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The 10 Most Outrageous ‘American Idol’ Judging Moments

The craziest things Simon Cowell, Steven Tyler, Paula Abdul and more have said and done

Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey, Ryan Seacrest, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban

George Holz / FOX

When American Idol returns on January 16th for its (gasp!) 12th season, viewers will notice a massive makeover among the show's judging panel: Gone are Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez, replaced by new faces Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban. (Of course, mainstay Randy Jackson is back – seriously, what else is the guy gonna do?) Truth be told, Idol hasn't been the same since original judge Simon Cowell departed back in 2010 to launch The X Factor. The new judges will have to live up to a high standard of must-see craziness set by their predecessors. Here are 10 of the funniest, wildest and most outrageous Idol judging moments ever.

By Dan Hyman

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Simon Cowell vs. William Hung

The one thing most responsible for American Idol's cultural ubiquity in the early 2000s was judge Simon Cowell's ruthless, callous critiques of the show's contestants. (It helped that the show's producers regularly ushered out deliberately awful singers simply to see how Cowell and his fellow judges would respond.) In one of the show's most famous auditions, Season Three contestant William Hung performed a one-of-a-kind rendition of Ricky Martin's "She Bangs," to which Cowell responded in typically withering fashion: "You can't sing. You can't dance. So what do you want me to say?" When Hung explained that he had no professional training, Cowell mockingly replied, "Well, there's the surprise of the century!"

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Randy Jackson: A Decade of ‘Pitchy’

How has Randy Jackson survived as an Idol judge for so long? His omnipresent, super-enthusiastic catchphrases are surely the answer. You've probably heard the man say "yo, dawg," "pitchy" and "in it to win it!" tens of thousands of times over the last decade. Relive the magic with this supercut of Jackson's best sayings.

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Steven Tyler Hits on Contestant Shannon Magrane

Steven Tyler made no secret of his affection for the ladies during his time as an Idol judge. Charming at times, his conduct could also border on creepy. Take his interaction with the family of Season 11 contestant Shannon Magrane. After the judges found out the then-15-year-old's father was a professional baseball player, they invited her entire clan into the audition room. All was going well until Tyler opened his mouth to Papa Magrane, describing the man's teenage daughter as "hot, humid and happening." Cue awkward silence.

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Paula Abdul vs. Jason Castro

During her eight-season run on Idol, Paula Abdul had her fair share of slip-ups and odd moments. Things got seriously weird, even by Paula standards, in one Season Seven episode. Upon being asked to judge contestant Jason Castro's performance, Abdul appeared visibly flustered before proceeding to tell the contestant she disliked his second performance. Problem was, he'd only performed once. "This is hard!" she protested to laughter. Oh, Paula.

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Steven Tyler Strips Down

As we've already established, Steven Tyler filled his two years as an Idol judge with some strange, borderline-raunchy antics. But nothing compares to the time the Aerosmith frontman stripped down to his boxer briefs in front of fellow judges Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson during the Season 11 auditions in Las Vegas. As Lopez shielded her eyes, Tyler proceeded to moon the camera before diving into a nearby swimming pool.

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Simon Cowell vs. Ryan Seacrest

Simon Cowell and host Ryan Seacrest faced off frequently during the 10 years they shared the Idol stage. Tensions between the pair boiled over following a Season Six performance from contestant Chris Sligh. Seacrest, it seems, got perturbed when Cowell referred to him as "sweetheart." "Don't call me sweetheart," Seacrest responded, bitterly. "I don't want that kind of relationship. We'll just work together – that's fine with me." "You've made this very uncomfortable," Cowell replied.

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Simon and Paula Forever?

One major reason to tune in for Idol's first few seasons – along with the show's ability to churn out stars like Kelly Clarkson – was the weirdly flirty vibe between Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul. Rumors of an off-set romance between the two were never substantiated. But this Season Three promotional video, in which Abdul pants and fetches like a dog while Cowell calls her his "poodle," certainly got people talking.

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Jennifer Lopez Saves Jessica Sanchez

Beginning in Season Eight, the Idol judges were given the power to save finalists whom America had voted off the show. While the use of the save was nearly always carried out with dramatic flair, it never soared to greater heights of spectacle than when Jennifer Lopez saved eventual Season 11 runner-up Jessica Sanchez. A mere 15 seconds into Sanchez's final performance, Lopez bum-rushed the stage, grabbed the contestant and ushered her to safety. "You're not going home," Lopez told Sanchez. "Go sit down!"

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Steven Tyler Goes Blue

Tyler's off-the-cuff, vaguely unhinged remarks were a refreshing twist on the Idol judging routine. Perhaps the greatest example of the singer’s spontaneity: After watching eventual Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery shred the stage with an audition take on Travis Tritt’s "Put Some Drive in Your Country," Tyler exclaimed, "Well, hellfire, save matches, fuck a duck, and see what hatches!" Well said, Steven.

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Nicki Minaj vs. Mariah Carey

Season 12 of Idol hasn't even started yet, and already there's tension in the air. Yes, we're referring to the widespread reports of tensions between new judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj. In a video that leaked last fall, Minaj is seen (and heard) berating Carey for diva-like behavior. "Get in control!" Minaj tells Carey. "I told them I'm not fuckin' putting up with Her fuckin' Highness over there," she adds. Sounds like this is going to be a season for the ages.

In This Article: American Idol

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