American Idol's Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi are both excited to welcome Ellen DeGeneres to the judges' table this season.
Check out photos of the Idol judges
"We're all friends with Ellen, and Ryan [Seacrest] and I are pretty close with her. She's just mad cool," Jackson told People
. Jackson also said the talk show host/funnywoman is right to suggest that she will be the voice of the viewers.
"There's so much music industry insider talk with me and Simon [Cowell] and Kara [DioGuardi] that I didn't think we needed any more of that," he said. "Ellen hit it right on the head — I think she could be the voice of the people. It's like somebody in the home audience watching and going, 'What would I say?' Ellen's going to be saying it for [them]."
DioGuardi said she's "thrilled" to have DeGeneres on board. "I'm a huge Ellen DeGeneres fan," DioGuardi told E! News
. "She's somebody who loves music, she's positive.... She is somebody who has watched the show from the beginning, knows everything there is to know about American Idol
and I think ultimately it's going to be a great new energy."
See photos of DeGeneres throughout her career
Another added benefit of DeGeneres' hiring: DioGuardi is no longer the new girl. "I got slagged," she said of people's reception of her during Season 8. "It was difficult for [people] to accept the change. It was difficult for them to understand why somebody who nobody had ever heard of could kind of come out of nowhere and sit next to these iconic figures. You know, why was I there, what did I do to deserve to be there?
"It will just be easier this year because I'm not as fearful as I was last year," DioGuardi said. "For someone who's never been on live television it's very, very challenging to go from the back of the studio to the number one TV show, and that kind of visibility. And it was very, very, very scary."
Poll: Fans split about DeGeneres on American Idol; 13 percent still want Abdul back
Even with all the buzz around Idol
's high-profile hire, Jackson hasn't forgotten about former judge Paula Abdul. "She's our dear friend," Jackson said. "Paula started this whole battle with us many seasons ago, before we all knew the show could be hot, and we love her and miss her. We were doing the auditions, and I was looking across the table and it was like, 'Where's Paula? What's going on?' But you know, things happen, life is full of change sometimes. You know, I'm still sad about that."