Ellen DeGeneres made her "American Idol" debut Tuesday, filling the hour-long program with an expected brigade of jokes -- and some unexpected, Simon Cowell-esque barbs directed at the wannabe "Idols."
DeGeneres sat on the judges' panel between Cowell and songwriter Kara DioGuardi, marking her first episode of "Idol" with a mini-makeover that saw her dump her pantsuits for a rock-star style denim jacket, spiked blonde hairdo and healthy dose of black eyeliner. On the second day of the auditions, DeGeneres continued the rocker look, wearing a slick button-down.
Despite DeGeneres' pre-season vow to "call out" Cowell for being mean, no epic clash occurred among the judges on Tuesday's show. Part two of DeGeneres's debut airs tonight.
U.S. & World
“So this is it, huh? I come on, you leave,” DeGeneres said in welcoming Cowell, one of the few direct interactions between judges producers chose to air.
Yet if it's possible at this early stage to discern DeGeneres' judging style, it might be called Simon-lite.
The comedian brought the laughter as expected throughout Tuesday's program, but wasn't afraid to criticize the contestants' performances, positioning herself as a decisively more opinionated -- and harsh -- judge than her immediate predecessor, singer Paula Abdul.
"I'm tired already, and that just about put me out," DeGeneres told one contestant. Another got a more direct critique: "That was crazy. In a bad way," DeGeneres said.
Speaking to R&B "Idol" wannabe "Skiibowski," Degeneres said: "You were stalking us, like a leopard behind a cage."
"Don't frighten your audience," she added. Moments later the judges booted Skiibowski off the show.
Paula Abdul herself got a dose of DeGeneres, as the comedian mocked her predecessor's signature, loopy clapping style after a contestant performed a slow-jam version of Abdul's hit "Straight Up."
DeGeneres also didn't shy away from telling the more talented contestants how she felt.
"That was amazing. Amazing. I loved it," DeGeneres told Janell Wheeler, an Orlando resident who played an acoustic version of Estelle's "American Boy."
DeGeneres also called Pink sound-alike Mary Powers' performance "amazing," telling Powers she could feel that she was "really in that song. Very good."
Both contestants advanced to the next round of competition.
The comedian turned therapist when she told wannabe Vanessa Wolfe, who had never left home before her Hollywood audition, that she was "hiding inside, and scared to death."
"You need to accept who you are," she told Wolfe. Wolfe was not granted a pass to the next round.
Ellen brought the funny throughout the show -- she joked at length with the final four contestants of the first day, having them step forward, then step back repeatedly, until announcing they were all through to the next round.
"You're a sadist," Cowell told his colleague after the exchange.
DeGeneres also riffed off Jay Stone, a contestant who beat-boxed for his audition.
"Something's wrong with his microphone," DeGeneres deadpanned.
Another highlight of the show was contestant Michael Lynche, whose wife was in labor as he auditioned with his rendition of John Mayer's "Waiting on the World to Change."
He's staying in Hollywood.