In 2007 my office received the first of many calls from America’s Got Talent to request I come perform on their show as a contestant. My fellow corporate performer acquaintance, Terry Fator, singing impressionist and master ventriloquist, had just won, receiving a multi-million dollar Las Vegas headlining contract, ultimately replacing the legendary Danny Gans at The Mirage a year later. I was in the midst of doing corporate events in place of Terry that he could no longer fulfill due to his change in life, finances, and schedule. Always rough replacing such a great act, but by the time I acknowledged the fact they were disappointed I was there and Terry wasn’t, I sat on the floor of the stage, took my shoe off, put my sock on my hand, and sang Kermit’s “Rainbow Connection” as good as Terry, the miffed corporate buyers were laughing so hard at my impression of Terry I had them in my hand by the 2nd minute and was requested back the next year. The work and pay was great, and I guess AGT considered me next in line of the entertainers they wanted to feature.
Along with my management and advisors at the time, we couldn’t get past the extensive contracting AGT required. After Terry had won the show, and then signed a $100 Million Vegas deal, AGT realized they needed to lock in performers from the get go in order to capitalize on the amount of commissions they weren’t making on multi-million dollar contracts their show winner’s might earn on the back end of a Vegas deal. They got smart and were now presenting contracts that locked performers down for years, perhaps the rest of their careers, even to have one appearance in the initial rounds of the show. Thus the reason so few good acts were on the show, just occasionally an unknown great, but not proven corporate artists with an arsenal to offer. Little did AGT understand, I had walked away from lucrative offers years before, between Vegas, Reno, and California casinos, as the offers didn’t allow me the creative control or moral integrity I had established for my career. So missing out on their show to me was not a huge issue, although I always wondered how I’d fare.
If you know my story, I never appeared on AGT, due to these contracts and the way I saw some of my associates embarrassed, used as B-Roll footage in their auditions, and then locked into contracts that would make their corporate performing life miserable for years thereafter. That’s the way of the reality show world. Discover You, Clamp You Down, Extinguish You. Next!
And then last year a very good friend of mine, Alex Boye, went on the show and made it to the 2nd Round. He represented himself well, and I felt was purposefully thrown under the bus by the judges in order to make him look bad for good TV, and was knocked off the show. I asked him about the experience, why he’d go on when he is already established and successful, and he said it was because it allowed his platform and message to get to even more people. It was worth the risk and even the unfair post-production editing and embarrassment. I remember seeing his online presence go from already large to bursting at the seams. He was right, this had helped, and now he could spread his message of love, joy, and spirit throughout the world.
Maybe it’s worth, I thought.
With the advice of many wise people, including people I would consider to be my potential managers, handlers, producers, advisors, and my inner circle, as well as former AGT show winner’s management, I took the idea to my family and children. We sat together in a family council, as my kids had begged me to go on the show since they were born, and so, I decided to take the plunge. After 4-5 years of turning AGT’s requests for me to come on the show away, I was now asking them to come on. They were excited to have me, and offered me a fast-pass audition opportunity. Another reason I chose 2015 to go for it was the one gripe I had about the show the whole time: Why not come to the city with the most talent I believe, per capita, of any in the world, mine, Salt Lake City. So when they announced they were coming to Utah I said yes, thank you for coming here, I’ll come “try out”.
As luck would have it, on December 1, 2015 I posted a normal Facebook post about my love for my wife and seeing her at Target and thinking I cheated on her. I thought it was a cute post and hit “Post” and went to bed. 24 hours later it had gone viral. Within 36 hours I had been offered 3 Reality Shows, a book deal, talks of a movie, and had been interviewed by “The Today Show”, People Magazine, and was featured front page on Business Insider, Yahoo!, Google, Vanity Fair and The Daily Post in London. 48 hours later my name, Jason Hewlett, was trending higher than any name in the world, even above Kim Kardashian, who had just birthed a baby with everyone’s favorite person, Kanye West. Yes, things were going insane in our world all of a sudden. 2 days later I tried out for America’s Got Talent, and to be honest, I wondered why I even needed to be there….as I was currently the most famous person in the world while trying out for a reality show. I found that interesting, odd, and silly. Fame is fleeting, my 15 minutes obviously came to a screeching halt a week or two later, and the FB post has gone into the vault of, “Remember that one post about that cheating husband? I wonder what happened to that guy.” George Takei’s followers would suggest, “He probably got cheated on. Or was shot.” Wow, George’s follower’s comments are not to be read, ever, by anyone wanting to feel good about themselves. WHEW!
December 5th I auditioned for America’s Got Talent. They had promised me a fast pass, help, production assistance, anything I needed. Ends up that didn’t quite happen. I had to start from the beginning like everyone else. Sat and waited for hours, no questions answered, acted like they didn’t know me after talking and receiving videos for months, with my little number on my chest, kept getting in trouble for taking pics of myself in the waiting area for my own records and posterity. The looks on local performer’s faces walking into the waiting area who saw me sitting there was that of “Oh No, Not him.” It was great to catch up with old friends, comedians, magicians, singers, great acts I adore, and to see so many of us trying to make this happen. We are all friends, and I am proud of the many great performers in this State that went for it.
I jumped through all the rounds that day, pretty much just did my faces, a few singing impressions of Guns n’ Roses, Journey, Led Zeppelin, Cee-Lo Green, Chipmunks….the usual…stuff I figured would knock them out. And it worked. The one judge sitting alone in a room with a video camera who was shocked sent me to the next room, where the three judges and guy with video camera were laughing hysterically and thrilled, and shocked by my act, sent me to the female producer in another room at the computer writing down my story who was shocked at all I could do, and surprised by the amazing story of Vegas, my family, etc, and then realized I was also the viral post cheat-on-his-wife guy. She said, “Wow, I just read that like 20 minutes ago, my friend from Australia sent me the link, how crazy to meet you.” It was surreal. They told me they’d be in touch by March or April for the next round, which was probably, most likely, going to happen for an act like mine.
And so for the past 3 months I have been back and forth with the show producers. Every song I submitted that would be killer for their show was denied. Every parody I had written was submitted word for word for them to scrutinize and deny. I was told to submit multiple videos, on performance decorated stages, in front of audiences, doing exactly what I would do in increments of 90 seconds, and then a set of 5 minutes, with the few routines that were left from the bottom of the barrel of my choices. I got it to them timely, professionally, and met all demands. In fact, here’s my submission with the 5 songs they would allow me to use, in order, in front of an audience of thousands of people cheering from the start:
1. Louie Armstrong
2. Nat King Cole & Natalie Cole
3. REO Speedwagon
4. Eiffel 65 (I’m Blue Da-Ba-Dee)
5. Lady Gaga
I’d say that’s a pretty decent video, pretty awesome response, even with routines I wasn’t hoping to do on the show, but this is all they allowed.
Upon sending that video the first week of February I heard nothing but – SILENCE.
I had been told at the beginning of the year to put all of March on hold. Week by week. So I did. I only accepted one gig in order to pay my bills for the month, in order to leave March open for the next round of auditions.
Finally yesterday, March 1, I emailed asking if there was any news, but I’d like to know either way, as I had the whole month held for them as requested.
Today I got a one line response: “Due to the amount of contestants on the show this year you won’t be performing for the judges.”
And that was that.
I could have the normal reaction of a man who has been led on for years by an enticing woman, saying she wanted to be with me, would be mine easily, and then when I went after her shot me down and stepped on me. Or I could have the response of a businessman who spent a good 5-6 full days of work, between audition and sending all of the necessities over months, preparing, mapping, planning, performing, and then holding a whole month hostage in order to be told, “No Thanks”. Those types of sales fall through all the time, as an entrepreneur I get it and it’s part of life. I could be angry, upset, and go outside and chop down a tree with a spoon in violent rage with the thought that I will end up as B-roll and humiliated on the show that at least 5 people per gig for a decade have asked me why I haven’t been on.
But instead, I learned a great lesson here, and it is important to write this huge long ridiculous post out in order to understand and process the true feelings. The lesson learned is this: We ALL work very hard for things we want in life, give our all, our life’s work, our time, our talents, and our hopes, our dreams….and yet sometimes it’s just not what they’re looking for. For example, if I were a single man, and I chased the woman of my dreams all over this fine world, and begged her to love me by doing and being everything she could ever want, if there isn’t attraction there I couldn’t hypnotize her into loving me.
Same with this.
I did everything I could to prove I’d be great for this show. And for some reason they gave me the cold shoulder.
And you know what’s interesting is that the toughest part was telling my cute kids today that Daddy didn’t make it, and helping them understand it is the final proof I needed to continue moving in the direction I’ve been pushing for the past 5 years. The inkling in the back of my mind as to whether or not I should go for the big contract still, the fame, the show, America’s Got Talent, and all of that, this for me is exactly what I needed to say, “Jason, you are headed in the right direction, the one God has planned for you, it is time to move to the next level and commit fully.”
Had I entered this game, this show, back in 2007 or 2008, I probably would have done well on it. Who knows, maybe I win it, my life is transformed, la-dee-da-dee-da.
But no. Instead I have become more than The Show. I have had the opportunities to speak to youth all over this fine country, to reconnect with my message, to provide for my corporate clients who have me back annually my speaking as I integrate entertainment and message and stories in a way that very few have before, and my direction is set.
I am SO grateful this day for this news. It is a huge deal for me, a major weight off my shoulders. It’s not to say I’m done doing The Show. Heck, I’ll do it for a fat old fee and everyone will be happy. But it does solidify the fact that what I have been working toward, as SPEAKER, HOST, Entertainer, and all of it mashed together, makes me what I am, and that’s not a Vegas, Network TV, Public Show Performer. It all makes sense and makes me happy to have one major door I wondered about for so long finally close so I can go in the other.
So, I’ve learned a lot in this process, and I’m grateful to have been denied my appearance on the show that once wanted me but no longer does. I find it fascinating how our lives are guided when we do what we are meant to do.
And with that I must finish, as I am now homeschooling my daughter, and we have work to do to help her create her dreams, live her amazing life, as I’ve been so blessed to, and will continue to. And therein lies my greatest joy: to teach, be with family, and have the occasional gig with an incredible company who wants Jason Hewlett, The Messenger, Keynote Speaker, who Entertains, and so life is amazing.