As "Hail to the Chief" boomed over the loudspeakers, Howard Stern took the podium to entertain questions about his new role as a judge on "America's Got Talent," premiering tonight at 8 on NBC.


Why he took the job in the first place: "I didn't need the money, I didn't need more fame. I just love the show, and I thought, 'Wow, how much fun to do it.' I thought it would be fun and I thought I might be good at it. Because I sit at home watching this thing, and I'm doing commentary to the wall. I sit there, I yell -- I figure, well, I might as well get paid for it."

Why he's a good fit for the show:
"I know what's commercially viable. I started out in my career as a program director and I had to pick music. Imagine this: Some guy trusted me to pick the two records that we added every week in order to somehow predict what America, or at least my audience in that market, would want to hear. So it becomes an intuitive thing. You have to know what real talent is and honesty has to come through. This show is a shortcut; but if you're gonna get on the shortcut. you got a lot of hard work ahead of you. A lot of people think they have talent, a lot of people want to be handed a gift or an opportunity -- it doesn't work that way. You've gotta work hard."


Why he won't lose his edge: "I respect what 'America's Got Talent' is: It is a family show, it is a show that I love. I've been watching it for years. I don't want to come in there and do 'The Howard Stern Show.' I don't want to interrupt the flow of the show. I only want to make it better.

If I go in there and I'm trying to turn it into 'The Howard Stern Show,' it's not gonna work. People are gonna hate it. I would hate that. I don't think I'm losing my edge because I've always been about honesty -- whether on the radio, whether I did a movie, whether I wrote a book -- and on 'America's Got Talent' I'm being honest. And as long as you're honest, you don't lose your edge."


On his fellow "AGT" cast members: "Look, it's been great. Nick Cannon's great. I feel Ryan Seacrest is kinda tired. He doesn't look like he relates to the people. I don't know, he wants to be the next Dick Clark -- I got news for him, Dick Clark's not here anymore. And Nick is fabulous. Every time I leave a contestant crying, he picks up the pieces so beautifully. Howie's been wonderful. There's been all kind of things in the press that Howie and I don't get along -- we got along fine. Sharon, I've known for years -- and she's terrific, she has a very direct opinion. I think more so than any of the three of us, she is the one who can almost instantly size up talent. She's very, very good at it. I think we represent the best judging panel on television, and I can't wait for America to see it."


On his critics: "You can't complain about a show until you see it. Some guy sitting in his basement calling [himself the] Parent Television Council, you know, I think it's a money-raising racket. They're entitled to their opinion; they just sound awfully foolish when they haven't seen the show. And so I invite them to view the show Monday night and see what kind of judge I am. This is a family show. It's a different form of entertainment. I know the rules."


A Stern stance

Why he's fed up with today's reality show competitions: "You could watch 'American Idol' [and] throw up. Listen, J.Lo ... if I sit there in a beautiful dress and just tell [the contestants] they're wonderful, they're not gonna get anywhere. It's my job as a judge to make sure that they get to the next level ­and be honest with them."