April 24, 2024 | Miles Brucker

Golden Facts About America’s Got Talent

Debuting in June 2006, America’s Got Talent (AGT) is a talent show featuring singers, dancers, magicians, and comedians competing for a million dollars and the chance to perform on the Las Vegas strip. Apart from being a giant commercial for NBC, the show has given talented amateurs and unknown performers the chance to be judged by celebrities such as David Hasselhoff, Heidi Klum, and Piers Morgan, as well as to be seen by all of America. The format has been so popular that similar shows have popped up in other countries all over the world.

Here are some facts about AGT that you might not have known. Feel free to vote on which one is your favorite.

1. A Difficult Birth

Created by Simon Cowell, AGT was originally meant to be a 2005 British series called “Paul O’Grady’s Got Talent” but was postponed due to O’Grady’s acrimonious split with broadcaster ITV. As a result, the US version became the first full series of the franchise.

America’s Got Talent

2. Trust No One

The producers have been accused of manipulating situations to create good television. During season two, a girl from Hawaii auditioned, and one of the producers told everyone in the holding room that she had made it and to applaud her when she came in. When the little girl returned, everyone clapped, and she burst into tears. Because there’s nothing better for ratings than the tears of a child.

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3. Almost Live

Only 75% of the live shows are actually live. This is done to accommodate celebrity schedules and potentially dangerous acts. So to recap: Gruesome injuries = Bad. Tears of a child who’s hopes have been crushed = Good.

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4. Caffeinated Kola

The shows are preceded by comedian Joey Kola riling up the crowd with call-and-response tactics. It’s a difficult task to get 6,000 people to listen to you when they just want blurry selfies with Howard Stern, but he manages. All the more impressive is the fact that he does the same thing during the day with the “Rachael Ray Show".

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5. Pretty Little Peacocks

Between setups and during commercial breaks, the judges are usually either being touched up by the makeup crew or preening on their own so they’ll look camera-ready. Image is everything. As is cleavage.

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6. What Happens in Vegas…

It was implied that the winning act from season one would also get to headline a show at a casino, possibly in Las Vegas. However, this was replaced with just the million dollars due to concerns of minors playing in Las Vegas, should one become the champion. But a twelve-year old with a million dollars, that’s perfectly acceptable.

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7. Someone Had to Be First

This switch was justified when the season one winner turned out to be an 11-year old singer named Bianca Ryan. Remember Bianca Ryan? No? Okay. If you don't you should check her out here 

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8. Read the Fine Print

If you pay attention to the closing credits, you would know that the million dollar prize that is often mentioned does not mean the winner becomes an instant millionaire. Winners are given the option of $25,000 a year over 40 years (don’t die young) or the present cash value of such an annuity (~$430,000 before taxes).

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9. Winterfell’s Got Talent

Meanwhile, in the Great White North… there was a solitary season of Canada’s Got Talent in 2012, and the winners, dance troupe Sagkeeng’s Finest, won $100,000 and a new car. No word on which one of the three troupe members got to keep the car.

America’s Got Talent Facts

10. Switcheroo

According to some contestants, producers would manipulate contestants into performances they’re uncomfortable with. Some singers have claimed that they had their songs switched at the last minute. Season 5 illusionist Murray Sawchuck said, “I know numerous friends on the show who would rehearse with full monitors – then when they do their live performance, the monitors would drop off so the performers can’t hear themselves and they sound off key".

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11. Front of the Line

In a 2013 tell-all book, it was alleged that “Most of the acts who typically advance to Vegas Week and beyond are personally recruited by AGT talent scouts and producers and never wait in line". This was backed up by Season 2 country singer Julienne Irwin who claimed, “When I made it to the Top 20, I couldn’t believe I was the only one that really came from an open call audition. I was the only one that hadn’t been a professional performer".

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12. Terms and Conditions

According to a former contestant, the contract that you have to sign in order to perform on the show has a few troubling clauses which allow producers to depict their personal stories in a manner that “may be factual or fictional” and also states that contestants understand that their appearance, depiction, and portrayal may be disparaging, defamatory, embarrassing, and may lead to public ridicule, humiliation, or condemnation. So… in a nutshell: show business.

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13. International Flavor

With Howie Mandel, Piers Morgan, and Sharon Osbourne overseeing judging duties, Season five of AGT was the first season to not have an American born judge on the panel.

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14. Evolution

The “Golden Buzzer” was introduced in the ninth season and each judge had the ability to use it once to save an act from elimination. In season ten, any act that received the Golden Buzzer moved directly to the live show. In season eleven, Nick Cannon was allowed to use the buzzer as well.

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15. WhySpace

In seasons three and four, AGT had a separate audition episode for contestants who posted videos on MySpace. This was scrapped because nobody knew what MySpace was anymore.

America’s Got Talent FactsFlickr Spencer E Holtaway

16. YouTube Star

From season five to seven, acts who were unable to attend the live auditions could instead submit a taped audition online via YouTube. The most successful act of the YouTube auditions was , who placed second in season five.

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17. It’s Real, and It’s Spectacular

Jackie Evancho’s performance of “O mio babbino caro” in the show’s quarter-final round was so impressive that commentators questioned whether or not it was lip-synched. On the next evening’s live show, Evancho sang an impromptu voice exercise to prove that it was her actual voice and America’s collective head exploded.

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18. Haters Gonna Hate

Evancho then went on to sing at the inauguration of Donald Trump which resulted in quite a bit of backlash.

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19. Recycling

The sound effect used when judges “check” an act was originally the sound used when spins are passed on the game show “Press Your Luck". The sound effect used when judges “X” an act is the strike sound used on “Family Feud".

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20. You Can Count On Us

Votes are collected and counted by a third party company called Telescope Inc., which is the same company used to tally the results for “The Voice,” “The X-Factor,” and “American Idol". Where were they for the 2000 US Presidential Elections?

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21. Despite All My Rage…

According to contestants, work conditions on the show are rough. Mornings start at 6 a.m. and they are often kept until 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. Damien Escobar of Season four recalled that “You felt like you were in prison. They kept us in the holding area forever, like nineteen hours, until it was our time to rehearse. There was a therapist backstage". It’s generally a bad sign when a therapist has to be present. On the other hand, it could have been worse. There might have been no therapist.

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22. Stick to Singing

Season three winner Neal E. Boyd, known as “The Voice of Missouri,” has performed in front of Presidents Obama, Bush Jr. and Sr., and Clinton. Meeting those men might have rubbed off because Boyd decided to run for office in 2015 in the Missouri House of Representatives. America voted. He lost.

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23. He’s No Dummy

The most successful AGT winner is undoubtedly Terry Fator, a comedian/ventriloquist who headed to Vegas and hit the jackpot, signing a $100 million contract with the Mirage.

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24. Quite the Endorsement

Fator got his start in the fifth grade when he found a book called “Ventriloquism for Fun and Profit,” and now whoever wrote that book is going to get a heck of a quote on their dust jacket.

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25. There’s Always Someone Younger

The 2016 winner, Grace VanderWaal was only 12 years old when she won, making her the second youngest winner right after Bianca Ryan who won when she was only 11.

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26. Gender Disparity

As of 2016, over eleven seasons, VanderWaal and Ryan are the only female winners.

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27. Interesting Alibi

In 2010, while contestant Joe Finley was preparing for his audition, his wife was found dead in their hotel. He claims that it was murder, but as of yet, the police have not opened an investigation. Finley later sued the hotel claiming that the head of security took pictures of his wife’s dead body and showed it to people for kicks.

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28. A Host of Hosts

The show started with Regis Philbin as host, followed by Jerry Springer for two seasons, and then Nick Cannon from season four onwards. No word on who will be taking over from Nick Cannon because…

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29. You Can’t Fire Me, I Quit!

In February 2017, Nick Cannon publicly announced that he’s quitting the show because NBC executives threatened to fire him over what Cannon considered to be harmless jokes he made during a stand-up comedy special he filmed for Showtime. He felt that NBC executives treated him differently than other comedians and was willing to walk away from his $4.5 million annual salary to prove a point.

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Sources: 1 2 3


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