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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 one-year contract to do a show in Las Vegas. Performers go in front of three judges equipped with buzzers, if all three judges buzz then the act will end prematurely. The show has been hosted by Regis Philbin (Season 1), Jerry Springer (Seasons 2 and 3), and Nick Cannon (Season 4 onward); and the judges are:

  • Piers Morgan (who does his best Simon Cowell impersonation) in seasons 1-6, replaced by Howard Stern
  • Brandy Norwood in Season 1, replaced by Sharon Osbourne
  • David Hasselhoff in Seasons 1-4, replaced by Howie Mandel

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. Then comes "Vegas Week" where all the decent acts are gathered and the judges choose which ones are actually going to compete. The last half of the season takes place in Hollywood with live shows where viewers vote on who goes forward, though the judges still offer their opinions and can use their buzzers to register displeasure.

Two memorable performers, Jackie Evancho and Prince Poppycock (both Season 5 finalists) have their own trope pages.

Britain's Got Talent is its Trans-Atlantic Equivalent.

Tropes used in America's Got Talent include:

Sharon: Nobody, nobody disrespects my husband, so f*** off!

  • Big-Budget Beef-Up: Happens in the Hollywood rounds for obvious reasons. These performances usually have better costumes, better sets, and - all too often - gratuitous backup dancers.
  • Broadcast Live: When the acts compete for the audiences votes, it switches to live broadcast.
  • Camp Gay: Prince Poppycock, though it seems the "Camp" part is just a stage persona.
    • Daniel Joseph Baker from season 6 complete with Lady Gaga songs.
  • Celebrity Resemblance: Dani Shay, the 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 Beiber parody song poking fun.
  • Commercial Break Cliffhanger
  • Crazy Enough to Work: A lot of acts are either so fantastic, or so ridiculus, that there's no way they can succeed, but they do. Most recently as of Season 7 — a man playing a broom shaft like a flute.
  • Cuteness Proximity: Sharon Osbourne immediately starts applauding when an animal act opens with a bunch of cats jumping out of a box.
  • 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.
  • Epic Fail: 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.)
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Found amongst the many YouTube comments on Prince Poppycock was "I'm not gay, but if I were, I'd want to test those lips."
    • Stupid Sexy Prince Poppycock?
  • Executive Meddling: A couple times, when the judges believed an act made a bad song choice, the performers mention that producers influenced that decision (Arcadian Broad in Season 4 (?) with a High School Musical number, the Fiddleheads doing "Billie Jean" in Season 6).
  • 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."
  • Freudian Trio: The judge panel always plays out like this.
    • Id: David, Howie.
    • Ego: Brandy, Sharon
    • Superego: Piers
    • Subverted as of Season 7, Sharon and Howie keep their roles, but so far Howard Stern is an Ego more than a Superego-- he tells the acts who suck that they suck and is quickest on his buzzer, but is still a lot more lighthearted and humorous than Piers and is only quick on his buzzer compared to Sharon and Howie.
  • Gag Boobs: Busty Heart, an auditioner in one of the earlier seasons, whose boobs were so big she crushed cans with them.
  • 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...
    • The entire act of "Horse" of Season 7 is to be repeatedly hit in the groin with various objects and not feeling pain from it.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Season 6 had auditions by viral video stars John Jacobson (the Double Dream Hands guy), and Jay Maynard (the Tron Guy)
    • In-show version with Leonid the Magnificent, who auditioned in Seasons 1, 2, and 6 (though Hasselhoff's and Piers' reactions were less "Hey, it's that guy!" and more "Oh no, that guy again.").
  • 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?)
  • 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.
  • It's the Same, Now It Sucks: In-show example: In the early seasons, the judges generally didn't think highly of Stage Magician acts on the grounds that they've seen all the tricks before. Drew Thomas Magic called them out on this in Season 4. The most extreme - and arguably justified - case was in Season 1, where they slammed Quick Change for having just one routine they repeated every time they were on. (And 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.
  • Iwo Jima Pose: Utilized by dance group Silhouette in their "Thank You America" performance.
  • Jerkass: Piers runs on Brutal Honesty, but often crosses into just plain mean. He also 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."

    • Howie began to slip into this during the same season 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 or blow an air horn to drown him out.
  • 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.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: The specialty of Season 5 competitors ArcAttack.
  • Made of Iron: The Smage Bros. (Season 6) have this opinion of their assistant Troy Smalls.
  • The Mean Brit: Piers, although he really will complement acts that are good more often than Simon does on American Idol. Still, he's the only judge who still makes regular use of his buzzer once the competition moves into the popular-vote phase.
  • Muppet Cameo: Terry Fator got to preform 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).
  • My Greatest Second Chance: Wild Card rounds in the semifinals
  • 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.
  • Nice Hat: Anything worn or made by Hannibal Means (Season 5).
    • Michael Grimm (also from Season 5) is rockin' that fedora.
  • Old Media Playing Catch Up: Averted; most seasons have a special round where people audition over a social networking site (originally Myspace, currently YouTube). Starting in Season 5, the guest performances for the YouTube results shows are viral video stars as well.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted as of Season 7, which includes a Howie and a Howard on the judging panel (Mandel and Stern, respectively).
  • Overly Long Gag: Mary Ellen as a whole.
  • Polly Wants a Microphone: Season 6 had a couple trained parrot acts get past Vegas Week, though they didn't last long in the vote.
  • Real Life Relative: Nick Cannon's wife Mariah Carey did a guest performance during Season 4's finals.
  • Reality TV
  • Refuge in Audacity: A few acts are actually able to make it through the audition round due to sheer audacity.
  • 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, despite being buzzed by him.
  • The Runner Up Takes It All: A few acts may not have won, but they went on to be successful regardless. 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 competetion without any regrets.)
  • 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.
    • Also, if an act is somewhat Fan Service-y (i.e. dance group of former cheerleaders "Purrfect Angelz"), Howie will compare it to Hooter's.
  • Shocking Elimination: Especially in Season 4's Vegas round. Kari Callin, Tallan Noble Latz, Ciana Pelekai, The Spiritual Harmonizers, Rashida Jolley, and Kelli Glover, just to name a few.
    • The Season 4 act Acrodunk was even stated by the judges to be one of the best acts in the competition and was almost certainly the most entertaining to watch of the season. Even the judges were shocked by their elimination.
    • Season 5 semi-finals, week one: Four acts are called to the stage, among them season favorites ArcAttack, decidedly-less-favorite-but-still-likable Future Funk, as well as creepy magician Dan Sperry and mediocre singer Kristina Young. Guess who got through? None of them! Even the judges and Nick couldn't hide their "WTF?" reactions.
    • Subverted in the Season 6 semi finals. Anna Graceman and Landau Murphy Jr. were called to the stage during the results, and it was announced that Anna went through. And then, when it seemed like Landau was being exit-interviewed, Nick Cannon told him that he got through too. Cue a huge surprised look from everyone.
  • Stage Magician: There's usually a fair amount of these acts.
  • 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.
  • Talent Show Version: Of course.
  • 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.

  • 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 panic 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.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks: In-Universe, many acts will change up their act during the later rounds in an attempt to show the full range of their talent. 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.
  • Trans-Atlantic Equivalent: Britains Got Talent.
  • Troll: Piers does this a bit in playing up his Mean Brit role (Nick even tends to call him an "ogre" when he buzzes cute kid acts). In turn, Howie's been trolling 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).
  • Ventriloquism: Fator was the only ventriloquist who was any good. In fact the judges prepared themselves for the worst when they saw him...and then he started singing.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Piers and Howie
  • Vocal Dissonance: Quite a bit of contestants.
    • Jackie Evancho, and how! She has the voice of a pro-level soprano, and she's only eleven years old.
    • Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. He's a big black guy with dreadlocks and facial hair, and he has a voice reminiscent of Sinatra.
  • Wearing a Flag on Your Head: Prince Poppycock's Season 5 semifinals performance. Never has patriotism been so Camp.
  • What Exactly Is His Job?: 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.

  • 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, demanded that Howie apologize to them.
      • This one almost seemed like a joke, since Piers had said much meaner things than that, probably in that very show.
    • 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 buzzed them earlier in the act and broke their concentration.