One of the things that makes fans flock to the NBC hit reality show America’s Got Talent are acts that seem to be one way, but actually turn out to be another. The audience and judges have one impression of what they are about to see, and then they are surprised by the twist that happens during the performance. This is what happened with this season’s second best audition, Ray Jessel, on season nine of America’s Got Talent (AGT).
Jessel, age 84, told the AGT staff that he did not start performing until he was 72. The video clip of him began with him looking lost as to where he was supposed to go and it appeared more like he was going to be some kind of doddering old man, rather than a big-time performer. The persona continued when he appeared unable to hear Heidi Klum at first. Quickly the audience learned that Jessel was an incredibly witty and funny guy when he told the four raters that he had never performed before judges before, but that he had appeared before them. That brought boisterous laughter from the audience.
Jessel told the judges that he had come to perform an original song of his. He returned to the persona of the silly old man, when he found it difficult to get his mic in the mic holder, but demonstrated how quick his wit was by telling the audience, “For my second song, I’d like to…” It was another bright spot in an act that was humorous and endearing from start to finish.
Jessel then began to play a song that appeared to be a love song dedicated to a special woman in his life. The look on Klum’s face showed how sweet and sentimental she thought the song was going to be. The 84-year-old crooned out a romantic sounding little ditty about how the woman had a great walk, a great talk, how she had pizzazz and a whole lot of other qualities that sounded so sweet. However there was just one problem with her, according to Jessel and that was “she had a penis.” The line was so shockingly humorous and unexpected that it sent the audience into an uproar of laughter. Host Nick Cannon laughed so hard it looked like he could barely hold himself up.
The entire song had great one-liners throughout that added to the frivolity of the audition. His line that there is “always some failure, always some flaw; guess that’s what they call ‘Murphy’s Law,’ ” brought a huge laugh out of Howard Stern. Ray Jessel also proved to be the second best audition act on America’s Got Talent when he sang that another part of what bothered him about “her” is that “hers was bigger than mine.” It brought the entire audience into an uproar, and the look on a woman’s face that was shown immediately following the line was priceless.
The humor did not end there. When he finished with the act Klum asked him if the song was about a real situation he had experienced. Jessel told her it happened to a “friend” of his, which brought humorous doubt from Mel B and Howie Mandel. Stern then called the 84-year-old a “breath of fresh air.” Clearly the judges and the audience loved him.
With four enthusiastic yeses from the judges, Ray Jessel moves onto the Vegas round on America’s Got Talent and was one of the second best audition performances for audiences everywhere. He truly was a breath of fresh air, and should be an inspiration to many older Americans that it is never too late to get into show business.
Opinion by Nathan Sullivan