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Series / America's Got Talent

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America's Got Talent is a Talent Show created by Simon Cowell which takes the American Idol concept and expands it to pretty much anything you think people will pay to see — or not, in the case of the bad acts. It was launched in 2006 and is still ongoing. People audition to win $1,000,000 and, since Season 3, a contract to perform in Las Vegas (usually via a tour featuring them and other high-ranking participants from the season). One of the main features of the show is the panel of judges who can each hit a buzzer during acts they hate, and if all judges buzz an act then it ends then and there.

The series has spawned a few spinoffs that air between main seasons, all of which use an accelerated schedule (a single round of auditions and a finale) and an audience of "superfans" instead of nationwide live voting. America's Got Talent: The Champions (airing after Seasons 13 and 14) and America's Got Talent: All-Stars (after Season 17) features notable contestants from past seasons and various international versions of the show; America's Got Talent: Fantasy League (after Season 18) is the same, with the addition of the judges picking teams of acts to represent them; while America's Got Talent: Extreme (after Season 16) features daredevil acts and a handful of other acts that must also by necessity perform outside.

    Hosts and Judges 
(Current main-series cast is in bold.)

The show has been hosted by:

The judges are:

  • Singer and actress Brandy Norwood (Season 1)
  • Actor David Hasselhoff (Seasons 1-4)
  • Infamous tabloid journalist and editor Piers Morgan, in his North American debut (Seasons 1-6)
  • Music manager and wife of Ozzy Osbourne, Sharon Osbourne (Seasons 2-7)
  • Comedian, host of Deal or No Deal, and creator of Bobby's World Howie Mandel (Season 5 onward, including all spinoffs except Extreme)
  • Controversial Shock Jock Howard Stern (Seasons 7-10)
  • Former Spice Girl Melanie Brown aka "Mel B" (Seasons 8-13 plus The Champions Season 1 and Fantasy League)
  • Model and fashion designer Heidi Klum (Season 8 onward (except for 14), including all spinoffs except Extreme)
  • Got Talent creator, former American Idol judge, music agent, and iconic mean judge Simon Cowell (Season 11 onward,note  including all spinoffs)
  • Dancing with the Stars dancer/judge and actress Julianne Hough (Season 14)
  • Actress Gabrielle Union (Season 14)
  • Singer and judge from Strictly Come Dancing and Britain's Got Talent Alesha Dixon (The Champions Season 2)
  • Actress and model Sofía Vergara (Season 15 onward (main series only))
  • Former WWE wrestler Nikki Bella (Extreme)
  • Pro motocross racer and stuntman Travis Pastrana (Extreme)

The competition usually takes place in three stages:
  • The first half of each season sees the judges travel the country holding open auditions, putting forward any act that's worthy enough to consider. If an act gets a majority of judges to vote in their favor, then they go through to the next round. Starting in Season 9, the judges and host also get a golden buzzer that they can each use once in the audition stage to send an act through regardless of the other judges' votes.
  • In the middle phase, all the decent acts are gathered and the judges choose which ones are actually going to compete in the live shows.
    • Seasons 1-9 and 15,note  "Vegas Week"note : A short one- or two-episode intermediate stage where judges were generally given free reign, usually having acts do another private performance but just as often putting them through or rejecting them based on the strength of their audition.
    • Seasons 10-14, "Judge Cuts" (due to being more than one week of episodes): Acts are split into four even groups and perform again in front of an audience with only seven per group selected to go to the live shows. An additional guest judge is also brought in for each group and is able to unilaterally select one winning act with their own golden buzzer.
    • Season 16 onward: Building off of the original format that returned for Season 15, the judges meet in private to determine the live show contestants. Unlike the original version, the acts themselves are not involved and not given any opportunity to perform again, and this stage is only covered in a brief montage in the final audition episode instead of getting a full episode to itself.
  • The last half of the season takes place in Hollywood (New York in Seasons 7-10, likely to accommodate Howard Stern) with live shows where viewers vote on who goes forward, though the judges get to pick between acts on the fence (for example, the top three vote-getters go through and the judges choose between the fourth- and fifth-place acts), and they still offer their opinions and can use their buzzers to register displeasure.

A few artists that have auditioned on Got Talent have their own pages on TV Tropes, including Jackie Evancho (Season 5), Prince Poppycock (Season 5), Lindsey Stirling (Season 5), Trisha Paytas (Season 7), Jim Meskimen (Season 8), Puddles Pity Party (Season 12), Michael Winslow (Season 16), Victory Brinker (Season 16), and Improv Everywhere (Season 18).

Britain's Got Talent is its Transatlantic Equivalent, and various other countries have their own local "Got Talent" counterparts. Also see Syco Music, the record label founded by Cowell that manages several Got Talent artists.

This show contains examples of:

  • Action Fashionista: Season 16's Léa Kyle is a quick-change artist who designed all of the clothes for her audition and does incredible feats like one dress somehow coming apart and another one seemingly magnetized to her body.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Simon got a good laugh from Alex Hooper's roasts directed at him in Season 13. Mel B actually had to press his buzzer for him.
  • Ad-Break Double-Take: When there is a cliffhanger during a commercial break (mentioned below), what happens immediately before it is re-played after the commercial break.
  • Ancestral Name: AGT: Extreme features generational stunt performers and some of them share names with their predecessors.
    • David "the Bullet" Smith is the son of David "the Cannonball" Smith, and he claims that his father is the best human cannonball he knows.
    • Alfredo Silva is a sixth generation of cage riders, and his father and late grandfather (whom he considers his heroes) are also named Alfredo.
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: Adrian Stoica's act involved his dog Hurricane helping with his daily routine (or messing with said routine for the hell of it). His audition involved Hurricane getting him out of bed, bringing him clothes, stealing the TV remote to force him to exercise, and getting him out the door- so she can grab the TV remote she stole earlier and settle down with it. His semifinals act had Hurricane arguing with him over the music, diagnosing what was wrong with his lawnmower (she prescribed Percussive Maintenance) and sabotaging his attempts to garden, while his finale had Hurricane act as his director for a romantic scene with Sophia, helping him get dressed, pushing him around the stage, and reminding him to get the real Sophia onstage instead of a cardboard cutout.
  • The Anti-Nihilist: Season 16's Nightbirde is struggling with cancer with a 2% chance of recovery. But she still goes out to live her best life, by stating that a person can't wait for life to stop getting hard before they decide to be happy. Sadly, she was forced to quit the game before Vegas Week to treat herself, and passed away within the year.
  • The Artifact: The Golden Buzzer has become this since removal of the Judge Cuts. It started out with a purpose, to reward outstanding acts with automatic entry to the live shows. Since Judge Cuts have been merged with auditions, anyone who gets through has earned the equivalent of a Golden Buzzer so it really just serves as a novelty for the judges to show how much they personally liked one act.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Howard Stern has talked about how he was a fan of the show before becoming one of the judges.
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: Derrick Barry of Season 3. So hot, he has The Hoff questioning his sexuality.
  • Back for the Finale: Many seasons bring a bunch of acts back to do a big number or two together, one with semi- and quarterfinalists and one with So Bad, It's Good acts from the audition rounds.
  • Badass Preacher: Real Encounter (season 9): a group of members of the ministry who do stunt biking. Hilariously, Howard joked that their name sounded like a porn site before he found out what they actually do.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Some acts will present themselves as one kind of act, but then actually reveal themselves to be something else. One example from Season 14 is an "exotic bird trainer" that first appeared to be a falconry act, but was really a ventriloquist with a goofy-looking bird puppet. Another one from that season was an operatic act that suddenly started knife-throwing in the middle.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment:
    • This is common from Simon Cowell. A typical example:
      Simon: It wasn't great. (audience boos) It was incredible.
    • Sofia appears to have been taking Cowell lessons, including once making the "switch" by hitting her Golden Buzzer.
    • One audition seemed at first to be a mediocre piano act... until several audience members and a cameraman stand up and start singing, and it's revealed to be an audition for Improv Everywhere.
  • Bald Of Awesome: Season 18's winner Adian Stoica. It's also made into a comedic moment in his third act where he's trying to get ready for a scene and Hurricane gives him a hairbrush. He realizes the problem shortly after accepting it.
  • Belly Dancer: A pair of them in Season 5. Piers and Howie didn't even try to hide their reactions. The Mayyas' act also includes elements of this style, since they're Lebanese and incorporating traditional moves into their dances.
  • Berserk Button:
    Sharon: Nobody, nobody disrespects my husband, so f*** off!
    • She also gets upset at Piers when he makes a remark about a bad Ozzy impersonator looking better than the real Ozzy Osbourne.
    • Donald Trump to Mel B. So much that she buzzed the Singing Trump, purely for whom he impersonated.
  • Big Budget Beef-Up: Happens in the live show rounds for obvious reasons. These performances usually have better costumes, better sets, and — all too often — gratuitous backup dancers.
  • Bizarre Instrument: These show up from time to time, like ArcAttack's use of lightning generators in Season 5 and William Close stringing up the entire theater as in instrument in Season 7. An unsuccessful contestant, Ray Saunders played a turkey baster.
  • Bland-Name Product:
    • In Season 14, a dance crew performed as Mortal Kombat characters — though MK wasn't explicitly referenced and the dancers were all labeled with off-brand names (the "Scorpion" character had the caption "Inferno", for example). Julienne did compare the act to Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter, but it was clear that she didn't actually recognize that the dancers were making the reference. (In contrast, Light Balance Kids had no issue doing Avengers-themed dance routines in the same season.)
    • Season 17 had a performer calling herself "Freckled Zelda" who played an ocarina. While she said she was a "music fairy" from the "Freckled Forest", her stage name and choice of instrument make it obvious that she's a The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time cosplayer.
  • Blinking Lights of Victory: This is both inverted and played straight: A full-four-count judge buzzer set causes the background to go red, and the lights flash mockingly. However, if the act is a particularly amazing or touching act, and a judge presses the Golden Buzzer, the entire stage turns gold with strobing lights, including a Confetti Drop.
  • Broadcast Live: When the acts compete for the audiences' votes, it switches to live broadcast.
  • Brutal Honesty: Piers, Howard, and Simon have all played the role of the judge who gives out the most of this.
  • Burlesque: A few acts of this sort show up, with all the removal of clothing it implies. Ones who have made it to the live rounds include Michelle L'amournote  (season 1), The Slippery Kittens (season 3), and The Lollipop Girls (season 4).
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • Season 6 had an act called the Miami All-Stars run by a married couple, a group of very talented dancers. Season 7 would feature the Untouchables, which the married couple from the Miami All-Stars had trained. Then Season 8 had the youngest Untouchable dancer, Ruby, and her partner, and her brother with his partner. Both were eliminated very early on in the final cut and the first set of live shows.
    • Season 10 introduced "Judge Cuts" where a guest judge joins in along with the other four judges. One of them is former judge, Piers Morgan.
    • The Russian Bar Trio that had to leave Season 3 due to injury returned in Season 11 to try again.
    • On the longest bus trip so far, jugglers The Passing Zone from season 1 returned on season 11.
    • Alfredo Silva has appeared not just in the main show but in both spinoffs so far: he was part of the knife-throwing act Deadly Games in Season 11 and The Champions, and then returned leading a motorcycle stunt crew for Extreme.
    • Season 17 saw two acts with people returning from Extreme; one was judge Nikki Bella and her sister Brie pranking the regular-season judges, and another was father-daughter daredevils the Nerveless Nocks.
    • One trend that's emerged is that magic-mentalist acts will not only get the judges to name someone who had been on the show, but then have that person appear out of nowhere in a surprise cameo. So far, this was done with former judge David Hasselhoff in The Champions Season 1, Tapeface (from Season 11) in Season 14, and Season 13/Champions 1 winner Shin Lim in Champions 2.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Being the host, poor Nick is the go-to choice whenever an act needs an assistant of some sort. This usually results in him being put in danger or humiliated, sometimes both. Howie lampshades this during a clip show in Season 9, noting Nick has the toughest job on the show and it's to the point a performer just has to ask him to come on stage for the judges to crack up, because they know what's coming. By Season 11, acts have begun bringing all the judges in on the "fun".
    • Piers became one in Season 6, mainly due to Howie's mischief.
    • Ventriloquist Paul Zerdin turned Howie into one in Season 10's semifinals, by making Howie his dummy and having him "say" things he had no choice but to go along with.
      "Howie": [paraphrased] I thought I'd like to show you my twerking!
  • The Cameo: During Extreme, Terry and the judges decide to race around the track they're filming on with various weird vehicles; and the hosts of American Ninja Warrior step in (voice-only) to act as commentators.
  • Canine Companion: Several acts include dogs, and not all of them are acts focusing on the dogs.
    • Piff the Magic Dragon has Mr. Piffles, a chihuahua in a dragon costume.
    • The first dog act to win the show were the Olate Dogs, who had 10 of them trained to do tricks together.
    • Season 12 saw Sara and her dog Hero.
    • The next dog act to win their season was trainer Adrian Stoica and his border collie Hurricane, who acted as his partner in various comedy skits.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Howie uses "Wow!" in his reviews often, as in "There's just one word to describe you: Wow!" or, in some negative reviews, "I was looking for 'Wow' but didn't see it."
    • Mel B often responds to acts she really likes by saying they were "OFF THE CHAIIIIIN!" She also uses, "WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!"
    • For acts, Yumbo Dump in Season 13 always caps off the sound effects they make with "Feels so gooood!"
  • Caustic Critic:
    • Piers, although he really will compliment acts that are good more often than Simon does on American Idol. Still, he's the only judge who still made regular use of his buzzer once the competition moved into the popular-vote phase.
    • Simon Cowell himself (who's also the franchise's creator) became a judge starting with Season 11. One 13-year-old classical singer named Laura Bretan lampshaded this in her highlight segment, knowing that if you're not good enough, Simon will say so. Compared to American Idol, though, he seems to have softened up except for music acts, and even so, he's far more constructive than venomous towards singers than he used to be.
  • Celebrity Resemblance: Dani Shay, the Bifauxnen 22-year old girl from Season 6 who looks and sings like Justin Bieber. She has a good sense of humor about it; her audition was a Bieber parody song poking fun.
  • Censor Box: One act, involving ladies who wound up, ahem, pulling a Sharon Stone as part of it, had their crotches censored with a picture of Simon Cowell's face.
  • Character Tics: During introductions, Howie does a thing where he waves his hand in front of his face and ends up pointing, and Sharon holds her hands in a heart symbol. Late in Season 7, Howard would poke fun at these by making a Running Gag of doing his own elaborate hand gestures for his introduction.
  • Child Prodigy:
    • Season 5 had Jackie Evancho, an 11-year-old classical singer who many remarked is on the level of adult professionals.
    • Season 9 saw Adrian Romoff, a 9-year-old classical pianist who is in high school.
    • Season 10 saw 5-year-old Heidi-esque Heavenly Joy Jerkins, 13-year-old Mariachi singer Alondra Santos, and 11-year-old opera singer Arielle Baril.
    • Season 11 had Kadan Bart Rockett, a 10-year-old illusionist who can pull off large-scale tricks such as pulling many girls out of a box or escaping a wall of advancing chainsaws while handcuffed. It helps that his father is a large-scale magician himself.
    • The winner of Season 11, Grace VanderWaal was a 12-year-old singer-songwriter who exclusively played original songs. She is the second-youngest contestant to win the show after Bianca Ryan.
    • Season 12 had two child performers, 12-year-old singing ventriloquist Darci Lynne, and 10-year-old singer Angelica Hale, who made it all the way to the Top Two, with the former eventually winning. Also of note were 13-year-old singer Evie Clair, who was a finalist, and 9-year-old singer Celine Tam and 12-year-old dancer Merrick Hanna, who both reached the Semifinals.
  • Christmas Episode: Although the series usually airs during the summer, the series has done a few Christmas specials, featuring returning acts in Christmas-themed performances, and Christmas-related segments involving the judges.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Several of the hopeless auditionees are downright weird. Most notably, Ronald Farnham whose act is throwing plungers onto five hairy guys' backs to make them stick. He even says that he's trying to inspire people with his act.
  • Comeback Mechanic: In theory, the Golden Buzzer acts as one, as it can be used once per season by each judge and which overrides any downvotes by other judges. When first introduced in Season 9, it saved an act from elimination; from Season 10 on, it sends the act directly into the live rounds. Its use has since expanded from just the judges to the host (in Season 11), to the judges and host as a group (Season 16), to the audience (Season 18). In practice, however, it instead tends to be used as an extra reward for an act good enough to go through anyway.
  • Commercial Break Cliffhanger: One of many NBC shows that abuses this.
  • Cool Old Guy: Season 14 shows Edson (55) and Leon (84) with a hand-balancing act that you'd usually see in men a quarter their age. For comparison, the other balancing act this year (Messoudi Brothers) are at least a quarter of Leon's age.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: A lot of acts are either so fantastic, or so ridiculous, that there's no way they can succeed, but they do.
    • From Season 7 is a man playing a broom shaft like a flute.
    • Season 10 brings Piff the Magic Dragon, a comedy magician who comes on-stage in a cheesy cheap dragon costume and claims he's a real dragon. Then he does real magic with a dash of good comedy, and somehow it works, as he made it to the top 10.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Several acts initially present as something underwhelming or goofy, but then prove to be actually excellent performers.
    • Prince Poppycock is probably the gold standard; the man comes onstage in an exaggerated dandy costume, then performs one of the most difficult arias in the world for a man to sing.
    • Puddles dresses up as a Sad Clown, but has a gorgeous baritone voice.
    • Kenichi Ebina showed up on stage admitting he did "dance-ish moves." His "dance-ish" performance turned out to be a Genre-Busting dance mimicking a fight from The Matrix and including some very difficult and impressive dance moves.
  • Cuteness Proximity:
    • Sharon Osbourne immediately starts applauding when an animal act opens with a bunch of cats jumping out of a box. In fact, she acts like this with just about every animal act.
    • Simon, as usual, is an absolute sucker for anything with animals. When magician/mind-reader/who-knows-what Colin Cloud auditioned in season 12 and his act included a white kitten, Simon's first comment was "Can I hold it?"
    • During Adrian Stoica and Hurricane's finale act, Cat Cora kept getting distracted by her furry sous chef.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Nick Cannon, in response to some of the more unusual acts.
    • Piff the Magic Dragon, a British comedian who performs magic tricks in a dragon suit, is a hilarious example who became one of Season 10's first success stories.
  • Deliberately Cute Child: There's always a few acts that probably wouldn't get as far as they did if they weren't cute kids, and at least one such act will have a comment to the effect that while the act is amazing itself, it's even more amazing because the performer(s) is/are so young.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The Season 10 failed act named the Gem City Jewels.
  • Digital Head Swap: Metaphysic in Season 17. Rather than being performers, they're tech guys working on AI that can overlay a different face on someone live as they're being filmed. They used this to stage performances "by" the judges, Terry, and in the finale, Elvis Presley.
  • Disabled Snarker: The series has seen multiple disabled comedians compete, and as most comedians tend to joke about their own lives, the disabled ones generally have sets making light of their conditions. These include Drew Lynch (Season 10 and Champions Season 1, severe stutter), Lee Ridley the "Lost Voice Guy" (Britain's Got Talent winner and Champions Season 1, cerebral palsy), Ryan Niemiller (Season 14 and Champions Season 2, deformed arms), Josh Blue (Season 16, cerebral palsy), and Ahren Belisle (Season 18, cerebral palsy).
  • Don't Think, Feel: Quoted verbatim by Rogue, a danger magician, when he and Mel B participate in Russian roulette with staple guns and Mel says that she thinks a gun is empty.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: In the Season 12 Quarterfinals, Simon compares Demian Aditya's botched act to "Mel B's wedding night" prompting her to throw her drink at Simon and storm off in a rage. At the time Mel B was going through an ugly divorce with producer Stephen Belafonte, whom she has accused of emotional and physical abuse.
  • Enemy Mime: During the Season 9 auditions, one incident involved a mime that got really hostile when he was buzzed. Subverted as it was Nick playing a prank.
  • Epic Fail: For a talent show, there are surprisingly a lot of fail acts that are weird, dangerous, or just plain stupid. This particular act goes to show that not all America Got Talent.
    • Primitivo Montoya's audition in season 6 began with him singing and dancing poorly to Taio Cruz's "Dynamite", with Piers the first to make his opinion known. Then, he breakdanced right off the stage. Somehow unscathed, he got right back up on stage and continued from where he left off, but not before Howie hit everyone else's buzzer to finally end it.
    • In Season 6, Kinetic King spent two or three days setting up a Chain-Reaction Gadget (NOT a Rube Goldberg Device) for his first Hollywood performance, but when the time came to set it off it failed to do much of anything for no discernible reason. To everybody's credit, he took the failure in stride and the audience and judges acted sympathetically. (He was later given a do-over on the Wild Card show, and America put him through to the semifinals.)
    • The YouTube episode for Season 7 was a failure on so many levels, with the largest number of acts ever buzzed in one quarterfinal. It really says something about your show when one of the highlights of the night was a dancing handkerchief. It's also telling that this was the last time they did such a show.
    • Cristin Sandu, a balancing act from season 7, fell on-stage in his quarterfinal, abruptly ending his performance. He said afterwards that he never fell before in a performance. He was brought back for the Wild Card, but fell again, and was visibly frustrated afterwards.
    • For one that never made it to air, comedian The Greg Wilson performed a bit in the Season 8 auditions that he stole... from the warm-up man, Frank Nicotero... who was standing right there... and it was his signature bit. Which Howie showed the other judges on YouTube. Wilson got past the judges at first, but was promptly disqualified for theft and his footage cut from the broadcast before airing. For more info, here's a Game Show Garbage column about the incident.
    • Season 8 had Ronald Farnham throw plungers onto the backs of his friends to make them stick, only to throw ten and get only one to stick.
    • Similarly to Cristin Sandu, ladder balancing act Uzeyer Novruzov fell in Season 10's semifinals. He wasn't seriously hurt, and did well enough in audience votes to make it to the finals, but it did mean that he couldn't perform at his best in the final show. He later returned for The Champions Season 1 and redeemed himself by succeeding at the act.
  • Escape Artist: Spencer Horsman (Season 7), who claims to be the world's youngest escapist; and Alexandria the Great (Season 8), who is a middle-aged female escape artist.
  • Face Palm: In Season 3, David Hasselhoff throws one out to a botched magic act. Later on in Season 6, Piers does the "both hands on face" variation in response to the Wild-Card return of "Those Funny Little People."
  • Finale Production Upgrade: At the final episode of the season, the show will usually will include the host and judges dressed to the nines, more complex acts by the competitors, famous guest stars relevant to those acts, and a much larger and serious-looking stage with an audience to match.
  • Funny Background Event: In Season 8, Kenichi Ebina became known for dance routines that interacted with prerecorded footage played behind him; and after one based on a Mirror Routine the footage kept going even after the act ended, with the Kenichi in the "mirror" playing around during the judging.
  • Gag Penis: Invoked in one of Tapeface's bits in Season 11. He calls Howie up onstage and puts two strips of tape over Howie's nipples, and tears a third one off, allowing for a ridiculous length that Howie accepts. After consideration, Tapeface tears it in half and tears it again at a short length. (Turns out, the third piece of tape went on Howie's chest, forming a nose in the singing-envelope-mouthed face he was creating.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Adrian Stoica's dog has the rather gender-neutral if not masculine name of Hurricane. All the judges refer to Hurricane as "he", until Simon asks about it in the live show, and Adrian confirms that Hurricane is a girl.
  • Genre Blind:
    • Despite slow, sleepy acts in the quarter-finals and beyond being pretty much a guarantee of getting axed from the competition, people keep trying them.
    • Defied by magician Derek Hughes in the Season 10 semifinals. After doing a close-up magic trick inspired by bedtime stories, he explained that he wanted to show his range and that he could do small-scale magic as well as big spectacles. The judges accepted this explanation and Howard in particular supported it.
  • Genre-Busting: Season 8's Kenichi Ebina. Is he a dancer? Mime? Video director? What he does defies explanation. When he returns to perform during the finals in the next season, Nick lampshades it's hard to classify what he does.
  • Groin Attack: One performer in Season 5 had a vaguely-defined act that seemed to center around setting his crotch on fire. In itself...not very funny. Getting buzzed almost immediately by two of the judges, followed by Nick (who had gotten roped into helping him by handing him a lighter) begging Howie to press the final buzzer? Probably not the kind of laughs he intended, but...
  • Hand-or-Object Underwear: Seasons 12, 16, and 18 all had acts where multiple men did a routine completely naked, dancing around while using props to keep themselves covered. The Season 12 act used pans, while Season 16 had towels and Season 18 had paddles.
  • Hopeless Auditionees: Many genuine, but with a few notable subversions. Admit it, how many of you thought Prince Poppycock was going to be a train wreck before he started singing?
    • Definitely worthy of mention is Leonid the Magnificent. He auditioned in Season 1 with a unique performance (and in a Stripperiffic outfit) and was rejected. Hasselhoff brought him back, probably just to watch a train wreck. He performed a hula hoop dance wearing a tube thong and a pair of shorts and was again rejected. He returned for Season 2, eliciting an "Oh no" from David. Sharon enjoyed the camp of his act and Piers put him through just to piss off David. He was quite obviously eliminated later. He returned again in Season 6 with a quick change act (including one behind an "I Love Piers" banner. Piers' reaction was classic. Sharon still loved him. Howie was impressed by his ability to change up his act.
    • The biggest subversion of them all? Kenichi Ebina, the Japanese immigrant who many thought was going to be another train wreck based on the fact that he spoken broken English and claimed that he didn't dance so much as do "dance-ish" moves. Then his performance began, and his "dance-ish" moves were actually pretty impressive- and as the Genre-Busting entry proves, "dance-ish" is probably the closest anyone's ever got to properly describing his act. He got even better in the live shows, where he flawlessly combined his moves with prerecorded footage, and he ultimately won.
    • At least as big a subversion as Kenichi is Season 10's "Professional Regurgitator", who is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. He didn't win, but he managed to make it to the finals and earn fourth place with an act of swallowing stuff and bringing it back up.
  • Hypocrite:
    • In the semi-finals of Season 8, Mel B told The Amazing Red Panda she doesn't like her performance since she's seen her do it it before. Yet she used her Wildcard pick on Tone the Chiefrocca, the aspiring one-hit wonder artist who sings the same song every time he comes on.
    • Piers in Season 3 said no to Billy Dodson, a man singing female opera, in which he told him to sing like a man, yet on Britain's Got Talent he said yes to another guy who did the same thing. To be fair, Dodson wasn't particularly good at what he was trying to do.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • The judges (minus Howie) letting The Greg Wilson advance in Season 8, even though it was clear that he was performing with plagiarized material. The producers later stepped in and disqualified him.
    • As far as actual performances go, attempting to audition as an Elvis impersonator dressed in his late-life Vegas clothing is a guaranteed way to identify yourself as a dunce to the judges and audience as soon as you step onto the stage and into their view. One Elvis wannabe from Season 2 was booed right away as soon as he appeared, with the judges doing a Face Palm, and got buzzed before he could perform. When he was allowed to sing, he lasted 5 seconds.
    • Another instance from that season was a mime who appeared in the third episode. He begins dancing to "You Can't Touch This"... and then begins singing. Piers and David immediately buzz him, Sharon follows after a few more lines when it became apparent that he was a very bad singer. Piers rips him a new one for it.
  • In the Style of: Some musical acts like to take a hit song and recast it into their own music genre. Season 8 has seen "Call Me Maybe" and "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" in the style of a symphony orchestra, "I'm Sexy and I Know It" in the style of mariachi, and all of Cami Bradley's slower, sultrier covers.
  • Incendiary Exponent: A common tactic among acts. For example in Season 6, Sandou Trio Russian Bar added it to a bed of nails, and Summerwind Skippers added it to a long jump rope.
  • Inept Talent Show Contestant: The presence of these in the early rounds is kind of a given.
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: This happens all the time; numerous acts are applauded by the judges not merely for their talent, but for coming out to perform and being so good at their talent in spite of their handicap.
  • Intergenerational Rivalry: Season 16 had Gerald and Hunter Kelly, father-and-son comedians who auditioned separately did their initial routines about each other — Gerald did the usual "parenting" schtick, while Hunter poked fun at his dad's career choice and how he has the same job as a seven-year-old.
  • Ironically Disabled Artist:
    • Season 10 has two: Benjamin Yonattan, who continues to dance even as his eyesight is rapidly deteriorating and having a skin condition that makes him bruise and hurt himself much easier than he should; and Drew Lynch, a comedian whose severe stutter interferes with telling jokes. In Drew's case, he compensated by making most of his jokes about his stutter.
    • Season 12 has Mandy Harvey, a musician who lost her hearing sometime during her college years. She trains herself to continue to sing by feeling the vibrations in herself and the floor, and by using a guitar tuner to help her gauge her notes.
    • In Season 13, Brian King Joseph is a violinist that's losing feeling and the use of his hands, and Duo Transcend is a trapeze act where the man is losing his eyesight. Both later appeared in The Champions Season 2, where they reported that they were receiving treatment for their conditions.
    • The Champions included Britain's Got Talent winner Lee Ridley, the "Lost Voice Guy". He's a comedian who has cerebral palsy and can't even talk, instead using a text-to-speech device.
    • Season 18 has Ahren Belisle, who is in the same position as Lee Ridley in that he is a comedian with cerebral palsy and tells jokes through a speech app. He comments that the app actually helps his delivery, as waiting for him to type out the text heightens anticipation.
  • It's the Same, Now It Sucks!:invoked The Judges often don't think too highly of acts that do things they've seen before, or acts that keep relying on the same stunts.
    • In the early seasons, Stage Magician acts were victim to this on the grounds that they've seen all the tricks before. Drew Thomas Magic called them out on this in Season 4.
      • Piers specifically subverts this with Season 1 bird magician Elliot Zimet. He mentions that he's always hated dove acts as they are boring and never change, but that Elliot managed to spice it up enough to send him on to the next round.
    • In Season 1 they slammed Quick Change for having just one routine they repeated every time they were on, with Piers becoming very annoyed and insulting for their final two appearances (he began Xing them at that point). (Also, when they did a guest performance in Season 5, it was the same act again. Despite this, they claim to have a 90-minute routine.)
    • After their Top 10 performance, West Springfield Dance Team was criticized by the judges for being too same throughout Season 6. In an interesting variation, it was the theme of their performances (dark, broody production values), not their actual dancing, that bored the judges.
    • Tone the Chiefrocca fared better than Quick Change did in doing the same act every week with "B-Double O-T-Y" in Season 8 - it helped that they admitted up front that they had only one song which they intended to ride as long as they could - but by the time they were eliminated some of the judges noted that the song had run its course.
    • Discussed in the Season 8 finale, as the performers were supposed to go back and revisit a prior act — but Taylor Williamson is a comedian, and he and Howie talk about how jokes aren't as funny the second time they're told. Most of the humor in Taylor's subsequent act came from his ridiculous attempts to enhance old jokes, rather than the jokes themselves.
  • Iwo Jima Pose: Utilized by dance group Silhouette in their Season 6 "Thank You America" performance.
  • Jerkass:
    • Piers runs on Brutal Honesty, but often crosses into just plain mean. Not only have several child contestants been brought to tears by his comments, but he's advised family acts that one particular member of the group is the best and they're being held back performing with their family who aren't as good.
    • Howard Stern's ego is almost as out of control as Piers at times, and he will talk over the other judges when it comes time to comment on the acts and they try to disagree with him.
  • Jerk Ass Has A Point: Most people do begrudgingly agree with Piers', Howard's, and Simon's decisions on bad performances.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Piers, Howard, and Simon are nicer to more talented performers. Likewise, Howard is nicer to children, and he feels guilty when he unintentionally makes a seven-year-old rapper cry and Piers will sometimes let hopeless auditionees finish their act. In Seasons 13 and 14, Simon stopped a couple singers that he felt weren't doing well and, instead of ejecting them, let them try a different song.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Doogie Horner did this during the Season 5 wild card show.
    "It feels great to be back on this show that America has clearly said they have no desire to see me on."
    • Taken one step further in his quarter-final show when he makes a misogyny joke...and a troupe of pig-mask wearing showgirls dance on stage while he hits himself over the head with the mike.
  • Levitating Lotus Position: Special Head in Season 8 was able to do something of this sort in his audition, but it failed during the live show.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: The specialty of Season 5 competitors ArcAttack, who made music with it.
  • Limited Lyrics Song: Parodied in Season 14. One act goes onstage to sing karaoke... and chooses "Tequila". It's a gag act where the joke is that he's standing awkwardly onstage during most of the music, just waiting for the next time to shout "Tequila!"
  • Love Redeems: One contestant in Season 10's auditions is a mentalist-magician. He openly admits to being a former confidence man who was in jail. He willingly turned himself into the police after he met a woman on a con and fell genuinely in love with her. She waited for him during his five-year sentence.
  • Made of Iron: The Smage Bros., a stunt biking act in Season 6, have this opinion of their assistant Troy Smalls, as he risks his life getting injured constantly, and does get injured at times, but keeps coming back.
  • The Man in the Mirror Talks Back: One of Kenichi Ebina's acts included The Man In The Mirror Dances Back.
  • Manipulative Editing: Blue Velvet in Season 1 (the first act that ever got buzzed out) appeared to have been buzzed by all three judges almost instantaneously. After it aired, the group posted an unedited video on their MySpace page showing that their audition lasted for about a minute before they were buzzed out.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover: America's Got Talent: The Champions brings together past Got Talent acts from all over the world to compete in one big "All-Star" competition, with the winner being crowned "Best in the World".
  • Me's a Crowd: Well, not literally (nobody's yet entered a cloning act), but one of Kenichi Ebina's specialties was having multiple versions of himself on-stage through pre-recorded footage; the cast of a fighting game, his mirror self, and eight backup dancers for the finals.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: A lot of acts involve putting a crazy twist on something mundane.
    • Playing music is normal, but what about playing it on a tesla coil, or with the entire theater?
    • Upchucking usually isn't something that could be considered a talent, but the Professional Regurgitator managed to get to the finals by swallowing and then regurgitating stuff.
    • Lea Kyle made it to the finals with an act based on her changing clothes.
  • Muppet Cameo:
    • Terry Fator got to perform with Kermit in the Season 2 finals, where they got "judged" by the Swedish Chef, Beaker, and Animal.
    • Kermit and Piggy were also guest performers in Season 4 (and when Nick got annoyed by some of the chicken backup singers, he threatened to sic contestant Kevin Skinner - a chicken farmer in his day job - on them).
    • The Muppets appeared in a Season 9 show as well, even performing a Hostile Takeover of the intro sequence after Nick tried (and failed) to tell Miss Piggy she wouldn't be performing.
    • Rowlf appeared in the finale of The Champions Season 1 to sing with Darci Lynne.
  • My Greatest Second Chance:
    • Donald Braswell, who finished fourth in Season 3, got into the Top 40 because a Russian Bar act had to withdraw due to injury. Since then the judges get to make Wild Card picks of previously-eliminated acts to give another try in the semifinals. The Russian Bar Trio would later get their own second chance when they returned to compete in Season 11.
    • Occasionally an act is someone who had one been in the entertainment business, but had to leave for some reason or another, and now they're on AGT to give it another try. One notable example is the Masqueraders in Season 12, a black singing trio who had a hit song during the days of segregation. Their first live show performance was the premiere of a single they had originally planned to release nearly fifty years prior until the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination disrupted recording plans and ultimately their careers.
    • During The Champions Season 1, both Uzeyer Novruzov and Ryan Stock & AmberLynn decided to re-try stunts that went wrong and led to injury in their first runs on the show. Both succeeded in their do-overs. Ryan and AmberLynn later came back again in Season 16, but they were there to help Simon prank the other judges and not as legitimate contestants this time.
    • Sandou Trio Russian Bar (different from the above-mentioned Russian bar act) lost Season 6 when they made the bad decision to do an act that had nothing to do with the Russian bar. They returned in The Champions Season 2 to redeem themselves by getting back to what they were good at.
    • Country rock duo Broken Roots was eliminated in the Judges Cuts in Season 15, but was brought back to the live shows in the eleventh hour when another act contracted COVID-19 and had to drop out. They went on to finish second.
  • Naked People Are Funny: The Men with Pans.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Comes up from time to time, but two blatant back-to-back examples during Season 7's auditions: First, episode promos suggested that a human cannonball stunt would go horribly wrong when in reality it went fine; and then the next episode showed that a girl would get hurt during an act that involved a chainsaw - but the injury was that she got lockjaw from holding a huge apple in her mouth during the act, not anything chainsaw-related.
    • Another from Season 8 had a commercial for the final auditions episode of the season that implied there was going to be a "Susan Boyle moment" (as said by Howard Stern). It showed an old woman with white hair that's curled like Stern's coming out to the stage before the words "Susan Boyle moment" was said. When she finally came out near the end of the episode, it turned out that she was a bad singer who was simply a big fangirl of Howard and likely only came on the show to meet him. Stern, who was on stage with her rather than in his seat as shown on the commercial, did say the words, but it was obvious that Susan Boyle she ain't. NBC, you trolls.
    • A similar example appears in Season 14 in the form of Ben Trigger. All of the promos for the fifth audition show built up a Golden Buzzer, with Howie being heard saying it's his "favorite Golden Buzzer moment". By the time this episode aired (and apparently by the time this audition was filmed), all judges and host Terry Crews have used their Golden Buzzer except for Julianne Hough. It was the last segment of the show, with constant clips discussing Julianne's Golden Buzzer. The man was clearly being built up as a fitting choice, from being a dancer as well as a fan of hers, to having a fairly sympathetic backstory. Julianne even takes a liking to him before his performance begins... And then his dancing turns out to be average at best... And then he does a burlesque striptease... And just when you're thinking that Julie's much-hyped Golden Buzzer choice is nothing more than a joke act... it turns out she doesn't give it to him; He gives it to himself! Naturally, this doesn't count, but he still gets four yeses from the judges and moves to the next round. Turns out that Howie's comment in the promos was said in jest, and viewers must now wait two more weeks for the last audition show to find out who Julianne actually gives the Golden Buzzer to.
  • Nice Girl: Tyra is consistently bubbly and friendly to all of the contestants.
  • Nice to the Waiter: In a very specific (and very sweet) example, Simon — yes, Simon — will always ask the name of the sign language interpreter for deaf or hard-of-hearing contestants and shake their hand.
  • Non-Ironic Clown: Puddles Pity Party the singing clown in Season 12 at first appears to be a Sad Clown (and is so in demeanor), but his incredible singing performance has the whole theater on their feet by the end.
  • The Not-Love Interest:
    • The guitarist and singer duo Eric and Olivia (season 7) get confused for being a couple by many people, including the judges. They're really just close friends (Eric actually has a girlfriend).
    • Season 9 has a pair of male dancers; one gay, one straight, and they keep having to clarify that they're not a couple.
  • Obliquely Obfuscated Occupation: As Geechy Guy said in Season 6, deferring to Howie after being put down by Piers:
    Well, since I'm not exactly sure what Piers does for a living I think I'll go with the opinion of the actual comedian.
  • Oh, Crap!: A reaction to something awesome. This is the judges' reactions when Darci Lynne starts singing... and after a second, they realize that she's ventriloquist-singing through her rabbit. Simon's jaw-drop says it all, as does Mel B's wide-eyed reaction.
  • Oh, No... Not Again!: The reaction of Piers when Leonid the Magnificent returns in season 6.
  • Old Media Playing Catch-Up:
    • Averted; the first seven seasons had a special round where people audition over a social networking site (originally MySpace, later YouTube). In Seasons 5-7, the guest performances for the YouTube results shows are viral video stars as well. This was dropped after Season 7, as beyond Jackie Evancho they've almost never produced anything good from these special MySpace/YouTube shows (and the S7 show was a particularly big failure); Season 9 has its own home-submission contest but run through The Today Show rather than a website.
    • In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the judges to hold the final round of auditions online. These auditions (featuring acts who were due to audition in person before most American states went into lockdown) were screened on YouTube weeks before they were aired on the show itself.
  • One-Hit Wonder: invoked Tone the Chiefrocca in Season 8 aimed to become this with his rap number "B-Double-O-T-Y".
  • Overly Long Gag: Mary Ellen's Vegas Week performance in Season 5 went on for about ten minutes.
  • "Pan Up to the Sky" Ending: How the Season 15 finale ends, which makes sense since the finale was filmed at Universal Studios Hollywood and it ends perfectly with a clear night sky as fireworks explode.
  • Percussive Maintenance: During Adrian Stoica's gardening act, his lawnmower stops working. Hurricane then goes to his box of tools and fetches a hammer for him.
  • Pet the Dog: Simon will defend any dog act and even when they mess up, he will be far less harsh with them than with other contestants. And he will, in fact, pet the canine contestants.
  • The Pollyanna: Nightbirde. Not many people can take metastatic cancer with a 2% survival chance so well.
  • Polly Wants a Microphone: Trained parrot acts occasionally appear. Season 6 had a couple get past Vegas Week, though they didn't last long in the vote.
  • The Prankster: Howie. Every season with him usually includes at least one segment showing him pulling a prank on the other judges, the auditionees, or even random people in the city.
  • Product Placement:
    • In the audition rounds there's a sponsor-branded segment (always a snack food or drink company) where the judges discuss the acts backstage; for the live rounds this is replaced with a segment during the results shows, where the performers are shown hanging out after the previous night's show and Nick/Terry or one of the judges chats with them. Sponsors also get their name attached to various events in the show, like special episodes or votes, or if it's a drink brand their name will be on cups on the judges' table.
    • Car sponsors also appear occasionally, with an otherwise unrelated segment late in the season taking place in a new car in order to show it off; and free cars being gifted to finalists.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Junior New System in Season 13, an all-male dance crew whose signature is doing their routines in heels.
  • Reclusive Artist:invoked Oskar and Gaspar in Season 12. They've never even shown up in person; their act involves video mapping projected on people's bodies, so they design the music and visuals at home and execute the actual performances through proxies.
  • Refuge in Audacity: A few acts are actually able to make it through the audition round due to sheer audacity.
  • Review Ironic Echo: When this contestant in Season 5 chose to audition with the song "You're No Good," Piers Morgan remarked, "I don't think I've ever seen a singer choose a more appropriate song to sing. What was the lyric again? 'You're no good, you're no good, you're no good, you're no good!'"
  • Right-Hand Cat: Referenced in Season 12. One audition involved a cat, whom the judges were allowed to pet afterwards. Simon joked that now that he's stroking a white cat, he's ready to take over the world.
  • The Roast:
    • J. Chris Newberg gave one to Piers in Season 6. Ironically, it was this performance that he was able to win Piers over after being a target of his criticism in all previous episodes.
    • For the traditional performance with a celebrity in Season 7's finale, comedian Tom Cotter teamed up with Joan Rivers to roast the judges and Nick.
    • Season 10 had another in its finale; Drew Lynch and Gary Vider traded a few barbs, but Howie said they were too nice and so brought in special guest "Roastmaster General" Jeff Ross to help them, who took shots at everyone from the two finalists to the judges to Donald Trump in the Republican debate also airing that night.
    • After Simon frequently criticized comedians during Season 17, the finale had finalist Mike E. Winfield lead the season's comedians and Jeff Ross retaliate by roasting him (plus a Digital Head Swap version of Simon from fellow finalists Metaphysic praising "himself").
  • Rousing Speech: Gabrielle Union gives a moving one during Kodi Lee's first audition in season 14, after Kodi Lee wows the judges and Kodi's mom tells the judges about why she's so proud of him.
    Gabrielle Union: I’m a new judge this season and I’m also a new mom this year...and it’s the toughest job I’ve ever had and the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. You just want to give your kids the moon and stars and rainbows. And tonight... I’m gonna give you something special. [cue Golden Buzzer]
  • The Runner-Up Takes It All: Even if you don't win the money and the guaranteed Vegas show, even showing up on AGT can be very good for your career—providing you aren't hopeless on it, of course. It's probably the best exposure you could ask for. Multiple acts didn't win their seasons but have won success afterwards:
    • In Season 5, they brought back some alumni for guest performances: dance group JabbaWockeeZ auditioned in Season 2 before hitting it big on America's Best Dance Crew and moving on to a successful tour and Las Vegas contract; Season 4's third-placers, Recycled Percussion, now have a show in Vegas as well; and Quick Change's act from Season 1 became a YouTube hit and are now the NBA's official halftime act.
    • It's been theorized that the only reason that 10-year-old Jackie Evancho was the runner-up in Season 5 is that producers felt uncomfortable about having a 10-year-old act in Las Vegas. (Season 1 did not have a Las Vegas deal in its grand prize, allowing 11-year-old Bianca Ryan to win the competition without any regrets.) Possibly disproven with Grace Vanderwaal, a 12-year-old ukulele-playing pop singer, winning Season 11.
    • Lindsey Stirling made it as far as the quarter-finals in Season 5. Thanks to subsequent exposure on YouTube, she now has a lucrative touring and recording career. Came full circle when she returned to perform as an act in the Vegas rounds of Season 9 and it was mentioned she's done pretty well for herself after losing in Season 5.
    • Subverted with Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. and Silhouettes, as both were very good performers with the former performing jazz around the country and the latter becoming motivational speakers.
    • Even though Angelica Hale takes the second-place crown at the end of season 12, she did win something more meaningful. She still got to go to Las Vegas with Darci Lynn, and following the finale, the two had been best friends ever since.
  • Running Gag:
    • In season 6, Piers started poking fun at Nick's (often strange) suits in response to his questioning Piers' usual "jerk judge" methods.
    • Piers and Howard have a policy to buzz any juggling act if they dropped one of their items.
    • Howie and Howard's invoked Ho Yay.
    • Mel B throwing water on Simon when he says something that annoys her.
    • Each time the winner is about to be announced, there's always a big pause. During this, the audience would be cheering, clapping, and also arguing and bickering over who the winner is.
    • In Season 17: Celia Munoz's ventriloquist act always involve her getting a call from a guy named Manolo in the middle of her singing.
  • Sad Clown: Subverted by Puddles Pity Party in Season 12, a towering silent clown who wears tear makeup and a frown, and mimes a broken heart to the judges panel and the cameras...then blows the whole crowd out of the water with a jaw-dropping performance of "Chandelier". By the time he's done, the entire crowd is on their feet applauding.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Jackie Evancho, age 10. Jackie Evancho, age 18. Puberty did nothing to her singing talent.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Played up in Season 8, where a brother and sister performed in different dance duos (see The Bus Came Back above), and the show pit them directly against each other as many times as possible.
  • The Silent Bob:
    • Tapeface in Season 11, a mime act who tapes his mouth shut (as you might have guessed from the name) and refuses to remove it even for things like backstage interview segments.
    • Subverted with Puddles Pity Party in Season 12 (and later The Champions Season 2). He appears on his audition interview in frowning makeup, miming that he has a broken heart. Then he gets on stage... and just belts out an opera-quality version of "Chandelier". Then goes right back into Silent and Sad mode when the judges praise his performance.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis:
    • Howie and Piers really don't get along; even at their best it was Teeth-Clenched Teamwork. When Piers returned as a guest judge in Season 10, the two acknowledged this and the editors played it up all they could.
    • After being finalists together in Season 12, the winner Darci Lynne Farmer has become one to runner-up Preacher Lawson. He came up short against her again in The Champions Season 1, and then Season 14 scheduled them both for guest appearances on the same night...
      • Luckily, Angelica Hale was never rivals with Darci Lynn, and after meeting together during the auditions, the two had been total partners-in-crime and even performed together during the season 12's headline show in Las Vegas.
  • Slapstick: Adrian Stoica and Hurricane's dog-act mostly involve Hurricane making all sort of mischief to her owner. In the auditions, she yanks him off his bed, steals his hat, then knocks him to the floor when he tries to get it back. In the quarterfinals, she entangles him with a gardening hose, then knocks him into the trash can while he's gardening.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Piers has a tendency to act, and sometimes outright say, that Sharon's and Howie's opinions are wrong, solely because they conflict with his. For example, in Season 6 Lys Agnes's performance got a lukewarm reception from Howie and Sharon. Then came time for Piers:
    "Lys... ignore them. They’re talking complete claptrap."
  • The Snack Is More Interesting: As part of his utter deadpan-ness, Piff the Magic Dragon (Season 10) usually spent the post-act judging preparing a snack. One time he even received a takeoudelivery while the judges critiqued him.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Invoked by Ryan Stock and Amberlynn Walker in their first live round performance in Season 11, where Ryan's sword swallowing act was accompanied by a 1960's sitcom-style staging and "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows" playing in the background, presumably to soften the impact of the otherwise gruesome and bizarre things they were doing to begin with.
    • Season 13 brought us Merrick Hanna, a robot-pop/animation-style dancer. Instead of the hard rock or techno music usually used for these performances, he chose I Built a Friend by Alec Benjamin - a sad, slow pop ballad. The judges were extremely impressed by his ability to use the dance to tell the story from the music.
  • Spin-Offspring: After Light Balance competed in Season 12, the founder formed a second spinoff group for children. Light Balance Kids took the stage in Season 14.
  • Stage Magician: There's usually a fair amount of these acts. So far, two have won: Mat Franco in Season 9 and Shin Lim in Season 13. Lim would later come back and become the first two-time winner in The Champions.
  • Stealth Parody: Chipps Cooney's act in Season 5. Howie and Sharon thought he was hilarious, but Piers refused to believe he was going for Stylistic Suck. In the same season, Howie thought that this was what the Indian impersonator was going for...but given his reaction to Howie's explanation of it, he was just bad. In both of these, Howie was directing the respective acts and his fellow judges to see the So Bad, It's Good part.
  • The Stoic: Season 8's Sprice. Even more so Piff the Magic Dragon in Season 10; Stiff Upper Lip and all that.
  • Stuffy Old Songs About the Buttocks: The aspiring One-Hit Wonder Tone the Chiefrocca and his song "B-Double-O-T-Y" in Season 8.
  • Stunned Silence: Jayy's audition for Season 16 starts with her backstory that explains how her parents are in heaven. As she explains the story that they were killed in a robbery in front of her very own eyes, you can hear nothing. Not even a pin drop.
  • Subverted Punchline: After Piff the Magic Dragon introduced himself in Season 10, he then said that you've probably heard of his brother... Steve.
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: Used by magician Mat Franco in his final act:
    Howie couldn't walk far, so he stepped towards the bar to tell a joke to a chick.
    But just as before he fell on the floor. She said "What a d-... despicable person!"
  • Take That, Audience!: Piers delivered this when it was revealed male pole dancer Steven Retchless was in the Season 6 semifinals.
    Piers: I think America did get it wrong.
  • Team Mom: Out of all of the hosts, Tyra Banks has been the most maternal (her being the only female host in the show's history notwithstanding). While Jerry Springer and Nick Cannon acted like fun confidants to contestants and their families, Tyra is more of a motherly type, usually embracing the ones who need it (during an emotional moment, etc).
  • Television Serial: Rarely, a performer may do a continuous narrative throughout all their acts. One who has done this is Freelusion Dance Company (Season 10). As of yet, none have gotten to the finals to be able to finish their story.
  • Tempting Fate: When Terry Fator first took the stage in Season 2, Hasselhoff infamously commented "Oh no, a ventriloquist." Given that he won, and is one of the bigger stars to come out of the show, the hosts love to point out the irony in that statement whenever Terry returns for a guest performance.
  • Terrified of Germs: Howie's a well-known germophobe. It can get hilarious (in a Crosses the Line Twice kind of way) when a performer, intentionally or not, hits his Trauma Button (see Dan Sperry in the Season 5 YouTube episode or the very first audition of Season 6).
  • That Came Out Wrong: While critiquing Lys Agnes' top 48 performance in Season 6, Howie starts off the way the other two judges did, by saying she looked stunning, however, he then added "The things I want to do to you." When everyone reacted, he clarified that he meant that he wanted to get a lot of people to vote for her.
    • He did it again at one point in Season 7, commenting that he didn't realize what he was saying until it came out of his mouth.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: invoked Many acts will change up their act during the later rounds in an attempt to show the full range of their talent and keep things fresh. Sometimes it works, other times the judges are unimpressed, complaining "that isn't what we put you through on". Oftentimes, though, this is justified, as they aren't very good at whatever else they are trying to do.
    • One of the most extreme instances came in Season 5 with Chipps Conney, a magician who relied on Stylistic Suck to make his act comedic. After getting through to Vegas on that, he suddenly dropped the magic act and decided to do a striptease-like dance. The judges were as confused as hell, and apparently America agreed since he didn't go through.
    • In Season 6, Sandou Trio Russian Bar decided to abandon the acrobatics entirely and instead play music while upside-down. They lost, and admitted when they returned for The Champions Season 2 what a bad idea it was.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Howie, during Season 6 with his antagonism of Piers. Just because the guy's mean doesn't mean you need to spray him with water from a squirt bottle then blow an air horn to drown him out.
  • Too Quirky to Lose: Practically one of the show's selling points; there are a lot of weird acts that go on this show, and some of them go quite far.
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: Britain's Got Talent.
  • Trauma Button: Don't even think of shaking Howie's hand or touching any part of his body (including his forehead) in any way. He'll have a panic attack.
  • Troll:
    • Piers does this a bit in playing up his "mean judge" role (Nick even tends to call him an "ogre" when he buzzes cute kid acts). In turn, Howie trolled Piers in Season 6; even bringing back Those Funny Little People as one of his Wild Card picks just so he could watch Piers recoil in horror (whether Howie's trolling is Kick the Dog or Kick The Son Of A Bitch is up to the viewer).
    • During his time on the show, Howard Stern often compared bad female music groups to the Spice Girls to get a rise out of Mel B.
    • Alex Hooper's act in 2018 amounted to insulting the judges and the audience. While Simon thought he was Actually Pretty Funny, everyone else in the room hated him. In 2020, he returned to apologize and perform another insult comedy routine, with the audience and judge Heidi Klum absent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He received three Yeses, making it through to the next round. He advanced to the quarterfinals but was eliminated afterwards.
  • Tron Lines: The dance group Light Balance uses these on their costumes.
  • Troublesome Pet: In season 18, Adrian Stoica and Hurricane's skits mostly involve Hurricane behaving as The Prankster towards her owner:
    • In the auditions, Hurricane yanks Adrian off the bed, steals the remote when he's trying to watch TV, pulls away the covers while he's getting changed, steals his hat, then knocks him on the floor when he tries to get it back.
    • In the quarterfinals, Hurricane wants to play catch while Adrian is gardening, and she tries to get his attention by pulling at his gardening hose and tangling him in it, knocking over the trash can he's using to prune some bushes, then finally knocking him into the can, before Adrian finally relents and agrees to play with her.
    • In the Finale performance featuring celebrity chef Cat Cora, Hurricane continually disrupts Adrian's cooking by eating his carrot, dropping a ladle into his sauce, knocking his hand while he's adding ingredients to make him spill his peas, switching his salt with sugar, stealing his tongs when he's about to plate his dish, then knocking him into the counter after he manages to snatch back the tongs, causing him to spill his dish all over the kitchen.
  • Ventriloquism: A few show up every season. In Season 2, the judges dreaded them and prepared themselves for the worst when they saw Terry Fator... who then blew him away when he started singing. Also notable were Paul Zerdin and Darci Lynne, who won Seasons 10 and 12, respectively.
  • Visual Puns: The audition performance of Hopeless Auditionee Al Harris in Season 8 revolved around these - for instance, he pulled out a multi-hued window shade and proclaimed "I'm color-blind!" To be fair, he was committed to his performance and some of his jokes were funny.
  • Viewer Gender Confusion: The judges initially thought Hurricane the dog was male (an easy mistake to make, given that male and female dogs mostly look the same and Hurricane doesn't have a feminine name) until Adrian Stoica corrected them.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Piers and Howie. Howard and Howie pick up the act to a lesser extent after Piers leaves.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Quite a bit of contestants.
    • Jackie Evancho on Season 5, and how! She has the voice of a pro-level soprano, and she was only eleven years old at the time.
    • Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. in Season 6. He's a big black guy with dreadlocks and facial hair, and he has a voice reminiscent of Sinatra.
    • Andrew De Leon in Season 7 is a goth kid with freaky eyes and guyliner... and he busts out a feminine opera voice.
      • Season 8 saw another operatic performance, this time coming out of a big black dude.
        Howie: [in disbelief] You didn't swallow Jackie Evancho, did you?!
    • Also from Season 8: Anna Christine is a 10 year old who sounds at least 10 years older when singing and even talking!
      • Season 8's Aaralyn O'Neil is essentially the opposite of Andrew de Leon — cute-as-a-button six-year-old girl singing a death metal/screamo song called "Zombie Skin."
    • Puddles Pity Party (Season 12) is a six-foot tall, heavyset and jowly clown who sings with a deep, rich, and powerful voice that would make a pro opera singer jealous.
  • The Watson: Simon himself on Extreme — he shamelessly admits that he is the opposite of an expert in extreme sports and stunt work, which is why Nikki Bella and Travis Pastrana were brought on to the judging panel, and he has no problem asking normal layman's questions so they can explain things to the audience.
  • Waxing Lyrical: Auditionees will occasionally ask Mel B if they're what she wants, what she really really wants.
  • Weak, but Skilled: In a way, this can accurately describe Season 9 winner Mat Franco as a magician. Instead of doing one massively impressive trick, his act generally consists of doing a bunch of smaller tricks in a short amount of time.
  • We Will Meet Again: Every season always ends with the host telling viewers that they'll be back next year with more aspiring stars and talents and invites the viewers to come audition and show them what they've got.
  • Wearing a Flag on Your Head: Prince Poppycock's Season 5 semifinals performance. Never has patriotism been so Camp.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Hasselhoff gets this when he buzzed a sword swallowing act while the person was in the middle of downing a sword! It was very stupid and dangerous to do, the guy obviously flinches and backstage notes that it nearly caused him to pierce his stomach. Sharon and Jerry do call him out on this.
    • In Season 6, Howie commented that the dance group "Purrfect Angelz" was "the best Hooters [he]'s ever seen". Piers, who buzzed the group, semi-jokingly asked that Howie apologize to them.
    • Later in Season 6, Gymkana had to stop an act after a minor accident with a burning hoop. During the judges' review afterwards Nick chides Piers that maybe the slip-up happened because he broke their concentration by buzzing them earlier.
    • In Season 7, Howard verbally attacked Howie for supporting bad lounge singer Big Barry over better musical acts like Andrew De Leon and rock/R&B/hip-hop band Wordspit and the Illest! (Of course, Howard personally liked Horse the Groin Attack victim, so he's one to talk.)
    • In Season 10, puppet act Ira was denied a yes by Mel B after he sang his heart out to her. Cue a massive jeer from the audience and the judges.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: IDEGO VR passed the auditions of Season 14, but weren't seen in Judge Cuts or for the rest of the season. Their posts on social media indicate they didn't even participate in Judge Cuts, being in Italy at the time.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?:
    • Mel B is terrified of spiders and jumps onstage with Nick when a guy puts five spiders on his face. She also doesn't understand how Heidi can like them.
    • Howie and germs as shown in Terrified of Germs.
    • David Hasselhoff did not like a sword swallowing act because he thought it was too scary for him.
    • Those Funny Little People (Season 6) creep out Piers more than anybody.
    • On the first episode of Extreme, Travis, Nikki, and Simon decide to watch one act from the top of the ramp (which is multiple stories tall). Travis isn't that bothered, but Nikki and Simon are both scared of heights, leading to the somewhat amusing sight of a WWE superstar and Simon Cowell clinging to the railings with a death grip for more or less the whole audition.
      Simon: I can't even look over!!


"She's Got That (P-E-N-I-S)"

Ray Jesse singing his personal song on America's Got Talent.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / BawdySong

Media sources: