- “America’s Got Talent” has been entertaining audiences for 13 seasons.
- A lot has changed about the show since it first premiered in 2006.
- From the judges to the prize money, there are some suprising facts about the popular reality competition.
Since 2006, NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” has elevated the elementary school talent show format to the highest degree. It’s brought viewers NFL players-turned-magicians and 12-year-old superstar singers and dogs that can sing (kind of).
While other shows like “The Voice” or “American Idol” have focused only on finding talented singers, “AGT” is open to just about anything. Virtual reality dance show? Check. Chicken that can play the piano? Yep. Death-defying escape stunts? Mhm.
There’s also no set age limit, so children and the elderly alike can all show off their skills. In this sense, the show stays entertaining from week to week because you truly never know what you’re going to see next.
As with any show that’s been on the air for over a decade and now in its 13th season, a lot has changed for “AGT.” Season 1 looked very different, and there are behind the scenes secrets that casual viewers may not realize about this show.
Here are 13 surprising facts about “America’s Got Talent” that every fan needs to know.
None of the current judges are actually from America.
- Trae Patton/NBC
It may be called “America’s Got Talent,” but the judges are from all over the world, according to Mirror. Howie Mandel hails from Canada, Heidi Klum is from Germany, and Mel B. and Simon Cowell are from the UK.
You used to be able to audition via MySpace.
When the social media platform was still big, “AGT” hopefuls could just record a video and post it to MySpace to try to land a spot on the show, according to Mashable. You can still submit video entries these days, but the site has nothing to do with it.
The million dollar prize is paid out over a whopping 40 years.
Contestants may think they’re instantly changing their lives when they win, but Forbes reported that the million dollar sum is paid out in taxed $25,000 installments over 40 years. You definitely can’t quit your day job on that. If you opt for the lump sum, it works out to around $300,000.
One of the most popular winning talents is ventriloquism.
- America’s Got Talent/YouTube
Not your average reality show talent, that’s for sure. But three of the 12 winners thus far have been ventriloquists, per Jezebel, including the 2017 winner Darci Lynne Farmer. In fact, one of the most successful winners from “AGT” is Season 2’s Terry Fator who earned around $18.5 million in 2017 from his Las Vegas shows, according to Forbes.
Only one magician has won.
- Kevork Djansezian/GettyImages
Many enter the competition each year, but only Season 9’s Mat Franco ever magicked his way to the grand prize.
Tyra Banks hasn’t always been the host.
- Paras Griffin/Getty Images for 2016 Essence Festival
The judging panel has also changed a lot.
- Frederick M. Brown/GettyImages
In the beginning, David Hasselhoff, Brandy, and Piers Morgan filled out the judges’ table. Other judges who have come and gone include Sharon Osbourne and Howard Stern.
One contestant was so good everyone thought she was lip-syncing.
- Ethan Miller and Alex Wong/Getty Images
A 10-year-old opera singer named Jackie Evancho performed such a stunning rendition of “O mio babbino caro,” that she had to prove to audiences the following night that she wasn’t singing along to a track. She performed an on-the-spot vocal exercise that quickly had everyone convinced of her talent.
People have gotten injured during performances.
- America’s Got Talent/NBC
Some of the acts on “AGT” are definitely dangerous, and they don’t always go according to plan. For example, in Season 11, a bow and arrow act gone wrong lead to Ryan Stock being hit in the chest by a flaming arrow, Variety reported. He insisted he was fine, but the judges refused to judge someone who had just been shot by an arrow on fire, and the act was cut.
The Golden Buzzer didn’t always exist.
Introduced in Season 9, the Golden Buzzer was originally intended to save an act. It could be used to override a fellow judge’s “no” or break a tie, according to Zap2It. These days, the buzzer is used to send a standout auditioner straight to the live shows. Each judge and the host gets to press it once throughout the audition process. Mel B.’s Season 12 Golden Buzzer recipient was ventriloquist Farmer who went on to win the whole thing.
The youngest winner was only 11.
- Michael Buckner/GettyImages
“AGT” has produced some young winners over the years, including 12-year-old Farmer and 12-year-old singer Grace VanderWaal from Season 11. But the youngest winner ever was Season 1’s singer Bianca Ryan who won at just 11 years old, according to Reality Blurred.
“AGT” frequently auditions contestants who have appeared on other shows.
- Jeff J Mitchell/GettyImages
To be on some reality shows, you can’t have previously been on another one. But “AGT” doesn’t care about that. Over the years, acts have competed for a second chance at glory even after doing well on shows like “Britain’s Got Talent,” “X-Factor,” and “Big Brother,” according to Fansided.
There are “Got Talent” shows across the globe.
- America’s Got Talent
According to NBC, The “Got Talent” competition format has been taken on by 184 countries, some of which will compete in the upcoming all-stars season, “America’s Got Talent: Champions.”