America's Got Talent Comic Shares How Howie Mandel Consoled Her After Simon Cowell's 'Unfair' Rejection

·3 min read
Lace Larrabee is seen at the red carpet for "America's Got Talent" Season 17 Live Show at Sheraton Pasadena Hotel on August 09, 2022 in Pasadena, California.
Lace Larrabee is seen at the red carpet for "America's Got Talent" Season 17 Live Show at Sheraton Pasadena Hotel on August 09, 2022 in Pasadena, California.

Frazer Harrison/Getty

An America's Got Talent comic rebounded from an unexpected mid-set buzzer — and now she's sharing the kind words that one of the judges offered her afterward.

Lace Larrabee hit the stage during season 17's first live show on Tuesday and her jokes left judge Simon Cowell less than impressed, causing him to hit his "X" buzzer in the middle of her set.

Larrabee, 38, didn't let the loud sign of displeasure prevent her from finishing her performance, but told PEOPLE after that she felt it was an "insanely unfair" move on Cowell's part.

"It was so shocking," she said backstage following the show's conclusion. "That'll throw off anybody. As a stand up comic, it's already so difficult to compete against musical acts and animals and fire. I've just got to get up there with my little jokes, so it was very difficult."

Cowell, 62, claimed he hit the buzzer to "help" the comic, noting that he preferred her audition set over her live show performance.

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The other judges were quick to shut down Cowell's dismay, with Howie Mandel even speaking with Larabee after she left the stage.

"[He] reminded me that I'm a professional and that it's okay," she explained.

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Mandel, 66, later told PEOPLE he felt compelled to check on Larrabee because of his own decades of experience as a comedian.

"You are mentally naked out there and you are vulnerable, and as I said to her after Simon gave her the buzzer, humor is subjective," he explained backstage. "I said to her, 'You're not playing to Simon, you're not playing to me, you're not even playing to this audience — you're playing to the millions of people out there and you delivered your humor seamlessly, professionally, wonderfully. And don't let these little bumps in the road stop you.'"

Mandel also commended the Atlanta-based comic for how she "handled the buzzer," adding that he felt it "elevated her" beyond her jokes. "She was pretty composed even when she heard the buzzer, so I just wanted to compliment her for that," he said.

Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Terry Crews, Sofia Vergara, Simon Cowell
Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Terry Crews, Sofia Vergara, Simon Cowell

Trae Patton/NBC From left: Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Terry Crews, Sofia Vergara, Simon Cowell

RELATED: Simon Cowell Teases What's to Come on AGT's 'More Exciting' Live Shows: 'There's So Much at Stake'

Setbacks aside, Larrabee explained that she was "proud of what I did" and won't be taking "any of those comments to heart." Still, that doesn't mean she has forgiven Cowell for his response.

"I know that I'm a professional and I'm thrilled that I got this far, but I think it was insanely unfair to throw me off when comedy is all about the build-up ... he literally ruined the rest of the set," she noted.

"I thought it was wildly inappropriate, especially for what I'm doing," Larrabee added. "Give me a little bit more grace; whether you like the jokes or not, let me get through my act."

PEOPLE has reached out to Cowell's rep for comment.

AMERICA'S GOT TALENT -- Auditions Episode 1704 -- Pictured: Lace Larrabee
AMERICA'S GOT TALENT -- Auditions Episode 1704 -- Pictured: Lace Larrabee

Trae Patton/NBC via Getty

Despite the judge's response, the comedian said she isn't "letting Cowell stop me, I'm not letting anybody stop me."

Instead, she's leaning into the support of her fans and loved ones, including her fellow comedian husband, Jarrod.

"I know that he's proud and, honestly, knowing that my family is proud, that's the most important thing," she said.

Fans will find out if Larrabee is one of two viewer-voted contestants to move onto the season 17 finale when the AGT results show airs Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.