Nick Cannon on quitting 'America’s Got Talent': 'One of the best decisions I ever made in my career'

America’s Got Talent returns to TV this week, but a familiar face won’t be in the mix. Nick Cannon hosted the show for eight seasons, but he quit after Season 12 (and was later replaced by Tyra Banks) after NBC threatened to fire him for ridiculing the network in his Showtime comedy special Stand Up, Don’t Shoot. Speaking to Yahoo Entertainment a year after the scandal, Cannon says he has no regrets and calls the move “probably one of the best decisions” of his career.

“It was super-controversial for some time … but it was a freedom-of-speech process and me standing firm for my own beliefs and culturally who I am, and really for all the employees who have been thumb-pressed by their bosses,” Cannon says, discussing the importance of adhering to his brand. “I kind of stood up and said, ‘Yo, I was threatened for some content that I created.’ And they wanted me to shape up and get in line and watch my choice of words or how I speak about the network. … I was threatened to be fired. I told them, ‘You can’t fire a boss. I quit!’”

At the time, Cannon’s choosing to walk away from a reported $4.5 million paycheck shocked his fans, and even people in his camp thought Cannon was making a mistake. “People on my own team, people that were with me, man, like they scared for me,” he says, chuckling. “And I was like, ‘Yo, that job doesn’t define me.’ … As an artist, that was a self-defining moment, because a lot of people was like, ‘How can you walk away from such an amazing job? You’re the No. 1 host on television, highest-paid,’ all of that stuff. And I was like, ‘None of that stuff matters to me. I’m an artist, and it’s not about money. It’s about having my own self-worth.”

Since wrapping his final AGT season in 2016, Cannon certainly hasn’t slowed down. He’s been working on the 11th season of his comedy game show Wild ‘N Out, studying in his “spare time” at Howard University, and, most important, releasing new music.

“I’ve probably made so much more money since walking away from [AGT] and doing it the way that I wanted to do it. I’m almost like, ‘Man, I should’ve stepped away earlier,’” Cannon says. “You ever had those decisions where you’re kind of in your comfort zone and so you kind of go about the mundane process, and as soon as you step out of your comfort zone it’s all of this freedom and the universe starts to just throw so many things in your direction? That’s what happened. I’m elated with everything that I’ve been doing since I stepped away from America’s Got Talent.”

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