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Simon Cowell talks about America's Got Talent, the X Factor and being a 'mean' judge in

Simon Cowell opens up to New York Post about America’s Got Talent, his past mistakes with the X Factor and his on-air persona.

You created “America’s Got Talent.” This reminds me of the boss coming in kick his employees’ butts.

[Laughs] Well, years ago, I had a conversation with NBC about doing this show and they offered me a really good deal overall. At the time I was on “Idol” and it didn’t feel like the right thing to do. NBC always had these conversations with me and the question was not if, but when. Howard [Stern, who left “AGT”] was doing good on the show and it was always his choice whether he wanted to stay or go, but we never knew year to year. He didn’t like the traveling, or whatever it was.

Any thoughts I had about being the boss was soon shattered on Day One. These four know each other so well and I felt like the new boy — and almost like I had to prove myself.

How much of “AGT” have you seen the past few years?

It’s obviously one of our biggest shows so I sometimes came in for the finals, or if I didn’t come in for the finals I watched them. I’d go down to the tapings sometimes and sit with the team. The only thing I felt was missing [was] I thought we could do better with the music acts. That wasn’t our strong point. We’ve had one successful singer over the years, Jackie Evancho, and I think with the “Got Talent” brand, even though it’s a variety show, I still think the music acts are important. That was my number one mission: To see if I could attract better music acts to the show. And we do have better music acts this season, that’s for sure.

In retrospect, what went wrong with “The X Factor”?

It was a mess. First of all, we should’ve waited for “Idol” to end and then launch “X Factor” in its spot. That would’ve been the smart thing … not having the shows on at the same time … In hindsight, we panicked … and I opened my big mouth when I said we’d get 20 million viewers [a week]. When I look back on it, some stupid decisions were made. But I’m a big boy. It’s a learning curve … And we got [singing group] Fifth Harmony from Season 2, so we found some stars.

Have you mellowed in your on-air persona?

I don’t think you change as a person. When I look back at early [“American Idol”] clips … what people do forget is that I was different from the other judges — I was British and said what I’d always said. I thought it was funny, [that I was] not being mean. I think people also forget that what I did mainly in those early days was I found stars, whether it was Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood. And I think people think more about the ‘mean’ things I said when I was really being positive and trying to help people and spot talent. That’s what I’m most proud of.

Do you regret some of the comments you made to “Idol” contestants?

No. I remember once [in 2007] … when I was in trouble for comparing someone [wide-eyed “Idol” hopeful Kenneth Briggs] to a “bush baby.” I thought it was funny but, my God, did I get it in the neck. I never intended it to be that mean-spirited — it was supposed to be funny, more than anything else.


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