The newest "America's Got Talent" judge, Howard Stern, who confessed to disliking both dance acts and opera, found his heart in San Francisco.
First was David Garibaldi and His CMYK's, an act combining speed painting and dance. With the help of back-up dancers, Garibaldi slapped paint on a large canvas to the beat of a Beethoven tune. As the portrait took shape, Stern said he initially thought it was a picture of himself before he recognized it as Beethoven. "This is real talent," Stern said. Fellow judge Howie Mandel agreed, saying, "On 'America's Got Talent,' you have to deliver 'Wow,' and you delivered 'Wow.'" With three yeses, the act advances to the Las Vegas round.
The next dance act to win Stern over was the Lisa Clark Dancers, a group of 14- to 18-year-olds incorporating ballet, jazz, tap, and contemporary. At first, as they did hip-hop moves to a classical piece, the choreography seemed odd. But as they performed pirouettes and a silly horse-riding pantomime with precision and enthusiasm, they won over the judges. Or at least two of them. Stern declared, "You kept me interested," while Mandel said he was just confused by it and voted no. Sharon Osbourne proclaimed she was torn, because both of her fellow judges had a point. The resident softy, she sided with Stern, advancing them.
Funk Beyond Control, a dance troop composed of young dance students grooved to a James Brown song and pandered to Mandel through prerecorded dialogue, where one of the dancers gushed over meeting him. Stern, who said that usually, at home, he fast forwards through the dance acts, found them compelling. Osbourne and Mandel praised their energy with Mandel admitting that he liked the reference to his animated show, "Bobby's World." The group advanced with three yeses.
Like dance, opera was a hard sell for Stern, and he challenged Luiz Meneghin, a nurse at an elder care facility, to change his mind. The unassuming Minnesota resident, who immigrated from Brazil 19 years ago, amazed the audience with his pure tenor. Afterward, he shared his personal story of growing up poor with a father who loved classical music and taught his children to appreciate it. Mandel assured him that his late father was looking down with pride as Meneghin advanced with unanimous consent. Stern told him, "I'm not an opera fan... You converted me."
In addition to these mind-changing acts, the show was filled with the usual assortment of the good, the bad, and the ugly:
- Mr. Special, a man who dressed like an "Angry Birds" character, riding a tricycle and playing a trumpet, with seemingly one purpose: to tell Osbourne he had the hots for her (despite the fact that, backstage, he had to ask a stagehand for her name). Can you say trolling for fame?
- Kim McAfee, an androgynous singer in newsboy cap, checked shirt, and bowtie who was a Stern fan. She made up for a lack of vocal ability with her pleasant demeanor. Host Nick Cannon sang a "duet" with her, doing beat-box scratching for a second round of McAfee's super-low, tuneless singing, which caused all three judges to hit their buzzers.
- Dave Burleigh, a comedian, who paraded out impressions -- including Jack Black and Owen Wilson -- for an imaginary version of "Dancing With the Stars." Stern recommend he work on making his laugh lines edgier, and while Mandel and Osbourne advised him that being edgy wasn't necessarily the right direction, Mandel agreed that solid material would take his impressions to the next level. He'll get a second chance in Vegas.
- Paula Nelson, a.k.a. "Granny G," an 80-year-old rapper who played with audience expectations of old people being sweet and harmless with her bawdy rap urging young "horny guys" to "keep it in your pants." She moved on to Vegas with three votes.
- Tim Hockenberry, a 49-year-old singer with a 3-week-old baby, who said it was time to stop deferring his dream. Although he looked like a middle-school music teacher, he sounded like Tom Waits and could go far in this competition. He also advanced by unanimous vote.
- Alonzo "Turf" Jones, a contortionist dancer who made the judges squirm with his twisting, sense-defying moves will move on to Vegas.