Piers Morgan interview: America's Got Talent and then some
By April MacIntyre Jun 27, 2008, 5:24 GMT
03/22/2008 - Piers Morgan - Beverly Hills, CA © Tina Gill / PR Photos
Piers Morgan has been heavily on my radar since I started paying attention to “Britain’s Got Talent” during the season of Paul Potts.
I knew of him from his big shot tabloid editor days, and now it seemed the pipeline of Brit talent being imported for American television audiences has deigned him to be the next Anglo-maniacal fixation, a la Simon Cowell or Gordon Ramsay.
Piers has quite a bit more going for him, in my estimation.
Unlike Cowell, he is quite tall. Unlike Ramsay, he does not resemble a Bull Mastiff. He also plays piano, and genuinely likes Americans and the whole crazy scene that swirls around him and his cohort judges; everyone’s favorite mum Sharon Osbourne, deliciously off-kilter David Hasselhoff and the host and backstage Jiminy Cricket - Jerry Springer - all on NBC’s hit series, “America’s Got Talent.”
Morgan became the editor of the infamous News of the World at age 28 – and within a few years he was cherry picked by the Daily Mirror. It’s been a rollercoaster for him, all propelled by long hours, hard work and an uncanny sense of picking the right people to surround himself with.
It was during Piers stint as a contestant on Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice when he had a run in with the Type A harridan, Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, putting the once tabloid rainmaker squarely in the king of all American tabloids, the New York Post.
"Quite early on, before the first challenge, Omarosa sidled up to me and said, in all seriousness, 'Do you want to have a showmance?'" Morgan told the New York Post in a past Sunday report.
"And I said, 'What is a showmance?' And she said, 'You know, a romance on the show. And then we can make lots of money out of it.' And I just looked at her and I thought, 'What a pathetic creature.' And I said to her, 'You really are a deluded woman.'"
Omarosa denied the story and proceeded to lob Hydrogen bombs his way.
"Piers started, early on, trying to jockey for position and trying to figure out how he could extend himself on the show," she retorted to the Post. "He said, 'I would do damn near anything to go to the end of this show.' And he said, 'think about it: The two of us together would make a fierce team.' And I was looking at him, and his disgusting rotten yellow teeth, and I just couldn't believe it. I was completely disgusted by the idea."
Not calling Omarosa a liar, but being up close to Piers at the NBC Summer Press day, I noticed he had really nice teeth.
I spoke to Piers the other day about his latest TV gig, "America’s Got Talent," which airs Tuesdays at 9:00 pm on NBC.
Finally, Piers, I get to speak to you.
Piers Morgan: My god, it’s been so long. Where have you been?
I was the one stalking you at the NBC Summer Press Day
Piers Morgan: I remember you. I love Monsters and Critics. I love that thing. I keep looking at it on the Internet. It’s very funny.
Of all the talents that you’ve seen in Britain and here, what’s the most striking act that’s really bowled you over in your career so far?
Piers Morgan: To be brutally honest with you - I mean, obviously in Britain we had Paul Potts last year who was pretty phenomenal. But I’ve got to say that in last week’s premiere and in the second episode that you’ll see tomorrow night, I reckon there are four acts that could have won Britain’s Got Talent and America’s Got Talent.
So I think the talent level this season has gone through the roof. And Simon Cowell, who obviously exec produces it - we were talking about the other day and he was saying the same, that it just seems a phenomenal amount of talent.
I mean, I’ve only saw last week’s so but the opera singer who ended is certainly as good as Paul Potts in our view. I think the two young guys who played the violins were incredible - never seen an act like that in my life.
I thought the young baton twirler was - for what he does and the spirit with which he does it, was incredible. I mean, never made a mistake. And there’s an act this week that ends the show which is - I mean, if that isn’t a Vegas headline act then I haven’t seen one.
Of all the odd variety acts that you’ve seen, what are some of your favorites?
Piers Morgan: There’s a woman this season, I don’t think she’s appeared yet. But she came on an announced that her act was to sew a shirt, make a shirt which she proceeded to do with a sewing machine in a very slow and laborious manner.
And she ran out of time. I mean, they get one and a half minutes and unfortunately, she barely finished a sleeve. And it was supposed to be a dress actually. I think it was a dress she was doing, but it looked more like a shirt by the end of it.
She sort of annihilated this piece of material. And it was sort of hilariously awkward. It was - everyone was just silent watching this batty woman sewing her dress and ending up with a sort of mutilated shirt.
So that was pretty high up my list. I liked also the 7-foot giant called (George) who actually does quite well because at the very least he’s original. His act was to come on, obviously 7-foot tall so he’s enormous.
His act was to drink milk through a long tube which ran around his body and then through his nose at the same time as blowing himself up with a series of mini explosives attached to his chest.
I mean, you really don’t get that on American Idol, do you?
No, you don’t.
Piers Morgan: Whether you want to is another matter.
It certainly made for amusing telly.
There’s an act for everyone I guess.
Piers Morgan: All human life is there, I think is how I’d describe it.
Which one of David Hasselhoff’s eccentricities amuse you the most?
Piers Morgan: Well I loved it when in the middle of a day’s filming in Las Vegas about a month ago for the boot camp stage, as you will all be aware, it’s very important as a judge on a (sell off) that you have continuity.
So the wardrobe department is very keen that we all wear the same clothes sometimes for two or three days. Obviously, they get cleaned in between.
But you get the continuity so when it goes out on air you look the same through the show. David managed to get past the clothes stage quite successfully because other people were in charge.
But in the middle of a day’s filming, he went off and came back looking orange. And he’d gone to a spray tan center.
Now you got to ask yourself why would you do that. I said to him why have you done that?
And he looked at me blankly as if to say why are asking me this stupid question? I wanted to go and have a tan.
Because when you watch the show, one minute he’s going to be a pasty-faced something like he’s in the cool, bleak mid-winter and the next minute he’s looking like George Hamilton IV.
Piers Morgan: So that was one of my favorite recent ones, definitely.
From your professional experience, the incredible rise in the last 10 or 15 years of the D-listed crowd, both in England and here, what do you make of it? What do you think has caused this spike in the people you scratch your head and go, why am I writing about this person?
Piers Morgan: Yeah. Well there are two reasons for it. One is the Internet and secondly, I think the fragmentation of television. So, you know, in the old days in Britain we had three TV stations.
And there was very little room for anyone but the best stars in the country to do their stuff. Now we have nearly 400 stations so there’s all that air time to fill and you’ve got to put people on there.
And so you’re getting tens of thousands more people every year in Britain appearing on telly. And that makes them stars. Similarly - well it makes them celebrities, not stars. And there is a difference.
You got the same thing America where there’s just so much television now on cable and satellite and so on, that you’re just getting endless programs with one of these stars and they’re celebrities because people know who they are.
But they’re sort of rather pathetic characters and I don’t like it because I think it diminishes the power of real stars. When I grew up - you know, I was brought up on people like Marlon Brando and Al Pacino, and Robert de Niro, and these amazing stars.
And they were revered and put on a pedestal, and everyone loved them. And nowadays, anyone can be famous. You know, you just have to get on a TV show, take your clothes off or be an idiot and everyone loves you.
I don’t like that. I think it needs to somehow be brought back to how it was. But I’m not sure how that’s going to happen because there’s too much television and the Internet just creates this whole thing around them.
I mean, when I tell you that Nelson Mandela -- one of the greatest men alive in the world today -- has about 12 million hits on Google and Paris Hilton has 100 million, then you know we’ve got problems, right?
Following along this line, of all the celebrities out there, who in your estimation, if you want to go on record, is squandering their talent right now?
Piers Morgan: Oh look at Amy Winehouse who I think is probably the most gifted musical talent Britain has produced in the last 25 years and - but is now in hospital, well, it’s pretty obvious she’s squandering it.
She’s a heroin junkie. She is very messed up and she’s very young. And I just hope she can get out of it. I don’t think anyone can help her. I think she’s got to help herself. You know, addicts just in the end they go one way or another.
And I’d hope she goes the right way because what a talent that girl has. Britney Spears has had a more difficult upbringing than Amy Winehouse definitely and I think you should always remember that with Britney Spears.
She’s come from a tough background and a very dysfunctional family, and I have sympathy for her. She’s another one with great talent, but who just needs to sort herself out.
And then you go through the others - I mean, pick up the Enquirer any week you like. Pick up People Magazine and you’ll read 'My Hell' by X, Y, Z.
They’re always having problems.
You know, fame is a pretty corrupting thing, I think, is my experience. I think someone like Simon Cowell is able to deal with it very well because he became famous in his forties.
I really became I suppose a celebrity for want of a better phrase in my forties by going on television. And I think that if you’re in your forties, you can deal with it a lot better.
But these kids, they’re 21, 22. They’re getting millions of dollars. They’re getting mansions and Ferraris. They get the best table in restaurants and it goes to their head.
They get offered drugs. They get offered all night drinking sessions and so on, and so on. And it becomes a very corrupting thing, the fame game. And they need advice.
They need good families. They need good friends. They need people who are going to drag them away from the abyss, but what they get instead is a bunch of paparazzi.
Well I don’t blame them, they’re doing their job but they get people following them and they play up to them, and they argue with them. And the whole thing gets hideous.
In an interview I had once with John Cleese, he told me that he loved being here for creative opportunities and he also loved the vitality of American women.
Piers Morgan: He’s actually just divorcing an American woman, though, isn’t he?
Yes, but he still likes American women.
Piers Morgan: So he doesn’t love them that much.
Not that particular one, but are you tempted to maybe have a dual kind of existence of living in England and America?
Piers Morgan: Yes. Well I spend about three or four months in America at the moment which I really like. And the great thing about America’s Got Talent this season was we went on the road so we were heading into Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, LA. It was fantastic.
I love going around America. I’ve never really spent a lot of time outside of LA before and it was great. I love the vitality of the people. I think American people are fantastic.
I think what they have - people go on about in Britain, they say well the Americans, they don’t get irony and sarcasm. And to a certain degree, that’s true.
You are less sarcastic as a country than we are because we basically have sarcasm in our blood.
However, you’re also much less cynical. Americans I think, have a much more positive view of life than British people tend to. It may be the weather, it might be a number of things.
But whatever it is, I think that you don’t have that cynicism which we have. And I like that. I like the fact that if you’re a success in America, everyone wants to celebrate it with you and feels good for you.
In Britain, the temptation and the tendency here is to put your balloon by, you know, getting the size down on your (clash) car or scratching your tire, or whatever it is. There’s always this pushing the balloon mentality of, you know, once they’re up there, knock them down.
In America, it’s very different. I think in America, it’s the land of opportunity and you are much kinder, I think, to successful people and you’re more appreciative of what they’ve achieved. And that’s quite nice.
There is something – perhaps it’s a class system thing, I think, because we don’t have the Sloane Ranger set and such obvious class stratifications.
Piers Morgan: I think it’s very much about class as well. And I think you are a classless society and you don’t have that snobbery that we have where people think they’re better than others just because of where they were born or how much money they have.
It’s sort of nowhere near as bad in America. Having said that, I mean, we have I would say, a much more aggressive press and media.
Which I was a part of, and I think that’s quite healthy.
I wish the American media had been more aggressive about Iraq, for example.
Because we may not have got ourselves into this mess collectively - Britain and America.
And so I don’t think that America is perfect by any means and I’m not sure that President Bush will go down as a hugely brilliant force of the world, nor will Tony Blair in my view.
But what we collectively have, I think, is a great spirit about Britain and America and I think that there’s a lot of similarities in the two countries and a lot of things which make up this special relationship that the leaders go on about.
I think it is there and I do feel a real affinity when I go to America with the people there. And I think that America has every right to feel very proud of itself from where it’s come.