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!’”

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INGLEWOOD, CA - MARCH 24: (L-R) Monroe Cannon, Mariah Carey, Nick Cannon, and Moroccan Scott Cannon arrives at the Nickelodeon's 2018 Kids' Choice Awards at The Forum on March 24, 2018 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 13: (L-R) Monroe Cannon, Nick Cannon, Mariah Carey and Moroccan Scott Cannon attend the Moroccan Scott Cannon and Monroe Cannon Party on Mary 13 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Polk/FilmMagic)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 01: (L-R) Nick Cannon, Mariah Carey and Floyd Mayweather attend the MC Records Launch Party, a joint venture with Epic Records at CATCH LA on May 1, 2017 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic)
ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 30: (L-R) Monroe Cannon, Nick Cannon, Mariah Carey, and Moroccan Cannon pose with Disney characters at Disneyland on April 30, 2017 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 11: (L-R) Mariah Carey, Monroe Cannon, Moroccan Scott Cannon and Nick Cannon during at Nickelodeon's 2017 Kids' Choice Awards at USC Galen Center on March 11, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/KCA2017/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 11: (L-R) TV personality Nick Cannon, Monroe Cannon, singer Mariah Carey and Moroccan Scott Cannon at Nickelodeon's 2017 Kids' Choice Awards at USC Galen Center on March 11, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 22: (L-R) Nick Cannon, Monroe Cannon, Mariah Carey, and Moroccan Cannon attend Mariah Carey's Halloween Party on October 22, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 12: Singer Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon attend MTV First: Mariah Carey's 'You're Mine (Eternal)' music video world premiere at MTV Studios on February 12, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 18: Singer Mariah Carey and actor/TV personality Nick Cannon arrive at the 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 18, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 05: Mariah Carey (L) and Nick Cannon attend Lee Daniels' 'The Butler' New York premiere, hosted by TWC, DeLeon Tequila and Samsung Galaxy on August 5, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for The Weinstein Company)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 17: TeenNick Chairman and HALO Awards host Nick Cannon and singer Mariah Carey attend Nickelodeon's 2012 TeenNick HALO Awards at Hollywood Palladium on November 17, 2012 in Hollywood, California. The show premieres on Monday, November 19th, 8:00p.m. (ET) on Nick at Nite. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images For Nickelodeon)
SANTA MONICA, CA - OCTOBER 06: Singer Mariah Carey and TV personality Nick Cannon pose for pictures with their twins Monroe Cannon and Moroccan Scott Cannon during 'Family Day' at Santa Monica Pier on October 6, 2012 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Angela Weiss/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 07: Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon arrive at the 12th Annual BMI Urban Awards held at Saban Theatre on September 7, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by JB Lacroix/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 11: (L-R) Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon attend the 2012 Project Canvas Exhibition & Art Gala at The Opera Gallery on May 11, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
Mariah Carey and her husband Nick Cannon during the their vows renewal ceremony to celebrate their fourth year of marriage, in Paris (Photo by Stephane Cardinale/Corbis via Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 27: Mariah Carey and her husband Nick Cannon during their wedding vows renewal ceremony, photocall at Maison Blanche on April 27, 2012 in Paris, France. (Photo by Dominique Charriau/WireImage)
Mariah Carey with Moroccan Scott Cannon & Nick Cannon onstage during the BET Honors 2012 at the Warner Theatre on January 14, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Walter McBride/Corbis via Getty Images)
ASPEN, CO - DECEMBER 31: Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon are seen on December 31, 2011 in Aspen, Colorado. (Photo by Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
ABC NEWS - Barbara Walters interviews pop superstar Mariah Carey and her husband Nick Cannon (Photo by Donna Svennevik/ABC via Getty Images)
(EXCLUSIVE, Premium Rates Apply) (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Singer Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon attend TNT's 'Christmas in Washington 2010' at the National Building Museum on December 12, 2010 in Washington, DC. 'Christmas in Washington 2010' airs on TNT December 17 at 8pm. 20792_004_0010.JPG
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 20: (Exclusive Coverage) Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon attend the launch of 'Merry Christmas II You' at Allen Room at Lincoln Center on October 20, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
Singer Mariah Carey and her husband, actor Nick Cannon attend the Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Shane Mosley welterweight fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 1, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 07: Singer/actress Mariah Carey (L) and husband Nick Cannon arrive at the 82nd Annual Academy Awards held at the Kodak Theatre on March 7, 2010 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Brian To/WireImage)
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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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