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Simon Cowell became known to American TV viewers when he led the judging panel for eight years on American Idol, which premiered to phenomenal success in 2002. He left the series to appear as a judge on The X Factor, which he also created.

For the past 10 years, Cowell has been the Creator and Executive Producer of NBC’s America’s Got Talent, which has consecutively remained the #1 summer show in total viewers. And now, for the first time, Simon Cowell, joins the judges panel for its 11th season, alongside of Heidi Klum, Mel B and Howie Mandel.

The series continues to spotlight a variety of acts of all ages, including singers, dancers, comedians, contortionists, impressionist, magicians and ventriloquists, all vying for the $1 million prize. The series premieres on May 31st 2016, with the live shows being held at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Simon Cowell met with journalists at NBC’s press day to talk about his return to US TV.

America's Got Talent Season 11 - Auditions Pasadena Civic Auditorium: Simon Cowell
America’s Got Talent Season 11 – Auditions Pasadena Civic Auditorium: Simon Cowell ©2016 2016 NBCUniversal Media, photo by Trae Patton

Welcome back to American television. What did it mean to be off the air in this country for the first time in a very long time and now to come back?

It was like a lonely desert. No water. No friends.

It was fine. I think this is about two years ago, I came down to watch the show being filmed. I was sitting in the audience, thinking the panel was very good. But I was kind of hoping one of them would hurt themselves. Not badly, but enough that I would have to go, ‘I’m here,’ because it really, really looked so much fun.

I was offered to do (the show) five years ago, but I couldn’t do it. Then, whatever happened, happened. This felt like the perfect timing. It’s been a lot of fun.

So to answer your question, it was worth the wait to come back to this.

Is there a British dream like an American dream?

We have a British dream. It’s just not as big as the American dream, because we’re a smaller country. Same thing though; same principle.

What is the talent like this season?

Well, I think, without giving too much away, there’s some of the most amazing auditions we’ve had in a long, long time. But surprising. We didn’t know they were coming.

More singers have turned up. The singers, I’ve got to tell you, are way better than I could have hoped for. So, yeah, it’s good.

America's Got Talent Season 11 - Auditions Pasadena Civic Auditorium: Heidi Klum and Simon Cowell
America’s Got Talent Season 11 – Auditions Pasadena Civic Auditorium: Heidi Klum and Simon Cowell ©2016 2016 NBCUniversal Media, photo by Trae Patton

What acts would you hope never to see on the show again?

Clowns, I actually hate them. I’m scared of them and am now allergic to them. One of the last acts one evening was a clown who was, in life, a permanent clown.

They’re never funny and they keep honking things after everything they say. Like you think that’s going to be funny, honk, honk. And it’s not, honk.

I’m wondering about the poor souls who have to watch all the auditions and pick the ones for you to see, how does that process work?

We have an institution which is medically funded. You call them asylums. We call them the big house. After doing three years on this show, they go and live there for a couple years. You think I’m kidding. I’m not. It’s the hardest job in the world.

Most of the people who are put in front of us who are horrible, there’s normally one producer sitting in the back row with his hands over his head going, ‘Well, he was good when he came to my room.’ So they do make mistakes. But it’s tough.

How many people do you have doing that?

A lot.

Even though you’ve been doing this now for so long on one show or another, you seem to be genuinely enjoying yourself when you’re up there. How do you keep that level of enjoyment going?

When it’s good, of course it’s worth it. Because when you’re there, when you discover a star or you think that could become a star, you’ll never forget that moment, never forget that audition. This is a lot of fun. By the way, judging dogs is easier than singers.

If we’re wrapping up, I’d like to say something, because I am the new boy in town. These guys without me have done an amazing job, including Nick (Cannon, the series’ host). As a panel, we all work well. They have been so much fun to work with and actually so good at what they do; along with the production team who kept this show running for so many years. And for you guys for writing nice things about us over the years, I just want to say thank you.

America's Got Talent Season 11 - Auditions Pasadena Civic Auditorium: Howie Mandel, Mel B, Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum and Nick Cannon
America’s Got Talent Season 11 – Auditions Pasadena Civic Auditorium: Howie Mandel, Mel B, Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum and Nick Cannon ©2016 2016 NBCUniversal Media, photo by Trae Patton