Howard Joins 'America's Got Talent'

King of All Media signs on as a judge for NBC's competitive variety show

Howard's agent, Don Buchwald, stopped by with a bottle of champagne and a contract in hand, so Howard announced that he'd agreed to be a judge on the next season of "America's Got Talent": "I am very happy to announce the beginning of a new and exciting [venture]."

Don laughed that the last time he brought Howard a bottle of champagne, Howard was getting fired from NBC, and now he was going back to work for them. Don then handed over the contract, and Howard began signing: "I wonder what I'm agreeing to...am I the new host of 'The Tonight Show?'"

How the Deal Was Done

Howard revealed that he'd been working on the deal for months: "They knew Piers was leaving and [asked] if I would be interested."

He eventually met with producers in Studio 69: "Normally, in a meeting, you let them talk. But I don't do that. I began my treatise on 'America's Got Talent.' I began to talk about 'AGT.' And what I feel was right and what I feel was wrong and what I see in the future. I gave a one-hour discourse."

Don laughed that the lecture really did last an hour: "I took notes!"

Howard said he'd put an end to the show's nonsense: "I told them that show has a little too much nonsense...when these very young children come on, I'm going to want to talk to these mothers who march them out there."

Judge nonsense too: "This nonsense of Howie and Sharon putting through less than talented people has got to stop."

Robin thought Howard would correct the show's faults: "You can't be a judge and not hurt."

The Details As They Stand Today

Howard said he had only two pre-negotiation rules: "It can't interfere with my job here...and I can't do the show from LA."

He promised to do his best to abide Nick Cannon, the show's faux-ghetto host: "I don't worry about Nick Cannon...I will work with whoever's sitting there but I will not accept nonsense."

Again: no more nonsense. This will be a brand new "America's Got Talent": "Goofy acts will not be going through."

The winner must be a viable artist: "It's got to be somebody you'd pay to see."

Howard said he'd even be traveling with the show during the audition process: "I start taping stuff in February. You know, where we go around the country. I will be around the country. Look for me."

Gary asked if it was a multi-year contract, but Howard refused to say: "I will not comment on that."

Howard also negotiated to promote the show in his own way: "I don't care about Jay. Jay's a flea on my ass...the first meeting, I said, I won't appear on 'The Tonight Show.' I'll go on 'Letterman.'"

Prepare for War

Paul Telegdy, NBC's president of alternative and late night programming, called in to welcome Howard to the show: "We think you're going to propel it to the next level."

Howard started to get revved up for the attacks. We're going to war. Yeah, you want a war? You got one. Get ready."

Howard then took a rare on-air call from his sister, Ellen, who gushed: "I'm so proud of you...I am so excited! I love that show."