NBC might not be home to the Miss Universe pageant anymore, but the network is debuting a new international competition — and this one includes a man who can regurgitate a goldfish.
“America’s Got Talent: The Champions,” starting Monday, features the most memorable acts from past seasons and all versions of the show, from Europe to Africa. The winner will be crowned “world champion,” which should even impress the famously mean Simon Cowell, who is the executive producer and one of the judges, along with Mel B, Heidi Klum and Howie Mandel.
Some of the franchise’s most famous names (Susan Boyle!) will compete, along with competitors who have some truly bizarre skills. We weeded through the 50 acts to find five that are the most unusual — and learned that watching people show off weird talents may be the thing that unites us all.
Uzeyer Novruzov, ladder balancer (Azerbaijan)
Back when Uzeyer Novruzov auditioned for “America’s Got Talent” Season 10 in 2015, he scaled a ladder and then balanced on top of it. While that’s in his job description as a professional ladder balancer, it was still terrifying to others: “I thought that, for my life, I’d be part of a YouTube video where a poor man falls to his death,” guest judge Michael Bublé said.
Novruzov was fine. As a former circus performer, he performs death-defying stunts all the time. (Once, he fell on his head and was in a coma for three days. And then got back to work.) Novruzov, 42, sailed through “AGT” to the Top 10, even though, in a gasp-inducing semifinals moment, he tumbled off the ladder while trying to balance with two hoops. One of the reasons he wanted to return to the show, he said, was to inspire viewers to conquer their fears.
DJ Arch Jnr, kid DJ
As “South Africa’s Got Talent” host Tats Nkonzo wandered around backstage during Season 6 tryouts, he approached a man holding his young son. “Are you the one that’s doing the thing?” Nkonzo asked the man, assuming he was about to go audition.
“No,” the man said, grinning as he gestured to his son. “He is.”
Nkonzo’s confusion was understandable — the boy was the youngest contestant in the show’s history. A few moments later, 3-year-old Oratilwe AJ Hlongwane took the stage with his father, who informed the judges that his son was a DJ named DJ Arch Jnr. The judges looked amused, and then mystified, while DJ Arch Jnr (ridiculously adorable in a puffy red coat and headphones bigger than his head) started twisting knobs and pressing buttons, as he dropped some killer beats.
Kseniya Simonova, sand animation artist (Ukraine)
It is simultaneously simple and difficult to describe Kseniya Simonova’s work as a sand artist. On one hand, it’s exactly what it sounds like — she creates pictures with sand. On the other, it’s unbelievably complicated, as she tells a story through each drawing, and sometimes they’re so emotional they move people to tears.
The world discovered Simonova’s artistry in 2009, when she won the inaugural season of “Ukraine’s Got Talent.” She became a hero in her hometown of Yevpatoriya in Crimea. One of her final appearances on the show, a sand art retelling of scenes from the Soviet victory during World War II (known as the Great Patriotic War in
Russia) has more than
39 million YouTube views.
Stevie Starr, regurgitator (Scotland)
Warning: If you have a weak stomach, you may want to look away when Stevie Starr comes on the screen. Starr, 56, is known as the Professional Regurgitator because … well, he can regurgitate things. Anything, really.
“I’m gonna swallow things and bring them up again,” Starr said matter-of-factly to host Nick Cannon before his audition during “America’s Got Talent” Season 10 in 2015.
In fact, that’s what he did. Explaining he could regurgitate any object (keys, lightbulbs, goldfish, bees), he gulped down and then brought back up four coins.
Billy and Emily England, danger roller skaters
When Billy and Emily England were young, their mother was desperate to get them to play outside, despite the gross weather in the U.K.; so as motivation, she bought the siblings roller skates. They soon realized they had a knack for stunts, and over years of performing at schools, churches and on local TV, they honed their act as a danger roller skating duo.
If you don’t think something is possible to do on skates, they’ll prove you wrong: flips, lifts, Billy spinning Emily around at dangerous speeds. It’s not uncommon to see panicked audience members cover their eyes, sure they’re about to witness a horrific accident.
Emily Yahr is a writer for
The Washington Post.