A hush falls over the hall inside the New Jersey Performing Arts Center as PAs jockey people into still vacant seats. It's 15 seconds to airtime and this crowd wants to know which of the 12 acts that performed last night are going through to the semi-finals. One segment in, the crowd-and America-learns that favorites, singer Tim Hockenberry and contortionist street dancer Turf, are safe. The audience explodes with applause and the stage empties for a commercial break. Celebrity judge Howard Stern keeps the entertainment coming as he turns to the balcony and quips, "Can you believe I'm on national television? Live national television?"
Before the show ends, performance video light painters; a 70-year-old, vertically challenged singer; an acro-balance aerial act and a husband-and-wife magic duo will also parade across the stage to stand in front of the judges-Howie Mandel, Sharon Osborne and Howard Stern-to learn their fate. Less important than who goes through to the next leg of the competition, however, is the fact that they are standing on this national stage in the first place.
American audiences have been programmed to cheer-and text vote-for idols, voices and dancers. Mainstream talent abounds on primetime. But a contortionist or a stuntsman shooting arrows inches from his assistant's head-those acts are usually reserved for casinos or traveling sideshows. Learning he was leaving the show, crossbow shooter Ben Blaque said, "One of my dreams was to perform live for this country and I met this dream."
America's Got Talent has its share of singers and dancers, too. But vying for the finals and the million-dollar prize is a juggler, a human cannonball and a dog act. And on this stage, oddball acts have real value. "This is really the only stage on TV where we can see acts like you," Osborne told aerial act Donovan and Rebecca when it came down to them and singer Danielle Stallings for the remaining spot. "There's no other place for you to go but our show and I want to encourage acts like you to keep coming."
"What you do is unique and original and it's different every single time. And that's what this show is about," echoed Mandel. In the end, the singer went home and the acrobats lived to swing another day.
If you've got anything-but-vanilla talent, join eTalent as an artist so fans can start appreciating your uniqueness. Oh, and don't forget to go to americasgottalentauditions.com and get your act together for season 8.See Profile for AGT