America's Got Talent Auditions That Sparked Major Controversy

Americans are no stranger to televised talent competition shows — from the epic vocal competition "American Idol" that created icons like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood to dance showcases like "So You Think You Can Dance," there are plenty of singular talents gracing our TV screens each night of the week. But one competition show still going strong after 17 years does not limit their acts to merely singing or dancing. "America's Got Talent" has created a space on television for all kinds of acts to take the stage and showcase their unique performances. The talent competition's format is simple: hopeful auditioners present their talents to a panel of four celebrity judges, along with a live studio audience and over 6 million at home tuning in. Three out of four judges must say "yes" to an act for them to move forward. Less than 3 yeses is sadly a no for many disappointed talents. But no pressure!

Unfortunately, not all the acts wow the judges (or the audience) every time. While some have hit a wrong note during their song or fallen flat while dancing, certain acts have earned a reputation for being downright disturbing. Most recently, a performance during auditions for AGT's 18th season received major backlash amongst fans. A performer and his mother set themselves ablaze, and midway through, judge Howie Mandel said no thank you, while fans responded with serious safety concerns.

Fans scolded Howie Mandel for making this performance safety error

"America's Got Talent" has gone through its fair share of judges since the show first aired in 2006 — the first judges to sit on the panel were Regis Philbin, Piers Morgan, David Hasselhoff, and Brandy Norwood. Many stars have rotated in and out over the years, lending their knowledge to the next generation of talents. The current reigning judges lineup includes Sofía Vergara, Heidi Klum, Simon Cowell, and Howie Mandel, who was recently the target of fan criticism after an act caught flames.

In a clip on YouTube, "America's Got Talent" showcased Ray Wold and his 85-year-old mother, who took to the stage and quickly shocked the judges and audience by playing with fire. Ray began igniting his jacket and hat on fire, and he proceeded to throw flaming knives at his mother. While the duo was clearly practiced, it didn't convince the nervous judges and audience members who looked visibly disturbed during the act. Midway through the performance, Mandel hit his "no" button, which let out a loud sound. One commenter on YouTube criticized the judge's choice to interrupt the act midway through, saying that any disturbance during a risky performance could be even more dangerous. Other viewers agreed, claiming that the startling buzzer could have led to a serious tragedy if they had reacted to the loud noise.

While the act received critique, they were charming enough to advance, thankfully unharmed.

This fiery act was deemed 'inappropriate' by fans

Note to future auditioners: avoid fire. While the skill can be extremely impressive when done correctly, some viewers find the act of catching on fire (even safely) quite disturbing. The previously mentioned mother-son duo may have won the audience's hearts with their flaming hot performance, but not all who played with fire on the stage have been so lucky. Self-proclaimed Rubik's cube expert and contestant Thomas Vu took the hobby to the next level, solving the puzzle in under 30 seconds while actively on fire. He was covered with fire-safe petroleum, and finished the act without incident — but the judges were not a fan of the risky move. Fans on social media had an even more negative reaction, claiming that this shouldn't have been aired at all.

The act was not well received for many reasons, with a majority of fans claiming that being on fire is not exactly a talent — one Instagram commenter even posed the question, "How does one discover they have this talent?" A concerned parent took to the comments of AGT's social media to air their grievances, saying, "That was so stupid for him to do something like that knowing good and well kids are watching." Other fans agreed, claiming that the talent competition's younger viewers are extremely impressionable and should not be subjected to such a disturbing spectacle.

Not all AGT auditioners can keep their clothes on

Parents have expressed their concerns numerous times over "inappropriate" AGT auditions. Two seasons ago, a duo of French Canadians who call themselves "Les Beaux Frères" had judges and audience members on the edge of their seats while the pair tried their hardest to stay covered.

The act consists of a dancing and juggling routine, where both men emerge on stage naked and attempt to cover themselves with towels throughout the act. Silly trickery ensues, ending with one man entirely nude on stage, with only a small washcloth to keep from being exposed. The judges and live audience laughed, enjoying the pair's fun and well-choreographed chaos, but concerned fans with young viewers have other things to say about it. Per The U.S. Sun, one critic asked, "Aren't there kids in the audience?" Others concurred, displaying their shock at the idea of a younger viewer having a front-row seat to such an exposed talent. However, these critics are the outliers, as many AGT fans on YouTube have taken to the comments to express their genuine enjoyment for the duo, laughing at their lighthearted take on a vaudeville-style routine.

This caterpillar act seriously weirded out the judges

It takes a lot of bravery to go on national television and display your talent for all to see. Unfortunately for some, their abilities have not been extremely well received by judges and audiences alike. Not every contestant has a golden voice or sharp comedic wit to showcase — some auditioners have put on some seriously weird acts.

One that immediately comes to mind is Sethward the comedian caterpillar. From his first moment on stage during season 13 of AGT, Sethward confused and disturbed viewers by flopping around on stage and making out-of-breath jokes that just didn't quite land. He fell off the stage, attempted to interact with the audience, and was quickly shooed back onto his mark by the concerned judges. By the end of his act, Sethward attempted to transform into a butterfly, getting caught in a net while audience members booed and signaled for judges to reject his act. All four judges said no, but that didn't stop Sethward from returning multiple more times. According to NBC, the caterpillar act attempted to win the judges' hearts on seasons 14, 16, and 17, and was cast to reappear on "AGT: All-Stars."

This 2012 audition has been deemed the worst of all time

Every once in a while, an act will come along and make everyone question if the definition of "talent" should be reexamined at "America's Got Talent." Amongst the most disturbing is Sanjula Vamana and his needle act. WatchMojo ranked Vamana's routine as the number one worst AGT audition of all time, claiming that "Sticking giant needles in your face is something no one really wants to see."

Brace yourself for some disturbing imagery ahead, especially if you are not a fan of needles — a clip of the audition was uploaded to YouTube, where Vamana proceeds to stick three very large needles into either side of his face. Two cross and pierce through his cheeks, while the other is placed through the skin of his jaw. Judges and audience members react with disgust, seriously unsettled by the performer's trick.

As if that wasn't controversial enough, the couple's young child sat backstage in a stroller while his parents performed what some have claimed is the most upsetting act in AGT history. Judge Howard Stern called the act "gross," and claimed that the act should stay a sideshow attraction. Sadly for the couple, they did not continue past the first round of auditions, but they definitely have a great story to tell their kid!