America's Got Talent: How'd Howard Stern Do?

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I grew up listening to old-school '90s Howard Stern because my parents didn’t understand the concept of age-appropriate entertainment and I was pretty stoked when the man himself was announced as Piers Morgan’s replacement for the seventh season of America’s Got Talent. I was excited, but at the same time, I took it all with a grain of salt because let’s be real—he’s not going to get too foul on NBC at 8pm on a Monday night. At least, not if he wants to keep his job.

Still, muzzled by polite primetime sensibilities or not, Stern got in a few obligatory references to his small penis, a hallmark of the radio show that made me smile. He clearly understands why people are watching his tenure with baited breath and he winks at the proudly depraved members of the audience just enough to keep us interested. But how long will the IDEA of Howard Stern be an adequate substitute for what fans of Stern expect when they tune in to one of his programs?

During last night’s season premiere, we saw a side of Stern that doesn’t often make an appearance alongside the shock-jock persona—he was kinda dorky. I don’t say that as a bad thing. I don’t think being a “dork” is a bad thing at all. Some of my best friends are dorks. I’m a dork. I say cheesy things and get irrationally excited about stuff that no one else seems to get. You may also find that the definition fits “nerds” and “geeks” as well. Howard Stern is a self-professed reality-TV aficionado and has admitted to watching AGT in the past. If you were invited to be a judge on a program that you sincerely enjoyed, you’d be pretty excited too, right?

So Stern transformed his glee for the Light Wire Theater Company, a very cool performance utilizing awesome glow-in-the-dark puppets, into an awkward moment of shoehorned patriotism, “We are the greatest country in the world. We have the most creative people. You’re everything that makes America great. I applaud your originality and I thank you for lifting everyone’s spirit.” It was not entirely unwelcome when he raised the point that he’s the only American judge ON America’s Got Talent.

Stern managed a few zingers at the expense of some of the more hapless contestants in the Los Angeles and St. Louis auditions, telling one side-show veteran whose act revolved around driving long metal pins through his cheeks, “You remind me why I don’t like people.” He also admonished a male stripper/magician (it was one of the more bizarre acts of the night), informing the guy that strippers can’t have man boobs.

I sense that’s as cutting as we’re going to get in primetime, and that’s okay, because in a way, the most entertaining part of Howard Stern on America’s Got Talent will be watching him adapt to an environment where he can’t be the Howard Stern that made him famous. (The treat, of course, is that he’s really quite likeable).

I’m also really digging the Howard/Howie bromance.

Questions and Concerns:

1. Compare Nick Cannon on America’s Got Talent with Carson Daly on The Voice and tell me who seems to be having more fun. Hint: It’s Nick Cannon. Nick Cannon also has very nice suits. I was particularly fond of the pink and tan threads he wore in St. Louis.

2. While I appreciate the Montage of Horror because honestly, I’m not THAT horrible of a person that I get utter satisfaction watching some poor schmuck completely fail on national TV (it makes me really uncomfortable watching them squirm while suddenly realizing that everyone is laughing at them), I wish we’d get a little more time with the contestants who DO perform well and win the judges’ favor. Does Scorpion Guy have a name? What about the ventriloquist using his real-life dog as a dummy? What’s his name? And do we feel bad for that dog?

3. Maybe I’ll get grumpy and bored later on, but for now, I’m enjoying the latest incarnation of AGT. The world is weird and wonderful. Embrace it.

4. Did you catch last night’s premiere? How do you feel about Howard the Judge?

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