Who Let These Guys On?

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The mob at the entry to the theatre howled and cheered. I, too far back in the line to immediately see what prompted the eruption, stood all the way up on tip toes, high enough to see the top of Sharon Osborne’s head as she entered the building. I love Sharon, who along with Howie Mandel and Piers Morgan are the judges on “America’s Got Talent.” I was in NYC with a group of women from the Huntington Breast Cancer Coalition which, like other charities whose members filled the seats of the theatre, would be the beneficiaries of donations the show was making based on how many seats a charity filled.

Retrospectively, it was easy to see why such charitable donations were up for grabs. If the auditions we watched are representative of the talent the judges are seeing around the country, the show is in jeopardy. Consider that a generous evaluation.

More specifically, we watched a man of 60+ years come center stage wearing what appeared to be a brown shower curtain, step out of the shower in his Speedo-size skivvies, and do what men in body building contests do to show off their muscled assets. That was his “talent,” and it was a display for which the word ucchh doesn’t quite do justice.

We saw five men of indeterminate age and one woman, all dressed as flowers, making believe they could dance. There was a late middle aged rapper, ostensibly a jazz musician in his non-auditioning life, and a one-man band whom I think called himself Paddy Whack. Yes, among the 15 where-did-they-come-from acts, two did make it to the next round. Two adorable kids who could tap got by at least partially, I think, because compared to the talent field into which they tapped, they were a mini Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. But wait. I have gotten too far ahead of myself.

Here are some other things you should know about going to a taping of a live-audience show and, more specifically, an audition show. Be prepared to:

· Wait in line to enter the theatre. A long time.

· Hand over your mobile phone for reasons obvious to anyone who has ever attended a concert or a show or a lecture for which you were allowed to hold onto your phone.

· Hide food in the zipper compartments of your bag, where it will not easily be seen by the rushed purse checker at the door. Ditto for water. Mine was confiscated for understandable reasons. Alcohol is not wanted on the premises, and I was able to get a plastic glassful inside.

· Wait for something to happen. A long time.

· Learn how to applaud. You probably don’t clap loud enough or long enough. Or get to your feet fast enough. You will practice this for half an hour

· Learn other nuances of good audience-ing. Don’t like what the judges are saying. Boo like crazy. But make sure you are also crossing your arms into an X in front of you as you boo. Like what the judges are saying? Well there’s a code motion for that too.

· Bring ear plugs to use (in the long sections) between acts when the guy whose job is to keep the audience pumped up does his job.

· Spend a good 5 hours beginning to end.

It seemed to us that our candidates were chosen for those montages talent shows do of the “It wasn’t looking good in New York” type. The crazy irony is that while the judges took a break, the real talent showed up. Anyone who wanted to come up front and perform could – and everyone who did eclipsed by light years the talent of the real would-be contestants. A random run through any subway car or high school or Starbucks would have netted talent far superior to what we got to suffer through.

But Sharon was charming. Howie was funny – and sweet, and Piers was, well, Piers, the fastest hand on the buzzer, the harsh teller of truths. Ultimately, they will as always find the real talent, and what no one can take away is the good feeling we got for doing something to support a cause we believe in.

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