America’s Got Talent
“You are so good and so funny at what you do, I love you!”
– Howie Mandel
– Simon Cowell
“That was so much fun. I was laughing hysterically. Brilliant.”
– Julianne Hough
“This kind of act hasn’t been my jam. But you made it my jelly, my jam, my apple butter. It was so good!”
– Gabrielle Union
For years I said “no thank you” to the AGT Casting people for a few reason …
- Sometimes they made people look bad and I was worried about bookings.
- I knew they wanted the ventriloquism which is really only 40% of what I do. So comparatively, their other vents sang, did impressions or had high priced props. This limited scope wouldn’t be very competitive. The only thing that sets me apart is that I try not to do the old set up/punchline back and forth like most acts. I am more conversational. I’m also a comedian/improv performer, able to step away from the puppets. Neither of which are doable in 2.5 minutes on a talent show. It also isn’t focused enough for the producer’s video packages or story arc they need.
- I was certainly intimidated being judged on that national level within a format that is part talent show, part “reality” show.
The late night talk shows don’t have a real forum for guest acts anymore. Many of my working peers said that having AGT on the resume boosted bookings and audience attendance regardless of how one does. I never wanted to do it to become “a comedy act in Las Vegas” as the show likes promote as a goal. I had done that scene already.
A primary reason to do the show was to experience being a part of a national marketing campaign (AGT & NBC). It was amazing and I was in my element doing online ads, commercial teasers and gimmicks. I was also doing it to help my other projects, as well as to accumulate footage bantering with others backstage for my hosting demo reel.
“Your stuff is so great! It gets me every time.”
– Kayla DeFrancisco, Senior Producer
“Incredible material. The executives were laughing and completely
captivated by your performance.”
– Alden Harbi, Casting Producer
ROUND ONE: Pasadena Civic Auditorium
I had a blast with the crew. Not only did I have them laughing (I wish you could have seen that stuff … I made one of the crew learn the “Hokey Pokey” with me on cam). I also really got to pull from my production career to give them tons of choices in shooting the interviews, and “reality” stuff. The theater holds 4,000 people in the audience. They used to do the Emmy Awards there. Rehearsal was fast in between tons of shooting (interviews, reality footage, etc.). If you’re nervous walking out there, ya can’t really just play to the audience because there is a camera pit in front of you and the judge’s desk is in your direct eye line!
ROUND TWO: Universal Studios Sound Stage
This studio only held 300 audience members. It was a long, circus of a day.
Below was shooting b-roll on the Universal back lot that was cheezy but so fun. They didn’t end up using the video package.
The highlights were the people. DOM CHAMBERS, NICK WALLACE, GINGZILLA & especially RYAN NIEMILLER. Ryan and I were paired up a lot to banter. We were making each other pee our pants on and off camera, hoping the show would choose to use more than 2% of the piles of footage we gave them.
The crew was happy and a well oiled machine. For the most part the producers were terrific. But in the end, some are TV reality producers, not comedy/theatrical/musical creatives. So there can be a bit of a dance between templates they’re used to using & what they need & what I want. But all were open to discussions where possible and my senior producer was an absolute doll.
The first round, the judges loved me. The fake out, bird trainer “reveal” was my idea because I didn’t want to be produced like the other vents saying hi with “my little buddy.” (Blech)
The second round Simon Cowell hated me. And while I can’t disclose the inner workings of the show which could also sound like excuses or sour grapes (of which there are none – I was thrilled to be finished), I can tell you that in addition to editing choices, there are positive and negative, outside elements that can contribute to how a performance goes and how it is taken by the judges. After 14 seasons it’s certainly no secret to the public that this is a talent show, reality show, and yes, produced-reality as well. In the end, they are producing entertainment. And this is part of the beast.
I did not move forward to round three. I would have preferred it went down a little cooler (some of the public passed judgement based on 6 seconds of one joke out of context), but I expected this before signing on. Get in, get out!
The response from around the world was almost overwhelming. It was amazing to connect to people globally. 90% were positive, 5% negative and 5% were the absolute crazies. I’ve already had two stalkers in my career (it’s in the book ) so I was a little wary! I mean … people from prison, people wanting to bed me (rarely the ones I’d want of course), people telling me to admit my sins to Jesus Christ before it’s too late (it is btw). A following in France … Latvia … Iran. “Hey ma! I’m huge in Iran!”
The oddest thing from an industry point of view was how talent bookers think the two minutes you do on network television are what your entire act entails … or when a judge mentions visually his son would like the puppet, I get job offers to perform for a million kids (love kids but not my bull’s-eye audience)! And of course there were also the really good gigs that came out of it.
The whole thing was fascinating! You can add it to the ridiculous bucket list that is my life. More to come!
“Breaking Out of Show Business: What I discovered by not Being Discovered” (Post Hill Publishing).
MY POST-AGT RESPONSE VIDS:
- MICHAEL PAUL vs. SIMON COWELL – The Day After
- JOKES ASIDE – My Important Message
- MICHAEL PAUL is QUIZZED