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Howard Stern says goodbye to America’s Got Talent

Shock-jock no more. OK, so Howard Stern, the self-professed “King of All Media,” will always be best known as the ultimate shock-jock, hosting racy guests and racier conversations on his satellite radio show. But, as the 61-year-old celebrity noted on last night’s finale of America’s Got Talent, the four years he spent as a judge on the family show has garnered him a whole new group of fans.

During the time dedicated in the two-hour finale to bid him farewell, the man known for saying anything and everything that comes into his mind talked about how odd it is to go out places and have parents bring their kids to sit on his lap and take a photo. “I’ve never experienced that in my career before,” he says. Indeed, a segment in a previous week’s episode showed Stern visiting a group of grade schoolers, having fun and getting silly with them to win them over. By the end of the visit, every child was enthusiastically declaring Howard Stern as his favorite judge. Who would have ever thought?

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Viewers who tuned in to watch the show crown this year’s winner got to see a heartfelt black and white video paying tribute to Stern, showing him walking down the streets of New York City where he grew up (and where the show is filmed), chatting up fans. These included elderly folks, families, parents, and yes, even kids, all shouting compliments like “We love you, Howard,” and “you’re great on the show.” Have a look at the full, 4-minute tribute video above.

It seems even Stern himself can’t believe he became a fixture on the family show. But the host was an admitted fan long before he joined the panel, which also includes former supermodel Heidi Klum, singer and former Spice Girl Mel B, and comedian and actor Howie Mandel. He has said in past interviews that he’d sit at home watching, shouting his commentary at the TV. So it seemed like a natural fit.

Stern will continue with the persona his other legion of fans have come to know and love over the past few decades on The Howard Stern Show on SiriusXM. And he’s hinted at both pursuing other TV opportunities, and spending more time with his family.

But chances are that Stern will continue to weigh in on the upcoming seasons of the show that he helped propel to stellar ratings. While this year’s finale was down (likely due to the fact that it aired opposite the GOP debate), it’s often the number-one show in its time slot.

Previous judges of the Simon Cowell-created show have included David Hasselhoff, Sharon Osbourne, Piers Morgan, and Brandy Norwood. But Stern has arguably been the most brutally honest, yet equally soft, of them all. In one episode this year, much to the surprise of viewers, he ran up on stage after making a young boy cry with his critique to give him a hug and console him.

America’s Got Talent, which airs on NBC, has already been renewed for season 11. There’s no word yet on who, if anyone, will take Stern’s spot at the judge’s panel, though many are speculating that it could be Cowell himself. Whoever it is, he or she will have some big, lanky, and passionate shoes to fill.