The Howard Stern era is officially underway on AMERICA’S GOT TALENT. And while some longtime fans can’t wait to see what the King of All Media brings to the judges table, others say they won’t bother tuning in.
So what’s all the fuss about?
We sat down with Stern and fellow judges Sharon Osbourne and Howie Mandel during Vegas Week to find out.
Q: So Howard, why are you really doing this?
HS: I am doing this because I love the show. I have watched the show almost every season. I missed the first season. I missed the Regis Philbin years. I came into it with the Jerry Springer and The Hoff. And I am a huge fan of this type of television. And it is something that appealed to me. It wasn’t something I had to do. My agent called me. He said “This is weird. AMERICA’S GOT TALENT called you. It doesn’t seem right…” And I said “why? Let’s talk to them about it. Maybe it will be fun. I was intrigued.
Q: Any other reasons? Was this a missing piece in your career puzzle?
No. I didn’t look at it that way. Because quite frankly, I was slowing down my career. I was doing the radio show three days a week. I said I really wanted to take some time to slow down, take time off.
SO: To smell the flowers. (laughs)
Q: Is it as easy as you thought it would be?
HS: The schedule is grueling when you combine it with your other work. And it is difficult to look into the eyes of a seven year-old and say “I am going to give you the X.” I hit the buzzer on a seven year-old and he started crying. I melted! I ran up on the stage and started hugging him. I couldn’t handle it. It is a difficult job. But I swear to you I don’t think I would be effective on the show if I wasn’t going to be honest. Not brutally honest. I don’t want to be brutal. I just want to be honest. And I really do believe I could help someone and mentor them by being honest and saying “You know what? You are not going to win this thing because you are doing the wrong thing. I don’t think America will vote for you and maybe if you did this or that it would kickstart whatever it is that you want to get going.
Q: What did you feel when that kid started crying?
HS: I felt awful. But this is the job I was given. I am not going to sit there and suck up to a seven year-old. It is up to the parent to determine whether they can handle being critiqued.
Q: Howie and Sharon say you are surprisingly compassionate.
HS: As far as compassion goes… I have said in radio for years that the reason I find Rush Limbaugh boring is because he has a knee jerk response. He is towing the line of the Republican party. Once he disagrees… If once he said he believed in a woman’s right to choose, I would say “Oh, that’s interesting!” You have to be well rounded. I am going to tell the contestants they have to be well rounded in the sense that you can’t be a one trick pony. You have got to expand your horizons.
Q: Do you think it is okay for judges to be harsh?
SO: There are so many judges on so many shows that are blatantly rude. That offer no word of advice. No constructive criticism. That is not constructive and it is insulting.
HM: By virtue of what this is, it is harsh and mean. It is not our fault.
HS: Today we are going and telling people “you don’t make the cut.” And I have been thinking a lot about that. If you watch “A Chorus Line,” the business is brutal. It is full of rejection. You ask about my daughter… As a father, it is different. You are with your daughter. You are building a relationship. With a person who auditions, it is cold. And I think this show is trying to reflect that. If they went into an agents office or they auditioned for a play, there would be three casting directors who would sit there and go “No.” Or just say “Thank you.” They wouldn’t even give them criticism.
SO: If you can’t take criticism, you are in the wrong industry.
HM: But by the same token, in the corporate world, you get a pink slip and then you can make up your own excuse to your peers. In show business, in the chorus line, you are there with a handful of other hopefuls. Then publicly you don’t make the cut because these people move forward. Now with the advent of these talent shows, on a national stage, you are not only told that you didn’t make it — we tell the world you didn’t make it. It’s not our fault.
Q: Howard, NBC reportedly moved the show to New York to accommodate you. How long do you plan to stick around?
HS: Well, let’s see what America has to say. The ultimate judge is America. I don’t know that they will like me as a judge. I hope they do and NBC wants me… There are a lot of variables there. I don’t know. I would have loved to have done the show in L.A., but I work in New York and I said to them, “There is no way I can do the show. I am complimented, but I don’t know how.”
Q: But if it works will you be here next season?
HS: There is a very good chance of that.