Martin Short: Nice, Not Nasty, Works When Judging TV Talent Competitions

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TORONTO – Martin Short watches American Idol.

So the Canadian comic/actor will be nice, not nasty, when he takes up lead judging duties on Canada’s Got Talent.

“When (Aerosmith’s) Steven Tyler took over at American Idol, and J-Lo (Jennifer Lopez), they said everyone will be too nice and too pleasant and it won’t have an edge. And the ratings went higher,” Short said of a post-Simon Cowell American Idol.

Canada's Got Talent, to debut on Citytv in March 2012, will be a local version of the America's Got Talent show, and also based on the format licensed from FremantleMedia.

And like Cowell, Short says he’ll tell it like it is when he judges singers, jugglers and fire-breathers competing in the Canadian talent-search show.

But he’ll coat the truth with a practiced sincerity that made a Hamilton, Ontario-born Short an accomplished stage and TV entertainer, and not with caustic one-liners.

“There’s an element of reality TV that cannot exist without the word humiliation. And one of the things that turned me off about these (reality competition) shows – for years I wouldn’t watch them – is I would find some judge with questionable talent being mean to someone who was trying their best,” Short told The Hollywood Reporter while on a visit to Toronto.

“And you realize that must be part of why it’s a big hit,” he added.

What’s more, meanness has paid off for Cowell in America, but it's not likely to fly in Canadian primetime.

“I don’t think, particularly in this country (Canada), we want to see someone say, 'I’m going to be the jerk judge, I’m going to make people feel badly about themselves,'” Short argued.

In the Great White North, talent competition series like Canadian Idol, Battle of the Blades and So You Think You Can Dance Canada tend to prefer nurturing over nastiness when it comes to judging contestants.

“These are people getting up and performing and their hearts are in their mouths. They’re nervous. And to sit back and snidely put them down because it’s good for ratings, first of all, it makes the judge look like a complete fool,” he added.

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