‘America’s Got Talent’: Winner Paul Zerdin Accused Of Stealing $1 Million Act

"I don’t think it’s fair for anybody to win a talent show and a lot of money on unoriginal material.”

Paul Zerdin, Ventriloquist, AGT

Paul Zerdin – the latest winner of AMERICA’S GOT TALENT — is being accused of plagiarizing his $1 million routine!

“I think he stole my act,” rival ventriloquist Ronn Lucas alleges in an interview with Deadline.com.

“What bothers me is that he won by stealing other people’s acts, including my own, and that he takes credit for the originality.”

Another ventriloquist, David Strassman, also believes Zerdin is a fraud, telling the website:  “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.”

Zerdin narrowly beat out comedian Drew Lynch on last Wednesday night’s finale.

But questions quickly arose about the origins of two routines featured on the show.

One, which featured Zerdin and his dummy parting ways, bears a striking resemblance to an act Strassman performed on THE ARSENIO HALL SHOW in 1989.  See below.

Also in question is whether Zerdin came up with the idea to turn judge Howie Mandel into a human puppet.

That routine has apparently been done many times before — including by Lucas at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas in 2006.   See video below.

Per Deadline:

FremantleMedia, which coproduces America’s Got Talent for NBC, declined comment, as did coproducer Simon Cowell’s Syco Entertainment. But according to a Fremantle source, Zerdin says he’s been using the controlled jaw bit since 1997, after seeing one sold at a ventriloquist convention.

Zerdin also allegedly told the source that he’s been using the dummy who comes to life since ’97, when he had animatronics wizard Tim Rose create a talking puppet that operates independently of the ventriloquist. Zerdin told the source similar talking dummies can be purchased by anyone from companies such as Axtell Expressions.

“He’s not claiming that he’s the only one who uses the mask,” the source said. “It’s a common ventriloquist prop.”

Lucas and Strassman both acknowledged that Zerdin is a talented and funny ventriloquist but said he should give credit where it’s due.

“He could not have won if he didn’t have talent,” Lucas said, “and when you look at all the acts, he deserved to win. 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.”

A contestant of Australia’s Got Talent got disqualified four years ago for plagiarizing jokes in the semifinal round when it was discovered that he’d lifted gags from comedians Lee Mack and Geoff Keith. The AGT producer, however, gave him a second chance, and on his return, he made some self-deprecating jokes about plagiarism. Trouble was, one of those jokes was plagiarized too.

What do you think?  Did Paul Zerdin deserve to win AMERICA’S GOT TALENT?  Leave us your reaction below.

Sean Daly

Sean Daly

Editor-In-Chief at TheTVPage.com
Sean Daly is a veteran entertainment journalist.His work has appeared in People, Us Weekly, The Toronto Star and other top publications. He was the west coast TV reporter for The New York Post from 2008 - 2013. Sean is the author of Inside AGT: The Untold Stories of America's Got Talent and Teen Mom Confidential: Secrets and Scandals From MTV's Most Controversial Shows.
Sean Daly