Howie Mandel is praising the "amazing" Kelly Clarkson for filling in last minute on the America's Got Talent judging panel after Simon Cowell broke his back in a biking accident Saturday. Appearing on the TODAY show Wednesday morning, Mandel had nothing but kind words for The Voice coach, who stepped in for her first live episode of the NBC show the night before.
"It's amazing, and Kelly was amazing," Mandel said, joking of the blind auditions on The Voice. "It was hard for her to judge with her chair facing the act — she's not used to that — but she adapted like that!" He continued that Clarkson and the crew were able to pivot at the last minute after the world was turned "upside-down" not only by the coronavirus pandemic, but also by Cowell's injury.
After falling off an electric bike Saturday at his Malibu, California home, Cowell broke his back in four places, and reportedly narrowly missed being paralyzed. He was rushed into surgery and was in the operating room for six hours, where Mandel said he had portions of his spine fused and a rod inserted into his back, but is expected to make a full recovery. "First of all I was shocked," Mandel said of hearing about the accident. "I love the guy. He's not only my boss and my co-worker, but he's a good friend, and I was so scared and so worried."
"Simon is from another planet, he's an amazing guy," Mandel continued, adding that just a day after Cowell's surgery, his friend was up on his feet walking. "I wouldn't count him out for the live shows yet," he said. "I would imagine — and if I know anything about Simon — that there may be a Simon sighting before the end of the season."
Sunday evening, Cowell tweeted that he should have read the manual before hopping on his new bike. "I have broken part of my back. Thank you to everyone for your kind messages," he wrote at the time. "And a massive thank you to all the nurses and doctors. Some of the nicest people I have ever met. Stay safe everyone. Simon."
Monday, Clarkson was announced as his replacement, sharing in her own statement, "My friend, Simon Cowell, is doing better now but was in an accident and won't be able to make Tuesday and Wednesday's live shows for AGT. But no worries America, someone far wiser, cooler, and hotter is taking his seat! The unbelievably amazing Kelly Clarkson. You're welcome in advance!"