Why Kelly Clarkson Thought 'American Idol' Was 'a Joke'

No one knew the original American Idol was going to become the phenomenon it did, especially Kelly Clarkson. The show's first winner said she and her fellow competitors even thought the show was a "joke" at first. The Kelly Clarkson Show host could not predict that she would go on to be one of the few Idol winners to have sustained success, almost 20 years after the first season aired.

During an appearance on Kevin Hart's new Peacock talk show Hart to Heart, the comedian noted that Clarkson's fame came suddenly. Unlike many other artists, Clarkson became a success overnight thanks to the show. Hart noted that her career started with a simple audition and she only had "a shot in a million" to win. She interrupted him, noting that everyone on the show thought it was a "joke" at first.

"We didn't think it was going to come to anything," Clarkson said. "Like we were the first season of American Idol, so we were there for that paycheck that, after SAG gives you to like pay for some bills. Nobody knew that it would actually come to anything [or] would come to fruition." Everyone hopes for fame, but that "doesn't usually happen," Clarkson acknowledged.

Although Clarkson agreed with Hart's comment that she got "thrown into" fame, the "Miss Independent" singer said she was still thankful for the experience. "I think I've skipped the surreal part," she said, noting that her fast rise to fame meant she did not face constant pressure from outside forces with unwritten rules on how to behave while climbing the Hollywood ladder.

This is not the first time Clarkson talked about her doubts that American Idol would be a sensation. When Andy Cohen stopped by The Kelly Clarkson Show in March to talk about his For Real: The Story of Reality TV series, he asked her if she thought her career would be as successful as it has been after winning Idol. "I thought, 'I'm going to be the most famous cocktail waitress in Texas,'" Clarkson joked. She went on to note that there was something "so pure and raw" about the first season. "Nobody knew, not even the people doing the show knew if it would work or not in America," the singer added.

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Today, Clarkson is among the highest-paid television stars and appears on television almost every day. She has her own daytime talk show and is a coach on NBC's The Voice. Court documents from her divorce with ex-husband Brandon Blackstock show that she earns a combined $1.9 million from The Kelly Clarkson Show and The Voice. Clarkson's full interview with Hart is available on NBCUniversal's Peacock streaming platform.