America’s Got Talent is about to kick into high gear. With the auditions are now over, it’s time to move on to Las Vegas, where the field will be whittled down to the contestants that America will have the chance to vote for in the live shows.

But before we see the next round of competition, a handful of auditioners (some who advanced and some who did not) talked with reporters, including BuddyTV, and shared their thoughts on the judges and what it’s like competing against someone with the same talent. Did Jacob Calle seek medical attention after being stung by a scorpion? And who is a ghost hunter? Read on to find out the answers to all this and more.

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Praise for Heidi, But What About Howard?

With Heidi Klum and Mel B having joined the panel this season, what do the contestants think of them in their new roles? Everyone gushed over the supermodel and Project Runway host, with Aneya Marie the singing mime (who did not advance) saying, “She was really trying to understand me and really trying to understand what I was doing onstage, and she was apologetic. So for me, it really meant that she cared about what I was trying to do and she recognized my confidence. Now, I had a lot of hope for her, [and] as a judge she’s doing really well right now.”

Comedian Kevin Downey, Jr., who everyone said looked like he had to pee, found fellow comedian Howie Mandel right up his alley. “I’m a comic, so Howie Mandel and Howard Stern — I couldn’t wait to get out in front of those guys, without a doubt,” he said. “These are two guys in comedy that have both taken the road less traveled. … So getting in front of those guys was a huge kick for me.”

While everyone gave Heidi unanimous praise, it was the Shock Jock who, maybe unsurprisingly, received mixed reaction. Jacob Calle, the scorpion guy, questioned why Howard didn’t like his act, considering his “not very classy” role in television, and the fact that he’s had on some pretty bizarre people on his radio show over the years.

“I was really expecting him to really like my skit because he’s actually hosted some of my work on his show before and he’s talked about it. So I was like, alright, this is going to be a shoe-in, he’s likes my stuff already. So I get on there and he says it was a bore-fest, which really threw me off. On his show, he has people farting on command, he has low-budget adult film entertainers on his show, but he doesn’t like a guy who puts a live scorpion in his mouth.”

Speaking of the scorpion, did Jacob need any medical attention after the performance? “The medical attention that I received was the local drug store. And I did a dose of a bunch of pain medicine and just knocked myself out and went to sleep,” he went on to say. And guess what he did afterwards? He went hiking. “I’m in California and that’s my favorite state, so I went ahead and went hiking. And it was hard struggling through the sun and being dehydrated going through the forest, but that’s what I wanted to do, that was my choice, sick or not.”

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Competing Against Each Other

We’ve seen over the years on America’s Got Talent that when there’s more than one of the same type of act, typically the judges and/or America will get rid of some of them so we’re left with the best in that field. I asked Tim Cord, who performed “Simple Man” with his group American Hitmen, and singer Dave Fenley, who sang “Too Close,” if they believe they’re different enough from each other to both find a spot on the show and what it’s like competing against each other.

“We discussed this amongst ourselves backstage a lot,” Tim Cord said. “If they’re looking for a rock band, they’ll pick us and we’re going to deliver every single time. But if they’re not — they’re looking for someone with a more soulful voice or even a juggler or anything like that — everybody’s so talented in their own right that for us, it’s comparing apples to carrots.”

Dave Fenley concurred, adding, “We’re competing against everyone in a show that, for us, it doesn’t really feel so competitive. We’ve been backstage and made friends and had relationships with so many of the other contestants that we kind of all root for each other. We want to win, of course, but I think there’s a camaraderie that we don’t get a chance to show all too often.” He finished by saying he hopes America will vote through the best talent and not feel like they have to “pin one musician against another.”

Original Music vs. Covers

Howie Mandel has said countless times on AGT and in interviews that he prefers singers to perform covers as opposed to original music because he feels America will be able to relate to a song they already know. In some of the final audition episodes, a few of the featured singers did showcase their original music, but Tim Cord and Dave Fenley, who both have albums out with their own songs, actually side with Howie on this.

“The thing with America’s Got Talent,” the American Hitmen singer said, “when you have 90 seconds and you really want America to back you up and to jump on board with regards to how talented you may be, it’s nice when they can be, ‘Oh, this is a great act, great musicians. Oh, and I also recognize that song and they do a great version of it.’ So we try to definitely get some original on the show, but for 90 seconds, sometimes it’s a little better for somebody to recognize the tune.”

“It’s really difficult to write a song in three minutes that people can connect with, much less a song that, in 90 seconds, if they’ve never heard it, they can wrap their arms around it,” said Dave. “So it just makes sense on this kind of platform to do songs that people recognize and already have kind of a relationship with somewhere in their lives. It’s kind of difficult because how do you take one of your songs that you put your lifeblood into and make it 90 seconds and still try to get the point across?”

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Kevin the Ghost Hunter

Kevin Downey, Jr. may be a comedian, but he revealed that he’s also a ghost hunter, though he considers himself an “agnostic ghost hunter” because he doesn’t believe that it’s necessarily a ghost every time something happens like the lights flickering. He shared that he thinks he has seen a ghost. “Just once … I was performing in a theater [at a college]. The curtain cuts right behind you. And my brother had opened for me — he used to be a comic. And I saw him peering out from the curtains. And I thought, ‘Oh, he’s going to mess with me on stage.’ … And then I look to the left again and he was even closer, this face sticking out in the curtain. Then it occurred to me there’s only one cut on the curtain, and it’s behind me. So I stopped in the middle of a joke and to like 300 students I said, ‘Do you guys have a ghost here?'”

The audience then let him know that people have spotted ghosts in the theater, but it’s only the performers who can see them. “There’s different stories,” he continued. “One said it was a cellist that hung himself. One said it was a violin player that cut his wrist. But someone playing a stringed instrument supposedly killed himself in that school’s theater. And if you’re a performer, you get to see him sometimes.” Who would have thought the comedian we all thought had to pee on stage is also a ghost hunter?

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(Image courtesy of NBC)

Jeff Dodge

Staff Writer, BuddyTV

Jeff Dodge, a graduate of Western Washington University, has been a TV news editor for many years and has had the chance to interview multiple reality show stars, including Randy Jackson, Nick Cannon, Heidi Klum, Mel B and John Cena.