Howie Mandel knows exactly where his bread gets buttered.
Sure, “America’s Got Talent” may turn into “The Howard Stern Variety Hour” with the addition of the self-proclaimed King of All Media, but that’s OK. The veteran comic and third-year judge insists "without Howard Stern, it would just be season seven.”
NBC and executive producer Simon Cowell have made an all-in bet on Stern, splashing his picture front and center in promos and even relocating the show to New Jersey at his request. Bold moves, indeed, that could bend the fragile egos of some co-stars completely out of shape.
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“Honestly, that doesn’t bother me,” Mandel told TODAY.com. “There is nobody more thrilled to be working with Howard than me. I am such a fan. I think he is one of the brightest people I know. And I think he is an asset to the show. I love the fact that his fans show up to the show. All of a sudden a 12 hour taping is the most exciting place they have ever been. It is like being at a rock concert.”
Q: Will we see a different type of act this year? Is the overall talent pool changing?
No, but I think if you look at the show each and every year, each year is more dangerous than the past. The show is more outrageous than it has ever been. Because I think that once you air something ... someone comes on and says ‘I am going to jump into 6 inches of water,’ then the next guy comes on and says ‘I am going to shoot myself out of a cannon’ -- which is more dangerous.
Q: And yet every year, the singer always wins.
This year I am hoping (not) and Howard is hoping (not). We always celebrate the variety. This year we have got more groups. And the variety acts are tremendous -- and more dangerous and more spectacular.
Q: Do you think the show is better without Piers Morgan?
I think it is very, very different. I would never say better. Everybody has their own taste. I love having Howard. He is truly a friend. Somebody I would socialize with. Somebody I listen to and somebody I am a fan of. I think that the excitement level is going to be ramped up.
Q: The judges are gelling better?
Absolutely. I think last year we were three people who came to work. And now we are three gelled. ... This team of judges is a fully formed friendship, and it is really different. I can’t really describe it, but we love every minute of it.
Q: By the way, congrats on your new show “White Elephant” getting picked up by NBC!
Thanks. I am very excited. I have been offered many shows since “Deal or No Deal.” This is the first game show that I have chosen to do. All of the elements that I have loved about “Deal Or No Deal” are evident in that show. And it is something that we both play. But you are playing it face to face. Instead of playing it in the dark. You are deciding whether you want to pull something away from somebody.
Q: And once again it kind of involves making a deal.
It does. That is my theme.
Q: What made you want to host again?
This game so intrigued me. We developed it at my company. I could have hired another host. But it is just so intriguing. I never thought there would be another “Deal Or No Deal.” But I believe we have another “Deal Or No Deal,” and I don’t want to give that up. I am selfish. I want to do it.
No premiere date has been set for "White Elephant," but viewers wanting to see Mandel on the small screen can catch him, Stern and their fellow panelist Sharon Osbourne when the season premiere of "America's Got Talent" airs Monday, May 14 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.
Do you think Stern will make a thrilling addition to "Got Talent"? Are you looking forward to the other changes in store for the show? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page?
Sean Daly runs the blog SingersAndCritics.com, which covers reality singing-competition shows.
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