He’s not for everyone, judge Simon Cowell among those. Still, on America’s Got Talent’s first night of live shows on Tuesday night, Ben Lapidus delivered a memorable rock rendition of “The Parmesan Cheese Song,” which he initially performed during his audition in May, and which went viral.
When he walked onto the stage for his qualifying round on Tuesday night, Ben was wearing a denim jumpsuit and began to sing what seemed to be a serious song.
He sang,“The world is my oyster, but I can’t find the pearl,” but then he stopped and ripped off his clothes, revealing a punk-rock pleather outfit, and began rocking out to a punk version of his now famous “The Parmesan Cheese Song.”
He was accompanied by a backup band — to the dismay of Simon, Howie Mandel, and Sofia Vergara, who gave him three Xs during his performance.
But Ben did find a fan in judge Heidi Klum, who told reporters after Tuesday night’s performance show, “For me, this is the silliest, weirdest earworm of a song that he created. I think it’s quite epic because it’s so silly, but it all resonates with us because we all want more parmesan on our pasta. It’s just a different kind of comedy. Some people just stand there, and they speak their comedy. He sings it. Today, he just made it into a rock song. He took his clothes off, and there was a pleather outfit underneath. It’s hilarious. To me, this was more entertaining than a standup comedian, for example.”
In Ben’s initial audition, the audience saved him and convinced the judges to put him through to the live shows after all four judges gave him Xs. But the stakes are higher now as the 11 acts that make it to the finale are eligible for the $1 million prize money and the headlining gig, “America’s Got Talent Las Vegas Live,” so tonight we will find out if America thinks Ben is worth the cool million.
“The Parmesan Cheese Song” goes something like this:
“We will not remain silent.
We will not give in.
We will die before I let Big Parma win.
We are not embarrassed.
We always want more parmesan.”
Monsters and Critics caught up with Ben following his performance, and we talked to him about his influences – Weird Al, what he will do next if he makes it through, and more!
Monsters and Critics: How do you think you did tonight?
Ben Lapidus: I reject the question. It doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter. I got here. Who cares?
Monsters and Critics: Was there any piece of advice anybody gave you about the show that helped you?
Ben: Yeah, just let it rip. Don’t hold back. I think you can plan and plan and plan and rehearse and rehearse and rehearse, and then when you get to the day of, the energy of the room and the show in the moment, nothing is in your control and you just gotta let it rip!
Monsters and Critics: Is Weird Al an influence on your act?
Ben: I love Weird Al. To even get that association is an honor, so thank you. Yes, of course, he’s an influence. He’s a legend.
Monsters and Critics: You have your own authentic voice, so when you prepare for something like this show, what’s your inspiration? What do you say to yourself?
Ben: I try to think about what I would want to see if I were watching TV. Usually, it’s something crazy, so to be honest, I want to reflect the will of the American people. I don’t want this performance to be about me. I’m willing to make myself a fool in order to perpetuate defeating the cause! But for me, it’s just about giving back.
Monsters and Critics: What was going through your head during that pause right before the reveal that you were going into your parmesan song again?
Ben: It kind of feels like you’re dreaming, like you’re about an inch and a half away from the inside of your eyes, you’re behind a glass pane, everything is just unfolding in front of you, and the regular sense of agency you have as being in a body kind of goes away. You are more like a witness. That’s my experience of these really high-pressure environments. In the moment, it’s really surprising, actually. It’s kind of an absurd feeling.
Monsters and Critics: So, you’ve made it to the first live show after getting 4 Xs and then winning back the judges and the crowd. How did you prepare yourself for tonight’s performance and the feedback that you might receive from it?
Ben: I think I try to think about my life from a birds-eye view. I’m just a guy on the planet; it’s a rock, frankly, floating in space. I think just having that perspective is helpful in embracing absurdity and chaos and failure because what does it mean? Who cares? What do you want? Have fun. That’s what I’m saying.
Monsters and Critics: Who did you feel that you really needed to win over?
Ben: The American people, myself, and staying true to myself. This idea that I have any control over making people like me that’s just not how it works. If it were, it wouldn’t be fun at all, so I’m just doing what I’m doing and whatever.
Monsters and Critics: You probably had millions of people fooled when you started doing that fake serious song, and then you tore off the clothes and revealed that crazy costume and did the punk rock version. Do you have some other genres planned for parmesan?
Ben: Again, nothing planned. What you saw tonight is as far as I’ve gotten, so if by the grace of God I make it through to the finale, then I’m going to just figure it out, and it’s gonna be — this word – insane.
Monsters and Critics: Simon has a long history with acts like you who royal him up and continuously go through. Is that part of your game plan?
Ben: No strategy there. I literally am not even playing a game, I swear. If I were that smart, I would let you know.
M&C: You’re a man who obviously has a lane. Can you talk about the commercial opportunities that come your way, thanks to this astonishing piece of comedic entertainment?
Ben: I think it’s a happy accident that I am here. I’m going to speak to anyone who actually makes things and likes making things because that makes them want to keep living and doing it. For those people, the commercial stuff comes after. You’ve got to just do what you do ’cause you like it.
America’s Got Talent airs Tuesday and Wednesdays at 8/7c on NBC.