Monday night's America's Got Talent, the first of two days of auditions in New York, broke an unspoken code of conduct for reality-based talent competitions: the obscenely bad acts were largely ignored. Was it a smart move to showcase only the top-tier acts? No, it was not. In our eyes, this move only further emphasized the mediocrity of the show’s talent. Without the downright despicable acts, the decent ones could no longer shine bright.
What would be the show's strategy on Day Two in the Big Apple? It didn't take long to find out: right out of the gate we were bludgeoned with the strange, brutal and bizarre. Of course, as is the case with any talent competition, there were also some winners. Cue the breakdown.
The Real Business
1. Tom Cotter, standup comic: We try not to let those intro montages for any contestant color us. But after learning about this father of three, a longtime comedy club rat who claims to have been working on his craft for 23 years, we couldn't help but root for him. Thankfully, Cotter was a smash. His jokes were effortlessly witty, his timing was exact and, above all, he looked completely at ease. Sample material: "I used to go over and bounce on my neighbor’s tramp-arlene. Yeah, their daughter's name was Arlene." Stern and Mandel loved him, and Cotter, after being put through to Vegas, said he felt "birth-of-my-children" excited.
2. Donovan and Rebecca, "acrobalancers": This husband and wife duo, wearing white leotards with what looked like matching codpieces, were freakishly adept at pulling off crazy Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics. Their act had an added twist: when they weren't doing insane, flexible balancing acts linked with one another, Rebecca was picking up her 200-pound husband with what looked like relative ease. Osbourne called the performance a "love scene from a sci-fi movie." Normally these types of acts bore us. This one certainly did not.
3. Tyrese Green, a.k.a Stepz, dancer: A native of Peterson, New Jersey, Stepz claims to "bring everything around him to life" when he dances. Thanks to his innate ability to contort his body in ungodly ways and shuffle around the stage in that super slow-mo mode on your old VCR, this 22-year-old wowed the judges . . . and us. There was some debate as to whether his talents could support an entire arena-size show. We’re a bit skeptical, too. Regardless, there's no denying dude's talent.
Not So Much
1. John Pizzi, comedian/ventriloquist: When a guy tells you he's worked every gig from "bar mitzvahs to opening for strippers" you want to like him, if for nothing else than the obvious fact that he’s got some serious drive. But all Pizzi's act revolved around was bad ventriloquism and an iPad-operated digital screen with moving pictures of each judges’ face. His jokes were solely about sexual tension between the judges, which wasn’t funny, 'cause there isn’t any. It also didn't help that he had blond tips a la 'N Sync-era Justin Timberlake. The judges liked Pizzi and put him through to Vegas. We're baffled.
2. Ivy Rose, band: We’re all about gender equality, so we need to put this out there: if this four-piece all-female band had been four dudes who performed an equally mediocre version of Joan Jett & the Blackhearts' "I Hate Myself for Loving You," there's not a chance they would have made it through. We're all for female bands, but this one wasn't any good, and certainly didn't deserve to advance.
3. All Beef Patty, singer: The premise for this act was awesome: she (or is it he) is a drag queen with a giant pink wig who sang Lady Gaga's "You and I." On paper, this sounds like a surefire smash. And while the judges praised her for having what they deemed to be supreme vocal chops, we didn’t see it. It was all tin, no steel. Stern thought All Beef Patty was a "terrific entertainer." We usually agree with him. But this time we beg to differ.
The Bizarro Bunch
1. Ronald Charles, entertainer: Landing the opening slot for the show had us thinking this vest-wearing twenty-something was about to wow us. Instead, Charles sashayed around like a moron for a few minutes after counting off to seven and then, in his worst decision, opened his mouth and let out the ghastly terror he refers to as his voice. It was so awful that Stern, whose parents were in the audience, decided to bring his father on stage to give Charles a lecture about how he needs to find a new career path. To top it off, Charles referred to Stern as "ma'am." Somebody get this guy outta here!
2. Snorting comedian: There's some acts you wish had been given more screen time. This is one of them. In the few seconds we saw this middle-aged women repeatedly saying "I'm sorry," and then interrupting herself by unleashing a killer hog snort, we were captivated. Call this our bizarro crush.
3. Duane Atlas, rocker: Armed with what appeared to be a pink toy guitar while donning a yellow windbreaker, this dad-age rocker, whom Osbourne said looked like "the roadie for the Sex Pistols," was flat-out garbage. He couldn't sing. He had a bad attitude. And he reminded us why, even though it's oftentimes painful to watch, reality talent competitions need bizarros like Duane Atlas to make the audition process amusing.
Last episode: Whatcha Gonna Do?