One way or another, you have to feel sorry for Rick Rockwell. You know, the sacrificial bachelor on the stunt Fox TV special Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? Either you feel bad that Rockwell's gold-digging bride, Darva Conger, annulled the cherished relationship after just 36 hours of wedded bliss, or you maintain a sort of appalled embarrassment for Rockwell, a person who thought such an arranged marriage would actually work.

For his part Rockwell is hurt, but he's moving on. The standup comic and motivational speaker, who instructs attendees of his corporate seminars to use humor in the face of adversity, is following his own advice.

"If you have the right sense of humor, you can overcome almost anything," Rockwell says by phone from Baton Rouge, where he appeared last week on his "Annulment Tour."

Yep. You can't keep a funny guy down, and Rockwell has found comedy-club doors wide open in the wake of his instant-husband hoax. The 43-year-old from Southern California trod the standup circuit for 20-odd years before the Fox special gave him some real notoriety. Prior to that he was a second-tier comic who apparently invested wisely; he claims a net worth of more than $2 million -- which was just enough to qualify for the "multimillionaire" billing.

Rockwell is using similar savvy to cash in on his woes. Guess what the majority of his jokes focus on?

Referring to Conger's pending nudie spread in Playboy magazine, he quips: "She started off saying she wanted to get her dignity back and wanted to get back to her normal life, and three weeks later she turns into Barney Fife, and she was saying (doing Don Knotts' voice): 'I don't have a problem with nudity, per se. My father was an artist.' And I'm thinking, What the heck does that have to do with anything? My dad was a plumber, and he liked naked women, too."

Other sample jokes: "I gave her a $35,000 ring, and she gave me her finger." "I tried to hold her hand. She went ballistic. I was just trying to get the ring back."

"Later I'll probably be sending her royalty checks," says Rockwell, "because it's certainly great fodder for material."

Umm… great? We sorta doubt it, Rick.

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John Ferri