By Alan Pergament
I thought I had seen everything on NBC's popular, family-friendly reality show "America's Got Talent" even though I don't watch it that often.
But on a slow TV Tuesday night without an NHL or NBA playoff game, I was switching between a New York Yankees game with Toronto on WNYO and the country's most popular summer program.
I was doing a little research for a story I'm going to do on Williamsville East graduate Justin Bartkowski, who went by his stage name of Justin Rhodes on the previous week's "AGT."
And then something startling happened.
A 12-year-old boy from White Plains, N.Y. made his national standup comedy debut on "AGT" and proceeded to tell three dirty jokes loaded with double entendres about private parts and sexual behavior as his parents looked on approvingly.
My immediate thought -- which I tweeted -- was boy has TV changed.
An extremely popular family-friendly show that usually showcases inspiring stories like Tuesday's singing soldier decided it was time to go trashy. (Because I was switching between channels, I missed the performance of a local dance troupe, Dance Specturm, that was moved by the judges into the next round).
Now, I'm no prude. I can enjoy a good dirty joke with the best of them. But from a 12-year-old boy in the sixth grade? On national TV? On a show the entire family could enjoy?
If I had been the sixth-grader's parents, I never would have let the kid on the program. They seemed proud watching their son deliver dirty jokes. They should have been embarrassed and appalled by the jokes, which I guess were supposed to be cute and novel because he is 12. By today's standards, the jokes probably would be given a PG-13 rating. That still means the kid was a year younger than the audience that would be allowed to hear them.
When the camera wasn't cutting to his parents' pleased reaction, it was catching shots of young girls seemingly shocked.
His performance certainly made the upcoming comments from judges suspenseful. Would they give a 12 year-old who told dirty jokes a lecture or pass him through to the next round?
It wasn't surprising that shock jock turned family-friendly judge Howard Stern and standup comedian turned game show host Howie Mandel were supportive. Remember, Stern's biography was called "Private Parts."
However, it was surprising how supportive they were. Mandel called the kid "brilliant."
I've seen enough of "AGT" to realize that the judges exaggerate. That's part of the game. The kid actually looked terribly nervous and delivered his jokes so quickly that he looked like he was in hurry to get off stage. And the jokes were so predictable and sophomoric that you could see the punch lines coming from White Plains.
I can enjoy sophomoric jokes. I've even been known to see just about every Seth Rogen movie. But I don't want to hear them from 12-year-olds.
I was more interested in what the female judges had to say, on the assumption that sanity might prevail.
Mel B noted that she now knew what 12-year-old boys "were thinking."
"By the way, it's not that different from what I'm thinking," cracked Stern.
Funny line. But the kid shouldn't be thinking like Stern, at least not yet.
Mel B then continued: "A 12-year and talking all that dirty stuff. I like it a lot!"
Heidi Klum also was OK with it. I think she said something like if his father was OK with it, so was she but I might have been too stunned to hear it correctly.
In any event, I wouldn't allow the kid's parents to be the judge of anything.
Oh, well, I'm sure the republic will survive the kid's dirty mouth and he'll be eliminated in the next round. But the experience taught me a lesson. Never switch away from a Yankee game.
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