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NBC Insider America's Got Talent

The Beautiful Reason Howie Mandel Keeps Doing AGT — Even Though He’s "Jaded"

For 14 years, people's ever-changing talents have never ceased to "bowl over" Howie Mandel. 

By Joe Dziemianowicz

Each week, America’s Got Talent lives up to the promise that’s spelled out in the show’s title. You never know what skills people have up their sleeves.

How to Watch

Watch America’s Got Talent Tuesdays at 8/7c on NBC and next day on Peacock

When it comes to AGT and Judge Howie Mandel, there’s just one conclusion to draw: He’s got staying power.

In advance of the upcoming new season, Mandel noted that he’s been with the show for over a decade. 

“Fourteen years,” he proudly told NBC Insider's Tara Bennett of the length of his tenure.

That’s a lot of singers, dancers, fire baton twirlers, magicians, and you-name-its to have judged over time. And in an era when people jump from one job to another quickly, it’s remarkable.

So what keeps Mandel coming back for more AGT?

“What is considered talent evolves,” said Mandel, adding that the same is true for “what will bowl you over, especially as somebody who’s been here that long. I am jaded.”

“But I’m telling you, I am continuously bowled over,” he continued, adding that the display of “humanity” is awesome. “People from all walks of life, from all corners of this planet, have the ability to come and bowl us over. And that’s amazing.”

Asked if he’s observed differences in the variety of talent in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mandel said he believes that “going through a world pandemic” has meant changes on a deep level.

“Yeah, I feel that people got in touch … with their mortality,” he said, adding that that may have resulted in a shift in “their philosophy.”

The quick-witted and observant comedian, author, and podcaster gazed down at his footwear to make the point more succinctly. 

He suggested that the Nike slogan – "Just do it" – has become an everyday mantra for people. There’s no time to waste making excuses or worrying about everybody’s approval.

“When something like [the pandemic] happens,” he said, “you go, ‘Listen, time is valuable.’”

As a result there’s been a change in the air this season for the Acts.

“I think that they’re showing up like they never did before, with much more vim and vigor,” he said. 

But the amplified thrill factor doesn’t just apply to the contestants: “That goes for the audience too. The excitement in the room is that much more.”

Another offshoot of the pandemic is his podcast — “Howie Mandel Does Stuff” which, he said, arose out of basic parental desire to spend time with Jackelyn Shultz, aka his daughter.

“That was something I did just to communicate with my daughter during COVID,” said Mandell. “And not because I thought it would be good for my career or I was gonna make money.”

The podcast has been “a good time” and paid off in other invaluable ways. “That’s a bright spot in my week: every time I could sit down with my daughter and talk to really interesting people about interesting things,” said Mandel.

As a seasoned standup comedian, Mandel knows it takes guts to get up in front of an audience. Watching AGT contestants show their courage has been inspirational — and not just for him.

He explained that Judges would always ask performers why they chose to appear on AGT. The answers were typically the same. 

“They go, ‘I used to sit here with my parents and I didn’t think much of myself and I thought one day I could be there.’ And then they’re there.”

There, as in America’s Got Talent, is where Howie Mandel happily is too. At 14 years, he seems to be just getting started.

To see the array of humanity and talent on stage, tune in to America’s Got Talent, premiering Tuesday May 30 at 8/7c on NBC, and streaming the following day on Peacock.

- Reporting by Tara Bennett