James Hibberd
April 18, 2012 AT 11:34 PM EDT

Howie Mandel promises that viewers will see a whole new side of Howard Stern on NBC’s America’s Got Talent.

At the network’s summer press event in Pasadena, the Got Talent judge said everybody involved with the hit reality competition series has been “surprised” by the radio host’s dedication to finding a new talent. “I was fascinated with how polarizing the reactions have been [to Stern’s hire],” Mandel told reporters Wednesday. “He’s so passionate about finding a star… he’s compassionate, he’s also emotional … he’s serious … he has good constructive criticism.”

Mandel then told an anecdote about Stern judging a 7-year-old “adorable child” who auditioned as a rapper. “The kid didn’t have talent beyond being adorable,” Mandel recalled. “Howard, being who he is, [quickly] hit his buzzer. The reaction to this was heartbreaking. [The child] heaved and collapsed in tears. Howard turned to me, like, ‘Oh my god, this is not what I signed up for.’ Howard got right up, and got right up on stage, and he held the child and consoled him, saying ‘I’m so sorry.'”

“Everyone thinks he’s going to come in really outrageous,” added fellow judge Sharon Osbourne. “He comes to us with great experience, especially about music.”

Executive producer Jason Raff noted that Stern, who’s helped boost attendance at the show’s tapings, was shocked when studio audiences booed him after making unpopular decisions. “Howard is used to his quiet radio studio,” he said. Stern makes his Got Talent debut when the series returns Monday, May 14.

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