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Howie Mandel Reveals Why He Thinks So Many International Acts Audition for AGT

The America's Got Talent Judge revealed the reason he has "empathy" for the many amazing performers.

By McKenzie Jean-Philippe

Summer after summer America's Got Talent has welcomed Acts all over the world (just take a look back at AGT: The Champions). But Seasons 17 and 18, in particular, have been a standout when it comes to international talent.

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Throughout the nine rounds of auditions during Season 17 we saw contestants representing everywhere from Austria to West Africa and Ukraine. Out of the Top 55 Acts headed to Live Shows in 2022, nearly half hailed from a foreign country. The season's winners, The Mayyas, proudly traveled all the way from Lebanon to compete. The same can be said for AGT 18, with Acts like Japanese dance crew Chibi Unity and Brazil's Gabriel Henrique earning Golden Buzzers.

RELATED: All 55 Acts Advanced to the AGT 18 Live Shows

"The platform is bigger, and the standard I think is higher," The Mayyas' choreographer Nadim Cherfan told NBC Insider about AGT. "So for us to be able to compete against such talent, it was an honor for us. There are moments in this competition where it began with the Mayyas, the dream of the Mayyas, the dream of Nadim. But after the Golden Buzzer, it wasn't that at all anymore. It was a message of hope for all Arab women, for all Lebanese people around the world."

Why there are so many amazing international Acts on AGT

Mayyas receive a gold buzzer.

So why is it that talent from any and everywhere come to AGT to compete? For Judge Howie Mandel, who moved to the U.S. in the late 1970s to pursue comedy, the answer is simple.

"As somebody who was born and raised in Canada and came here to America — where I believe that I’ve been afforded the opportunity to have a career that I couldn’t have any other place, even my home country," he told NBC Insider in 2022, "I understand why people come here and get the exposure that you can get on America's Got Talent. So I have the empathy when they hit the stage of going, 'I get it.' I get why you would come across the whole globe."

For those who believe AGT should limit who auditions, Mandel has some words of wisdom.

Howie Mandel on America's Got Talent.

"People always say, 'It’s supposed to be America's Got Talent, and they’re not American,' or 'They have a record deal,'" the comedian said. "This is not an amateur show, this is a talent contest, and I don’t care if you’ve been in the business for decades and you’re making a living. You could show up. Or if you’re a 5-year-old kid, show up. Or if you’re just a group from Japan. It’s just a contest."

He continued, "The U.S. Open invites people to play tennis from all over the world. You don’t have to be American to win the U.S. Open, and you don’t have to be an amateur to win the U.S. Open. [AGT] is the Olympics of talent."

This article was originally published on August 19, 2022. It was updated on August 16, 2023.