Updated August 10, 2020 - 3:16 pm
Simon Cowell is on injured reserve for the live broadcasts of “America’s Got Talent” this week. The entertainment mogul is recovering from surgery after breaking his back in several places while testing a new electric bike at his home Sunday in Malibu, California.
On Saturday night, Cowell posted on Twitter, “Some good advice … If you buy an electric trail bike, read the manual before you ride it for the first time. I have broken part of my back. Thank you to everyone for your kind messages.”
Some good advice…
If you buy an electric trail bike, read the manual before you ride it for the first time.
I have broken part of my back.
Thank you to everyone for your kind messages.
— Simon Cowell (@SimonCowell) August 10, 2020
Cowell is out at least for the live performances, set for 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday (KSNV-TV, Channel 3). Host Terry Crews and judges Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum and Sofia Vergara will be back.
The four Las Vegas contestants are still set to appear in the no-audience format: aerialist Alan Silva, sword swallower Brett Loudermilk, daredevil artist Johnathan Goodwin and mentalist Max Major. Loudermilk is on Tuesday’s episode. The other appearances are to be announced.
The promos for “AGT” show a montage of alumni who have gone on to headline Las Vegas Strip productions: Shin Lim, Mat Franco, Piff the Magic Dragon and Terry Fator. These four are also using the show as a career springboard. I checked in with the quartet in the run-up to the show’s next round:
Silva has performed in Cirque du Soleil’s “Zumanity” since the show opened at New York-New York in 2003. He had been contacted routinely by “AGT” producers over the past four years but was not permitted to audition because of his contract with Cirque. With the company dark, he’s released to compete.
Silva faces the challenges presented by any specialty act in evolving a singular routine weekly as he advances in the series.
“Obviously, with the variety acts, we train and we practice so hard to be able to do this skills, it’s difficult to do something that is completely different,” Silva says. “So, like a singer can come into the competition and sing a different song but still be singing. They’re not, ‘Now, I’m going to play piano.’ That’s how I see the variety acts. They should be looked at as a variety act within the same genre, but with a different skill, like a singer singing a different song.”
Silva has been working with his brother, Alfredo, whose Deadly Games act made it to the live broadcasts of Season 11 in 2016 and appeared on “The Champions” spinoff in 2019. Alfredo is a member of the sidelined “Celestia” cast.
“He is my biggest supporter,” Silva says. “He got the Golden Buzzer from Heidi Klum, so he’s able to give me some good advice.”
Silva has emphasized during the show that he did not want to be pinned to a comedy or clown role as a little person in the circus. He has been true to that tenet on “AGT.”
“People are so proud for me to be able to carry their flag of not being normal,” Silva says. “Nobody is perfect, and people can relate to that … sharing my story is already a win for me.”
The Sword Swallower
Brett Loudermilk was a highlight in “Band of Magicians” at the Tropicana and co-stars in Spiegelworld’s interplanetary spoof “Opium” at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
Loudermilk’s work with Vergara reminds of some of his audience-participation skills he’s displayed in Las Vegas. Vergara did not want to attempt to pull a sword from Loudermilk’s throat, shrieking and running from the stage as Loudermilk attempted to teach her the routine. Cowell and Mandel then took the stage to aid in Loudermilk’s second act and pull one of three swords from Loudermilk’s throat. As we say, high jinks ensued.
“That was exactly what happened in the room,” Loudermilk says. “I get Sofia up there and I go, ‘OK, I’m going to deal with it and move forward with the act.’ As soon as Simon interrupted, I’m like, ‘Things are so far off the rails at the point, let’s keep going.’ ”
Loudermilk says he’s not necessarily staying with the swallowing of swords when he returns Tuesday night.
“I started as a magician. I’m an actor. I have a variety of skills,” he says. “I’m looking to utilize everything that’s in my arsenal.”
As it is, Loudermilk has already reached a national TV audience with one of those skills.
“I’m in a competition, and I want to do as well as I possibly can, but at the core of it I’m just excited to be here,” he says. “We’re going through the craziest time of our lives, and I’m on a TV show that reaches millions of people every week. I can’t even wrap my head around it.”
The Danger Act
Goodwin and Cowell met in the spring of 2019 when Goodwin was on “Britain’s Got Talent,” performing his “Buried Alive” routine for the first time ever onstage.
As Cowell said when introducing Goodwin in an “AGT” audition, “It was the closest I’ve ever seen anyone kill themselves on live TV.”
Topping Cowell’s hyperbole, Goodwin said his audition was “the most dangerous and scariest I’ve ever performed.” With help from sidekick April Leopardi (a former cast member in “Zombie Burlesque”), Goodwin played “Blindfold Chicken” dodging the arrows of four crossbows firing at him while blindfolded.
The Welsh escape artist is a born performer, a former flatmate of famed mentalist Derren Brown and a friend of Piff the Magic Dragon (he helped set up Piff’s burning-at-the-stake video to win “Tournament of Laughs.”
Goodwin says he’s achieved the dual goals of being on TV and collecting footage to advance his career.
“I’m enjoying playing the game of ‘AGT,’ and what I have decided to do is to try to make it my own stand in the show. I have thousands of potential stunts that I’ve collected since I was a kid, and put them all in order of most scary,” Goodwin says. “Hopefully I that is going to keep people interested.”
That said, Goodwin seizes his reality.
“I don’t expect to win. I think that what I do is quite polarizing, actually,” he says. “I think it’s the kind of thing that people either get really excited about, or they want to change the channel.”
Major moved to Las Vegas within the last year and is seeking a residency on the Strip. Until then, his act recorded high atop the MGM Grand for “AGT” will suffice.
He’s already turned in a winning performance, in the sense he won over the judges in his audition. Cowell’s face was a mask of shock as Major displayed phrases Cowell had used throughout Major’s card trick from the MGM rooftop.
“No. 1, I have every intention of winning the entire show,” Major says. “That being said, because of the way Simon reacted to my performance, I felt like I had already won. He’s the guy who has seen everything.
“When I was a kid I would see the signs and lights and we’d go to every show. … I saw Lance Burton; that was very inspiring back in the day. I saw the Mac King show,” Major says. “It was the first time in my life that I had seen someone make a living as a performer. To me it was always something fun and a hobby that I enjoy, but I had never actually seen someone who was an entertainer for a living. It kind of clicked, like, oh, my gosh, this is actually something I can do for the rest of my life.”
When Major advanced, he says, “I was literally overwhelmed. I was crying and I was laughing hysterically at the same time. It was one of the strangest experiences of my life.”
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats! podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.