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NBC Insider America's Got Talent

The Personal Reason Howie Mandel Embraces International Acts on AGT

The Judge explains welcoming acts from across the globe and why he calls AGT the "Olympics" of talent. 

By McKenzie Jean-Philippe
Yu Hojin Shocks The Audience With Jaw-Dropping Magic | NBC's AGT 2022

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

How to Watch

Watch AGT Tuesdays at 8/7c on NBC and next day on Peacock

Throughout the nine rounds of auditions we saw contestants representing everywhere from Austria to West Africa and Ukraine. Out of the Top 55 Acts headed to Live Shows, nearly half hail from a foreign country. And during the second Wednesday Live Results Show, girl group Chapel Hart and magician Yu Hojin became the third and fourth performers to advance to the finale. Hojin (who's originally from Seoul, South Korea) is the first international performer to do so of the season.

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. "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."

As for the few detractors who believe AGT should limit who auditions, Mandel has some words of wisdom.

"People always say, 'It’s supposed to be America's Got Talent, and they’re not American,' or 'They have 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. 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."

Watch AGT on NBC Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8/7c and next day on Peacock.