[symple_heading style=”” title=”By Ken Stone” type=”h1″ font_size=”” text_align=”left” margin_top=”20″ margin_bottom=”20″ color=”undefined” icon_left=”” icon_right=””]
If 12-year-old Merrick Hanna wins $1 million on “America’s Got Talent,” he’ll have his UCLA-educated grandmother partially to thank.
“Honestly one of the best dance performances I’ve ever seen on the show,” said judge and show creator Simon Cowell during the two-hour season debut.
Merrick got a standing ovation from Cowell and fellow judge Howie Mandel, who said of his “flo-bot” style: “I loved that. Wow.”
Mandel said he was left “teary-eyed” by Merrick’s nearly 2-minute performance to “I Built a Friend” — the Alec Benjamin song about a robot built and then discarded and “killed.”
With four “yes” votes from the judges — including former Spice Girl Mel B and supermodel Heidi Klum — Merrick advanced in the 12-year-old series that also includes adult singers, magicians and stunt acts.
The episode was shot days after he turned 12 in March, so Merrick was able to watch the show with friends. He posted a short clip of a watch party.
In his introduction, Merrick is shown with his father, Shawn, and grandmother Judith Lynne Hanna, who Merrick credited as an influence because she takes four dance classes as week at age 80.
She’s actually a renowned dance scholar and prolific author who in 2012 appeared on “The Colbert Report” as an expert saying exotic — nude — dancing was an art worthy of a New York state tax exemption.
Judith earned her undergraduate degree (in political science) at UCLA and later attended its Graduate School of Education. She taught social studies and English in Los Angeles in a career that included a doctorate in anthropology from Columbia University.
She taught at James Monroe High School (1959-61), was a dance leader at Olympic Jewish Community Center (1958) and served as a dance counselor at Malibu’s Purple Sage Camp (1956), according to her CV.
Judith captured Merrick at age 7 on her YouTube channel.)
Merrick, wearing his trademark red pants, also danced last year on Ellen DeGeneres’ ABC show.
Cowell said he would put Merrick in a pop video in a “heartbeat.”
First airing on the East Coast three hours ahead of the 8 p.m. Pacific time showing, social media also cheered the experienced performer with his own YouTube channel.
But he’ll have stiff competition from other talents, including 12-year-old ventriloquist Darci Lynne Farmer of Oklahoma City, who sang “Summer Time” via a bunny puppet called Petunia. Mel B hit the “golden buzzer,” sending Darci to the live season finale.
Merrick tweeted video of a watch party:
— Merrick Hanna (@IAmMerrickHanna) May 31, 2017
Songwriter Benjamin tweeted his approval:
YES !!!!!! RT FOR MERRICK 🙂 HE JUST DANCED TO I BUILT A FRIEND !!! https://t.co/mv1HIczE0C
— Alec Benjamin (@AlecBenjamin) May 31, 2017
Merrick celebrated via Instagram:
Beyond the dance show, Merrick in December also performed “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons on Nickelodeon’s
“Lip-Sync Battle Shorties.“
The local sixth-grader told 92024magazine.com that math is his favorite subject in school, noting. “I really like working on math problems on Khan Academy.”
If he wins the $1 million grand prize, (paid as an annuity in 40 annual installments of $25,000, taxable), he’ll have plenty to calculate.