Thursday, April 24, 2008

America's Got Talent

Warm-up guy: Affable Brit with a painfully lame sense of humor.

His worst joke: (To audience member) Oh, your mom’s visiting you here in New York? Yeah, I’m sure she came to visit you. For six days. I’m sure she didn’t come to New York for the…shopping!

Length of line to get in: two city blocks

In 2003, after George W. Bush fell off a Segway, Talent Judge Piers Morgan was quoted in the Daily Mail: “You’d have to be an idiot to fall off, wouldn’t you, Mr. President?”

In 2007: Piers Morgan fell off a Segway, breaking three ribs.

Piers Morgans's qualifications to be a talent judge: He's the former editor of several tabloids and he won Celebrity Apprentice.

I don't like: Judge Piers Morgan

Spirits were high as hundreds of people piled into the Hammerstein Ballroom. We filled the entire lower section, then the balconies, then much of the upper level.

After Awful British Warm-Up Guy (from here on out, A-Bwug) told some dumb jokes, he had us pretend to leave. Producers wanted a shot of the whole audience leaving. So A-Bwug counted to three and everyone got up and made for the exit. I didn’t really believe it, but everyone else got up and started to leave. A few seconds later, A-Bwug called us back. Then he had us do it again. And a third time.

Finally, the judges came out. The nice one, Sharon Osbourne. “The Simon Cowell of the group,” Piers Morgan. Yes, that’s how A-Bwug described him. (It means Morgan is British and an ass.) And finally, the populist, the pinnacle of cool for some reason, David Hasselhoff.

“Don’t hassle the Hoff!” yelled a guy sitting a few rows behind me. People laughed. So did I. Over the course of the evening, the same guy would shout the same phrase repeatedly over the course of the evening, undeterred by its rapidly diminishing funniness.

Time for the show. First was a step group. All were high schoolers of color from the Bronx. They seemed good to me, but I've only seen step a handful of times.

“You’re just not talented enough,” said Piers.

“I’m sorry, dears, but we see a lot of step people come through here, and you didn’t give us anything great,” said Sharon Osbourne.

This was the first time, but not the last, that I openly wondered why two British folks who seem to have done nothing worthwhile in their lives (plus the guy who, you know, starred in Knight Rider) are qualified to criticize stuff like a style of dance owned exclusively by black youths.

More acts came and went, and before long we realized we weren’t getting the cream of the crop here. A couple who claimed to have invented his very specific combination of polka, jazz, and swing dancing.

A guy who claimed to be one of the world’s best soap bubble-based entertainers. (He only blew a few normal bubbles, which was hardly impressive, but in his defense, he was buzzed off the stage within fifteen seconds, and he claimed his act only became challenging in the later stages.) It took a long, long time to set up and take down his act, and the audience grew restless.

A middle-aged woman came out in a skimpy nightie and talked about the greats she used to work with. Sinatra, John Wayne. Her act was that of a lounge singer, singing badly and rolling on the floor, faux-seductively. We loved her for her brashness and for not giving into the standards that say beauty requires youth. Then we hated her for the same reason and booed her off the stage.

Audience reaction was a great experience in groupthink. Nearly everyone was cheered at the beginning. We loved everybody, you see. But as soon as we got bored, fifteen to thirty seconds in, we grew restless, and soon we booed. Everyone in the crowd basically did what everyone else in the crowd did. It worked seamlessly, like a tower made of ants. All of us, hundreds of people, all switched from loving an act to hating it in a matter of seconds.

A woman brought out her pig, which can paint. Sometimes. Not this time. When the act was buzzed off, she couldn’t make the pig leave the stage. It was scared and unresponsive, and after five minutes of frustration, Sharon stormed off, followed by the other judges.

We waited and waited for the judges to return. Some people walked out of the theater. A-Bwug came back out. “Ladies an gentlemen, the judges are not on a break. They’re simply offstage, doing some work that can’t be done in front of a big audience, some filler shots. In the meantime, we have a big treat for you.”

“How about some talent?” yelled a guy in my section.

“We have for you tonight the seventh—or maybe eighth; I can’t remember—place finishers from last year’s contest, the Glamazons!”

From this point on there was a steady trickle of audience members headed toward the emergency exit.

"Don't hassle the Hoff!" yelled that guy for the upteenth time.

After about half an hour, the judges returned. They were preceded by A-Bwug coming out and saying “Ladies and gentlemen, the judges have finally returned from their break!”

It was an opera singer. He was good. Or, well, I liked him. Isn't a par-for-the-course opera singer a much better singer than an average pop singer? The judges thanked him profusely for saving what had so far been a dour and hopeless night. They told him he wasn’t that great for an opera singer, but he wasn’t bad, either, and he had a lot of passion. Well, they’re the experts. David Hasselhoff. The chick who married Ozzie Osborne.

Then there was another break. A-Bwug came back out. “I just talked to the producers. We’re gonna do another shot where everyone’s exiting. So leave your bags on the floor, but when I count to three, everyone get up and pretend you’re leaving. One, two, three.”

I got up and made for the doors. Somehow I couldn't turn return to my seat.

On my way out, I stopped the lady who worked the door. “All these people are leaving," I said. Is this normal?”

“Oh, yeah,” she said. “Nobody ever stays for the whole thing."


The Tao said...

Should I like the Glamazons? I mean, I understand why some people do... but should I?

Kevin Collier said...

As your musical advisor (freelance, of course): No.