America’s Got Talent usually provides summer escapism in the form of carefully synchronized dance routines, innocuous musical performances, and harmlessly terrible stand-up. But last night, viewers were violently reminded of the perils of unscripted television, as contestant Ryan Stock took a flaming arrow to the neck.
Billing himself as the “Comedy Daredevil,” Stock has made a career out of dangerous and cringe-inducing stunts, like shoving a meathook up his nose and hanging from it. Last night’s routine started off with similarly uncomfortable stunts, including swallowing swords and arrows. Amber Lynn Walker, Stock’s assistant and fiancée, then mounted a ladder and aimed a flaming arrow at a long-stemmed funnel that Stock had shoved down his throat.
The narrative tension of a classic William Tell routine depends upon the chance that something will go awry in the process. And while last night’s debacle didn’t reach William S. Burroughs-levels of wrongness, the audience audibly gasped as Walker’s flaming arrow landed wide of its target, striking Stock in the shoulder area. The Comedy Daredevil was then trapped in the precarious position of trying to extinguish his flaming clothes while managing a foot-long foie gras tube lodged in his esophagus.
As the music stopped and Stock struggled for breath, Howie Mandel and the other judges reacted with stunned silence, while host Nick Cannon helped a visibly shaken Stock from the stage. Fortunately, Stock was not seriously injured, and took to social media to put concerned fans at ease:
Meanwhile, America’s Got Talent took a page from Donald Trump’s playbook, using Twitter to convert an upsetting incident into an opportunity for self-promotion: