As Howie Mandel and Sharon Osbourne make their way down the aisle of the Hammerstein Ballroom, a once grand New York venue, the cheering is pretty crazy. But when Howard Stern follows, the audience becomes rapturously, deliriously loud.
The judges of the seventh season of "America's Got Talent" take their seats for a day of auditions. Not all of these acts will make it to the NBC show returning Monday, May 14, for which viewers can offer eternal thanks.
On this day, there's an off-kilter marching band and a man unfamiliar with the notes customarily used in singing. Osbourne advises a woman with a good voice to smash her accordion.
Another woman's stand-up act consists of putting on a baby voice and snorting. A 14-year-old girl sings James Brown's "This Is a Man's World," and when the judges don't advance her to Las Vegas, she begs and cries.
Two brothers, third-generation circus performers, take seven dogs through their paces, including back flips. A mime troupe in black costumes and white faces just gets on people's nerves, as mimes tend to. Finally, a drag queen named All Beef Patty wins over a hostile audience because how can you not love a man in a zebra-patterned top, sequined shorts and a foot-high hot pink beehive?
After a few hours of this, the three judges (minus host Nick Cannon) sit down for their longest interview in New York. Here is a condensed version of it.
Zap2it: What was the weirdest act you have seen?
Howard Stern: "It was really weird when the squirrel got in the pool and water-skied. I was disturbed."
Howie Mandel: "A man who makes an entire audience an instrument."
Sharon Osbourne: "It was incredible."
Howard Stern: "We had one guy who had never sung in front of anyone. It was odd and strange, but wonderful."
Howie Mandel: "A man who had stayed around home a long time and had puppets. He had a bear on his shoulder, and it didn't do anything. I stole the puppet from his shoulder. I wore it. That puppet did nothing."
Howard Stern: "I am so annoyed by people who waste my time."
Sharon Osbourne: "He gives them advice. 'I want you to go home and get a proper job. You are too old to be doing this.'"
Howie Mandel: "I believe just do it! If you have the seed of a thought, I know that as a stand-up, I have to give some respect for that."
Howard Stern: "There are people who waste time here."
Zap2it: You're like some god here. What's it like?
Howard Stern: "It's a wonderful feeling being in New York, where I have a lot of fans."
Sharon Osbourne: "Yes, and I am a virgin, by the way."
Howard Stern: "I did it for Howie and Sharon. I am a martyr. Tonight's show I am going to walk on water."
Zap2it: For Sharon and Howie, how has the dynamic of the show changed?
Howard Stern: "The show is 100 percent better. It really is."
Howie Mandel: "There is a difference in dynamics. It feels to me like friends watching TV with no filters."
Howard Stern: " Piers was wonderful. I was more wonderful."
Zap2it: Were you really a fan of 'America's Got Talent' all those years?
Howie Mandel: "He would critique it the next day [on his radio show]."
Howard Stern: "I was excited when Howie joined the show. And they got rid of Hasselhoff."
Howard Stern: "The first day I got here in L.A., and they erected my X."
Howie Mandel: "We got there after the erection."
Howard Stern: "I felt really honored."
Sharon Osbourne: "I think this show is the one guilty pleasure."
Howie Mandel: "The birth of entertainment is variety, and that's what people gathered around to watch. If we had to listen to singer after singer or dancer after dancer ... ."
Sharon Osbourne: "I would hang myself."
Howard Stern: "Bands, juggling, mime. I cannot wait to see what's next; a dog act and the drag queen."
Sharon Osbourne: "Who else can say that on any show?"
Howie Mandel: "I think when 'American Idol' came into America's consciousness, [there was an expectation] of the mean, the goofy. I think the panel is not like any other I have seen."
Sharon Osbourne: "And as I always say, none of us ever cry."
Howard Stern: "I think everyone expected me to be Simon Cowell. Howie's the comedian, and Sharon is going to be the great lady. I don't want to be a certain way. I want to be authentic."
Howie Mandel: "Even on the inside, this is the most authentic show. Even among ourselves we don't know where it's going."
Howard Stern: "Wasn't it beautiful that I could add clarity?"
Howie Mandel: "People don't realize how humble he is. We have expertise. Between us there is almost 100 years of show business here. Rather than just buzzing somebody, this is an opportunity for us to expel our expertise."
Howard Stern: "To simply come out here and say you suck is ridiculous. To say you are going to Vegas has to very, very specific."
Sharon Osbourne: "It is never enough to say you are singing out of key."
Photo/Video credit: NBC