“America’s Got Talent” Winner Paul Zerdin Accused Of Stealing Ventriloquists’ Acts
“America’s Got Talent” winner Paul Zerdin is being accused of stealing two ventriloquists’ acts, less than a week after he won the $1 million prize.
As Gossip Cop reported, Zerdin, a British ventriloquist, was among the judges’ favorites throughout the just-concluded 10th season of the NBC competition. Guest judge (and former regular judge) Piers Morgan picked Zerdin as his one Golden Buzzer act, sending him into the quarterfinals. He then received enough votes to move on to the semifinals and then the finale, before winning the show last Wednesday.
Now two ventriloquists who have worked in the business for decades say Zerdin stole their acts. In the quarterfinal round, as Gossip Cop reported, Zerdin had his dummy come “alive” after he left the stage. Ventriloquist David Strassman points out to Deadline that he performed the same bit on “The Arsenio Hall Show” way back in 1989.
Then, in the semifinals, Zerdin had Howie Mandel become his dummy by forcing the judge to wear a mask that essentially gave him a puppet’s mouth that he could control remotely, as Gossip Cop noted at the time. Ronn Lucas tells Deadline he developed that routine also in 1989, and notably performed it in Las Vegas in 2006. “I think he stole my act,” Lucas says point-blank.
He argues to the outlet, “What bothers me is that he won by stealing other people’s acts, including my own, and that he takes credit for the originality. That’s what bothers me the most.” Strassman similarly says, “What bothers me is that he fooled the judges and the audience into thinking that he originated these routines. I think he needs to give credit where credit is due. I don’t think it’s fair for anybody to win a talent show and a lot of money on unoriginal material.”
It’s not clear what objective Lucas and Strassman have besides shaming Zerdin, as they say they no intention to sue. In fact, Lucas further says of Zerdin, “He could not have won if he didn’t have talent, and when you look at all the acts, he deserved to win.” But, he adds, “I just hope that in the future, if people win ‘America’s Got Talent,’ they do it on their own originality, not someone else’s. The people who were wronged the most were the competitors who did original material.”
Producers declined to comment to Deadline, and a source points out to the site that masks and dummies like those used by Zerdin are widely available for purchase at conventions and various retailers. The source further claims that he’s been doing the acts in question since 1997.
Gossip Cop has reached out to NBC for comment. See videos below of Zerdin’s acts compared to Strassman’s and Lucas’, and tell us what you think.