Harry Connick Jr. Says ‘American Idol’ Judging ‘Not Tough’ And The Show Is A Combination Of Competition And Entertainment

If viewers of American Idol have ever cringed at the harsh judging the contestants receive, they might be interested to know Harry Connick Jr. doesn’t consider the show tough. When asked by Zap2It if he has softened his approach over his years with the program, the New Orleans jazz musician was blunt, comparing Idol to a children’s program — not a traumatic experience in the least.

“‘American Idol’ has found an incredible balance of a competition show and an entertainment show. If I were to judge in a competition that was not being televised, I probably wouldn’t do some of the goofy things that I do, only because it wouldn’t be appropriate for that context. But this is about half entertainment, too.

“That’s probably why they got three entertainers to be judges. If you compare the toughness — which I would define as a combination of honesty and specificity — if you compare that to the environment in which I grew up, this is ‘Romper Room.’ I mean, this is not tough.”

Connick himself was something of a musical prodigy, according to his IMDB biography. He was playing piano at age three and in a jazz band by age 10.

This is not Connick’s first time sitting at the judging table with Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban, but this season does have special significance because it’s due to be the last — or the “farewell” season, as it’s been called on Fox. According to Connick, none of the judges are overwhelmed with sentimentality, and all are approaching this year’s contestants as they would any other.

Since it is the farewell season, American Idol has welcomed winners from years past to sing with the new crop of contenders. Chris Daughtry, Fantasia Barrino and Ruben Studdard are just three of the former Idols who have returned. Last week, the first winner of American Idol, Kelly Clarkson, sat on the judging panel and gave an emotional performance.

Clarkson sang the song “Piece by Piece,” about her father, husband and children. Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez did not hide their emotional reaction to the song. While a guest on Late Night With Seth Meyers, Lopez revealed she was so taken with Clarkson she was oblivious to the reactions of Urban and Connick, as Entertainment Weekly reported.

“I was so into her performance, I didn’t even realize Keith Urban was falling apart next to me. Not one time did I look next to me and notice he was sobbing.”

Fans of Connick as a television personality are in for some good news. Even though American Idol is coming to close, he’ll still be coming into living rooms — as a daytime talk show host. The Advocate reported that his show will be syndicated nationwide as of September 12.

The musician told The Advocate that he’s long had discussions about doing a talk show, but it had to be the right time in his life for Harry to come about. He will be working with the former producers of Late ShowWith David Letterman and calls the program a mix of comedy, music and talk. It will film in New York City.

In the competitive daytime space, Harry has an uphill battle for ratings. Several big names have tried daytime talk shows in the past few years with mixed success. But the intent with Harry is to do something different while letting Connick be himself.

American Idol airs on Fox.

[Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images]