NEW YORK (Reuters) - Shock jock Howard Stern promised on Thursday to tone down his act for his judge’s role on “America’s Got Talent,” in a shift from some of the controversy that has helped make his radio show popular and has shaped his reputation.
Stern replaces Piers Morgan on the judging panel for the NBC talent show that returns for a seventh season on Monday. The choice of the radio DJ, known for sexually explicit language and satirical comments on race and religion, has already drawn protests from one TV watchdog group.
But the 58-year-old Stern, who already holds a lucrative and free-wheeling gig on satellite radio broadcaster SiriusXM , told reporters in New York that he understood “Got Talent” was aimed at a mainstream audience.
“I respect what ‘America’s Got Talent’ is. It is a family show, it is not ‘The Howard Stern Show’, it is a show that I love. I have been watching it for years and I don’t want to come in and do ‘The Howard Stern Show’. I don’t want to interrupt the flow of the show. I only want to make it better,” he said.
“If I try to turn it into ‘The Howard Stern Show’, it’s not going to work. People are going to hate it,” he added, while still promising to be direct.
Stern was hired by “America’s Got Talent” creator Simon Cowell and NBC executives hope the lanky host will drive millions of new viewers to the family-friendly show - the most popular summer TV program on U.S. television.
They hope he will do for TV what he did for radio. Stern inked a five-year deal with SiriusXM in 2011 that nets him about $80 million a year, according to analysts. He brought an estimated 1.2 million subscribers to Sirius when he first joined the fledgling satellite radio company in 2006.
“‘America’s Got Talent’ is a perfect fit with me,” Stern said of his new role. “What I like about ‘America’s Got Talent’ is, it is true vaudeville.”
It is not Stern’s first time on the small screen. During his career, he has taken his radio show to TV and produced a movie, “Private Parts,” loosely based on his life. But he promised to shake up the talent show format.
“I do think this kind of television risks going the way of the disco ball, that if the judges don’t step up and offer real criticism that these types of shows will start to get too dull,” he said, referring to some of the bland comments on “American Idol”.
Stern dismissed criticism by the Parents Television Council that his judging role would likely cause a sharp increase in explicit content on NBC.
“You can’t complain about a show until you see the show,” he said, inviting critics to watch and see “if I am very subversive or whatever it is they imagine I going to be. This is a family show. It is a different form of entertainment.”
“We will see what happens. Hopefully America will like this and put everybody’s fears to rest,” he later added, saying that NBC had given him no instructions on what he could or could not say.
As for whether he might alienate his longtime radio listeners if he is seen as too soft, Stern said he no longer worries after a 35-year broadcasting career.
What worried him more, he said, was that people would have to look at his face.
“I don’t think I am a particularly handsome man. This is a face made for radio, so we will see how it does.”
Editing By Jill Serjeant