This is a message from the converted: Nicki Minaj is a fantastic American Idol judge. The best. Magnificent. More valuable than she could possibly know.
Yet, if you were speaking to me approximately a week and a half ago, I’d have told you all this Minaj nonsense would be the death of Idol and that her Twitter rants were only the tip of the iceberg. I can say it now: I was so, so wrong. Nicki, I love you.
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The rapper is the youngest member of the judging panel at age 30, and compared to Mariah Carey, Randy Jackson, and Keith Urban (who also judged the Australian version of The Voice), her expertise in judging and producing music is far more limited. Of course we were wary when she burst onto the scene with snide looks for Mariah and her never-ending barrage of ridiculous nicknames. (Yes, that pasty, boring kid from Tennessee named Joel should definitely go around calling himself Jumanji.) What is she bringing to the table? And why does she keep calling everyone she likes “a staaaar”? And what possesses her to speak in a British accent randomly? The answers are: She’s bringing Nicki to the table, and she does those things because she’s Nicki-freaking-Minaj and that’s what Nicki-freaking-Minaj does. And it’s great.
Now, naysayers, stay with me for a moment. Since Simon Cowell got tired and tuned out during Season 9 and then left us with the clueless patrol in Seasons 10 and 11 (sorry, Steven and JLo), Idol has lacked that special something. Sure, we’ve fallen in love with contestants (America sure fell hard for Mr. Phillip Phillips), but the judges have simply been there, woken up occasionally by the loud isms and wasms of Steven Tyler and the periodical misunderstandings of the way things like fish work by Randy and his all-powerful Yo pin. We yearned week in and week out for the wise, and sometimes harsh, words of mega-producer and mentor Jimmy Iovine, because our regular panel lacked teeth. With Nicki at the table, that’s not a problem anymore. (But, don’t leave us, Jimmy!) Nicki brings out the harder sides of her fellow judges.
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This year, Randy is far more inclined to tell a contestant, “You’re tone deaf, dawg.” And he actually did. Whereas he would mask his true feelings with niceties in the past, or be buried under Simon’s avalanche of mean on the original panel, Randy gets to throw his 30 years of music biz know-how around. And it’s because Nicki is there. It’s because she fosters an atmosphere in which anything goes, from calling a tone-deaf contestant “boo-boo” and giving him puppy dog eyes, to teasing a young woman for her last name resembling a ladies’ nether regions (ahem, Bush), to telling Mariah “she’s a b***h” within 10 minutes of their first audition session. Nicki is a loose cannon in an ever-changing wardrobe of technicolor dreams. Plus, she is the most entertaining judge we’ve seen on this show since Simon.
But don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the girl is Simon. She consistently favors contestants’ looks, style, and general air of awesomeness over their talent and you can see her fighting to enjoy a country singer, no matter how close their voices come to making angels weep tears of joy. If she hates your voice, she'll find something nice to say about you or a complete non-sequitur to soften the blow. She’s not going to tell someone where their technical flaws lie and she’s not about to tell anyone they’re “delusional” (one of Simon’s favorite words). She’s not in charge, but she's the inadvertent taste-maker. She’s the new judge to love, hate, and obsess over. She’s the one we’re here to see. Why else would the panel have a fourth judge? Nicki is the ace in the hole.
Wednesday night’s walkout incident was only further ammunition for why: She’s an atypical judge and she knows it. The fight that stopped the Charlotte auditions was initiated because Nicki felt marginalized. She felt like her vision for contestants was at odds with Randy’s and Mariah’s vision, and when Randy threw out his “30 years of experience” as justification, Nicki didn’t fire back with some overconfident remark. She was legitimately hurt: She’s the outsider, and Randy’s retort shook her confidence, so she retreated to lick her wounds. Nicki doesn’t have the upper hand. She’s the newcomer, the underdog, and very often the black sheep. How could you not love her? She’s doing everything she can to make her mark, and she’s doing so by being her outrageous, weird self. In what other year would someone like Chicago’s androgynous Kez Ban be so heralded? When else would we spend so much time getting to know an outrageous attention hog with a collection of blonde and pink wigs like Ashley Smith from Charlotte? Only during the reign of Nicki.
Let’s face it. We’re in the era of the new American Idol and the new Idol is Nicki.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: Fox]
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The rubber-faced actor catapulted to fame in the mid-1990s, starring in hits Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask and Dumb & Dumber.
Growing up in Ontario, Canada Carrey started off as a struggling actor and comedian, appearing on stage performing sketches and enjoying small movie roles.
He became known worldwide for his impersonations and cemented his place in Hollywood by starring in hit films including The Truman Show, Cable Guy, Me, Myself & Irene, and Bruce Almighty, and also famously played the Riddler in Batman Forever.
Overcoming a battle with depression, the funnyman has lightened up movie screens with his wit and improvisational skills - and to celebrate his big milestone, WENN has compiled 10 fascinating facts about the star. Happy birthday, Jim!
- Carrey's character in 1998's The Truman Show has spawned the name of a psychological disorder - patients diagnosed with the condition 'Truman Syndrome' believe their lives are being broadcast on worldwide TV.
- The funnyman has been a vegetarian for most of his life.
- He tried to make his castmates on 2007 film The Number 23 laugh by urinating on the movie set - but his co-stars weren't amused.
- In France he is referred to as the son of legendary comic actor Jerry Lewis.
- When he was a struggling actor Carrey wrote himself a motivational cheque for $10 million (£6.3 million) and post-dated it for Thanksgiving Day, 1995. And his superstitious move worked - he was offered $10 million (£6.3 million) to play the lead in The Mask three days before his dad's death in 1994. He put the original cheque in his father's pocked before he was buried.
- Carrey has endured a turbulent love life - he has been married twice, with his second union to his Dumb and Dumber co-star Lauren Holly lasting less than a year. He has also dated Renee Zellweger and Jenny McCarthy, who he split from in 2010 after five years together.
- Carrey failed an audition to star on U.S. comedy show Saturday Night Live after he was left shaken when he saw an NBC employee trying to jump off the roof of a building shortly before the casting.
- To calm him down at school, teachers would allow the hyperactive youngster a 10-minute session at the end of each day to perform in front of his classmates.
- On top of acting he has other talents - he's also a sculptor, painter, amateur singer and songwriter - and he once penned a track for acoustic duo Tuck & Patti.
- Carrey has dual citizenship - in 2004 he was granted an American passport, while he remains a citizen of his native Canada.
"I should be a part of one of my sequels finally. I am in the mood to revisit a couple of things that I did... We're talking and I got some funny ideas. Kids are coming up to me about The Mask and Ace (Ventura) and all these things constantly." Jim Carrey on reprising some of his madcap characters for a series of sequels.
Whether the MPAA or the PTA approve or not, vulgarity is here to stay. But whether Jim Carrey is here to stay or not, that’s another question. Carrey, who has had an indelible hand in shaping twisty-faced humor into a proud genre of its own, failed to hit the high water mark with his latest comedic foray, "Me, Myself & Irene." The Farrelly brothers-directed flick made a less-than-Carrey-like $24 million in its opening weekend and has grossed $83.1 million after five weeks. Not exactly a bomb, but in a summer that saw a $42 mil debut from a blatantly derivative flick called "Scary Movie", Carrey's no longer the undisputed King of Comedy.
Until 1998's "The Truman Show" ($125.6 mil), it looked like the chameleon comedian could do no wrong. It all began with his 1994 breakthrough hit "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" ($108.3 mil), followed by "Dumb and Dumber" ($127.2 mil) and "The Mask" ($119.9 mil) in the same year, "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls" ($108.3 mil) in 1995 and "Liar Liar" ($181.4 mil) in 1997. Except for "The Cable Guy" in 1996 ($60.2 mil), Jim Carrey has consistently been a $100 million man.
"Man on the Moon" Then, all of a sudden, the funnyman’s box office recession hit in 1999 with "Man on the Moon," the Andy Kaufman biopic that made chump change ($34.5 mil) in comparison with his laundry list of hits.
"Me, Myself & Irene" -- which clung to the No. 10 spot at the box office last weekend -- was heralded as a respite from Carrey’s dramatic (i.e. not-so-lucrative) tangent and as his triumphant return to comic (i.e. lucrative) form.
So, why didn't it set the world afunny? Could "Me, Myself & Irene" be underperforming because the modern-day Jerry Lewis himself has lost his knack? Is Jim Carrey's schtick simply getting old?
For answers, we asked Martin Knelman, author of the biography "Jim Carrey: The Joker Is Wild," and he says the answer is no.
"[’Me, Myself & Irene’] is just not a very good movie," says Knelman. "Carrey does as well as anyone did. The problem is not with Jim Carrey’s physical comedy, but it’s that [the jokes] are not connected to the film in any narrative ways. It’s just a lackluster movie, and it’s not as good as a script."
We also asked Paul Dergarabedian, an industry analyst and box office watcher for Exhibitor Relations Co., and he likewise disagreed with the notion that Carrey's clownery is becoming passe. To the contrary, Dergarabedian thinks Carrey's clout is falling because he hasn’t been sticking to his tried-and-true comedy formula.
"I don’t think his act, quote-unquote, is old. Actually, I think [slapstick comedy is] what people want, but he's been sort of straying away from that. Audiences respond to him when he's more of the funny, goofy kind of guy, the friendly schlub who is the butt of jokes.
"I think ["Me, Myself & Irene"] was expected to do better," Dergarabedian adds. "I think any time you have a Jim Carrey movie, there's always a possibility that film could do over $100 million. And certainly the Farrelly brothers also have that potential, since 'There's Something About Mary' did $168 million, but this one just didn't catch on in that way."
Perhaps blaming the film’s lukewarm draw on Carrey might be unfair. If you believe what you read, then what's repelled viewers from "Me, Myself & Irene" is the tasteless jokes -- the pooping in the front yard, or a scene where Jim suckles a mother's breast. You can blame the Farrellys for that stuff.
"How the Grinch Stole Christmas" As one netizen gripes on a Jim Carrey fan Web site (www.jimcarreyonline.com), "Please tell me why it is necessary for Big Jim Carrey to use vulgarity as humor? He is a man of many talents and should not rely on the shocking and disgusting things for comedy. Come on, Jim, stop wasting time ... be funny without the yuck and nasty."
But, Carrey lovers, don’t fret. Knelman predicts that it's "extremely likely" the actor’s next headliner, the holiday tentpole "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," will be the biggest Jim Carrey hit yet.
And why not? After all, no one would dare try to desecrate the Dr. Seuss classic with poop. Right?