumberland County, to meet the voters. He frequently praises his staff, but often argues with them.

Campaign signs were a sore spot for Aiken. Some disappeared less than 24 hours after they were placed. He harangues staffers about how to place his signs at just the right angle to be visible to voters driving by.

It's striking, too, that Aiken finds that the entertainment industry, noted for its share of meanness, "looked like kindergarten and nursery school compared to this." He was feeling sore after Crisco bashed him with a negative television advertising.

Meanwhile, Aiken compares Crisco's visage to that of the evil Mr. Burns character on "The Simpsons." Later he says he wants to beat Crisco in a way that he never wanted to beat his opponents on "American Idol" and "Celebrity Apprentice."

"And I don't like that I feel that way. But I feel it," Aiken says.

There are unfortunate comments about Crisco being close to death or looking close to death. Crisco died in a fall less than a week after the primary. As much as Aiken, in his words, "hated" Crisco, Crisco's death clearly upset him and he felt some guilt for it.

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New tweets overnight. Duke fared me well in one bracket, not in the other. Sigh.

Congrats #BlueDevils You make #NCProud once again! And congrats #CoachK on Number 5!
#OneShiningMoment is perhaps the best part of the tournament every year! #LongLiveLuther
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Clay Aiken Talks His Docu-Series "The Runner-Up"

Clay Aiken talks his new docu-series, "The Runner Up"

By WILL MENDELSON April 7, 2015

Clay Aiken isn't so "invisible" anymore.

While I still love jamming to his 2003 hit single, Aiken has shed his music persona (for the time being, at least) to focus on his new docu-series, "The Runner Up," that premiered on the Esquire Network last night.

The series details Aiken's, 36, run for a North Carolina Congressional seat in 2014. We sat down with Aiken and talked about the show and, of course, his days on "American Idol."

How did the docu-series come to be?

Right after I announced my run, my former manager when I was singing knew Jonathan Chinn. He convinced me that he would do this documentary well, and I told him that he'd have to convince everyone on my staff.

Are you nervous about watching yourself?

It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life!

Weirder than "Idol?"

Well, I didn't watch "Idol," since it was live! Watching myself on the documentary, while I'm being filmed cussing and in my underwear, was weird! It was a therapeutic process, being filmed every step of the way. I told everyone from the beginning that my priority is to run this campaign, and to run it well.

So did you always want to run for Congress?

I've always been interested in politics. I'm a political junkie. But I never had intentions to run for congress. But this was a need and I had a unique ability to bring peoples' attention to politics, and I thought it was the right time to do it. And I don't think it was the wrong time to do it, even ultimately having lost.

When you lost the race, what was that like?

We knew all along it would be tough. The district where I ran is a very, very Republican district. We knew it would be hard. So we decided to find our victory by bringing attention to some issues. I have a big mouth. We made a lot of people know that they matter.

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The HuffPost Live thing was pretty good, except that one clueless fan got to ask a question about AI. Grrrr.


You Have Never Seen Clay Aiken Like This: The Runner-Up is Amazing TV

You have never seen Clay Aiken like this: The Runner-Up is amazing TV


Clay Aiken in Esquire's The Runner-Up. (Photo by Lightbox Entertainment)

by Andy Dehnart 7 APR. 2015 | 3:54 PM

Fuck people who have a problem with that. Fuck ‘em.”

That’s Clay Aiken, American Idol 2 runner-up and The Celebrity Apprentice runner-up, interviewed in Esquire’s new documentary series The Runner-Up, which debuts tonight and follows his run for Congress last year. Of course, the outcome of the election is well-known by now, and the title essentially gives it away, a reference to the consistent outcome of Clay’s attempts to win very different kinds of contests.

Produced by Jonathan Chinn and Simon Chinn (“Searching for Sugar Man”), The Runner-Up is a stunning unscripted television series not just because Clay Aiken says “fuck” a lot, nor because he gets emotional like when talking about his position on issues close to him–though both are remarkable.

No, it’s stunning because that Clay Aiken is a direct contrast to the version of him we’ve seen on television twice now. He was much more open and candid on Apprentice–it was, after all, after he came out–but this is finally a fuller picture of Clay. We see him in public, campaigning, and in private, complaining. There’s a particular type of vulnerability that isn’t very common from politicians or from reality television, and not just when he’s in his boxer briefs getting dressed.

Jonathan Chinn on filming The Runner-Up

The first episode focuses on the primary, and even if you know the shocking outcome of that particular election, it’s extraordinary television, especially considering all of Clay’s unintentional foreshadowing.

I talked to executive producer Jonathan Chinn, who has previously worked on reality television such as Kid Nation, American High, and 30 Days, about the series’ origin and production.

He told me that for this kind of series, “You have to throw away a lot of the tools you have as a reality producer and give in to the verite gods. A lot of interesting stuff can happen, or nothing interesting can happen. It’s all a little bit out of our control.”

The idea for the series came from Clay Aiken’s remarkable campaign announcement video, which prompted a March meeting with producers. “Can’t say that I spent much of my career wanting to make a documentary about Clay Aiken,” Chinn said, but after meeting with Clay, he added, “I was immediately struck by his political savvy. The person that I met was not the Clay Aiken that had been packaged to me as a viewer of American Idol or Celebrity Apprentice. He was quite different.”

Clay Aiken’s deal with filmmakers

The show didn’t start production until about five days before the May 6 primary, and that footage fills most of tonight’s premiere. Interestingly, there was no contract between the filmmakers and Clay “outside of an appearance release that he signed allowing us to use the footage. He has no financial gain from this project; we don’t have a deal with him.” Chinn said that was important because “this is not a reality show where we’re dealing with a celebrity who’s trying to control their image or is looking for monetary gain.”

They did have a handshake agreement, though. “What [Clay] needed assurances about was that we were not going to interfere with his ability to campaign and, at that point in time, win an election. That was mostly about the sort of nitty gritty in terms of the logistics of shooting. He didn’t want us using a lot of boom mics that might spook people, he really wanted his campaign team to have the ability to ask us not to film something if they felt that it was going to be harmful for the cameras to be there. He need that assurance,” Chinn told me.

“The assurance that I needed from him was that he was going to have no editorial control whatsoever. He basically needed to trust us to do what we do as storytellers. We weren’t interested in getting into an editorial partnership with him,” Chinn added. “We just had to have complete freedom to make the documentary we wanted to make.”

Clay and his campaign staff were followed by a small crew, usually about three to four people, though sometimes it would be a single producer with a camera. Production was slow during the summer months after the primary and ended about a week after the midterm election. While the documentary is truly cinema verite, in that it just followed the action wherever it was going, filming “was not a 24/7 kind of thing,” Chinn said.

Not affecting the election

The filmmakers did “everything we could do to not affect the outcome” of the election, and Chinn said, “we didn’t want to affect the campaign positively or negatively.” That–and equal time laws–explain why it’s airing well after the election.

After Esquire announced The Runner-Up, a report in Variety claimed donors at a fundraiser were upset about being filmed for the series because they said the crew “told them that it was for a BBC documentary that would not air in the U.S.”

Chinn said that this was always an Esquire series, and thus the report about it initially being a BBC show was inaccurate. “The idea of it airing it overseas is a fallacy,” he said. “It makes no sense that this show would go overseas. Nobody [there] knows who Clay Aiken is. It was never a consideration of ours that we would try to hook up with overseas partners. This was always very much an American show for a U.S. audience–not just because of Clay Aiken, but also because I’m not sure if people overseas have that much interest in the American political system, which ultimately is what this doc is about.”

Chinn said the documentary could have potentially had an expanded scope. “We actually tried to get access to Renee Ellmers’ campaign,” he told me. “We were rejected; they weren’t interested in having a crew around them.”

Clay Aiken says “fuck” a lot

The series aims to “show people their preconceived notions of Clay Aiken might be wrong,” and that includes all the swearing, which is delightful. “The truth is, cutting out the stuff where he doesn’t swear wasn’t an option–he swears all the time. In the case of his potty mouth, that is who he is, and sanitizing it would be disingenuous,” Chinn said.

Producers also wanted to explore Clay as a gay man running for Congress in the South, where there has never been an openly gay representative, and look at politics through this one local election.

“What we tried to do was sort of strip away a lot of the stuff that was slightly uninteresting,” Chinn said, such as the “mechanics of running a campaign,” and instead “focus on the stories that we felt would be accessible to people–the personal stories, and the political stories.”

“Ideally, it’s very ambitious–and maybe a little high-minded and lofty–but ideally, people will watch the four episodes, which isn’t asking too much, and actually take a couple minutes out of their day to think about the state of politics in America,” Chinn told me. “If this series can entertain people, show a slightly different side of Clay Aiken, and get people to think about such things as campaign reform and gerrymandering, even for a short while, I would be happy.”

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New tweets:

My dear friend @AllisonGlock and her husband @RealTCooper are out today with a powerful book for youth @WeChangers amazon.com/Changers-Book-…
You have never seen Clay Aiken like this: The Runner-Up is amazing TV | RealityBlurred.com realityblurred.com/realitytv/2015…
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There are a ton more retweets from Clay last night. Esquire TV was live tweeting the episode, and Clay retweeted almost all of them. Hopefully, I'll have a chance to catch up on them later today.

I really need to see the episode again, but I thought it was a good introduction to the "characters." We really didn't get a chance to see how smart he was at this point, but I'm guessing that will come up in future episodes. It's also interesting -- I've heard a rumor that Clay isn't happy with Mrs. Conti anymore, and that showed last night. When it was announced that she was part of the campaign, many of us thought that would be good pedigree for Clay. Guess that didn't work out well...

Finally -- isn't it fascinating that Clay isn't afraid to show his boxer briefs, but still won't really show his chest? Is that a "guy" thing?

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