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AGT's 'Parmesan Guy' Unpacks His 'Unhinged' Audition—And His Song's True Meaning

"Apparently it tapped into a universal experience, which I wasn't sure was 'gonna resonate," he says.

By McKenzie Jean-Philippe

Things weren't looking good for Ben Lapidus during the America's Got Talent Season 17 premiere. The musician performed his hilarious original track—an ode to parmesan cheese called, well, "Parmesan Cheese"—but the Judges weren't feeling it. One after another Simon Cowell, Howie Mandel, Sofia Vergara, and, eventually, Heidi Klum gave the song an X. 

How to Watch

Watch the Season 19 premiere of America’s Got Talent Tuesday, May 28 at 8/7c on NBC and next day on Peacock

"It's a no, I didn't know what was happening," Vergara said.

"I didn't love it," Mandel added.

That's when the audience stepped in and enthusiastically started chanting "Parmesan!," which led to Lapidus' encore performance. "I feel like I had run every scenario in my head and tried to kind of mentally prepare, but that was one that I never, ever expected or saw coming," Lapidus told NBC Insider. "As soon as I heard the Xes just cascading, something really clicked in my brain where I just felt this complete freedom in the failure. Now I can just do whatever I want and be completely unhinged. And as soon as that happened, I just clicked in with the vibe in the room and the audience and realized something incredible was happening."

Encouraged by the audience's enthusiasm, the Judges had a change of heart.

"I want to kill you right now because I can't get that 'I want more parmesan' out of my brain. Take the X away. I'm giving you a yes," Cowell said.

The audition quickly became one of the night's most viral moments (next to saxophonist Avery Dixon's Golden Buzzer), and Cowell even posted a hilarious meme on Instagram to honor the performance. 

"I didn't like it, I HATED it, but then I loved it! #AGT BEST WORST Song of the Season!," Cowell wrote in a caption.

The biggest question we have have for Lapidus: With a hook like, "I always want more parmesan/ But I'm embarrassed," what does the song really mean? It turns out the answer is pretty straightforward.

"Apparently it tapped into a universal experience, which I wasn't sure was 'gonna resonate," Lapidus said. "It's funny, a lot of songs are kind of shrouded in complex metaphors. This one is literally just about parmesan cheese and standing up to the forces that want to keep the consumers of America from getting their cheese."

Fair enough. So, is there anything else to know about the man of the hour, Lapidus? NBC Insider did some research of our own to find out.

There's an even longer version of "Parmesan Cheese." 

If you want more of what you heard on AGT, the track's full studio version is now available anywhere you listen to music.

And it's not his only quirky song. 

If you fell in love with Lapidus' comedic punk tune, then you'll be happy to know he recently released an EP titled Grad School. His latest singles include "Grad School," "Call Your Mom," and "Never Mine to Lose." 

"I grew up just completely immersed in the pop-punk, emo, hardcore-punk scene in Pennsylvania," Lapidus says. "So that was my bread and butter musically from a songwriting perspective. So everything I do that seems like a parody of that comes from a place of such deep love and gratitude for this music and has really shaped my entire life."

You can follow Lapidus on Instagram and TikTok.

@benlapidus STAND UP TO BIG PARMA. Stream “Parmesan Cheese” out everywhere now (link in bio.) Thank you @agt for giving the people what they want. #parmesancheese #musicalcomedy #agt ♬ Parmesan Cheese - Ben Lapidus

Keep up with the Doylestown, PA native via his social handles @benlapidusmusic on Instagram and @benlapidus on TikTok. He regularly shares various comedic skits and even more music.

Lapidus is not a full time singer-songwriter.

Before his performance, Lapidus revealed he was a podcast sound designer. As it turns out, he's also the co-creator of his very own time-traveling narrative comedy podcast. You can currently listen to all 14 episodes of Who Killed Avril Lavigne? now.

"It's been a long journey, starting from a musical that took four years to develop and ran at multiple venues and we had an off-Broadway run," the 29-year-old tells us. "Now it's like a full musical, but it's a story. A story about a kid from 2022 who loves pop-punk and emo music, but the world has moved on from that phase of culture, and he gets sent back in time to the year 2005. It's at the Warp Tour to save Avril Lavigne from being murdered and replaced. That's based on this internet conspiracy theory."

During his AGT audition, one Judge encouraged him the most.

Klum was the last Judge to award the singer with an X, but she was also the most encouraging. The model cheered along with the crowd and insisted that she too understood the plight of wanting more parmesan cheese. Lapidus told us that her enthusiasm helped him get through the audition.

"I felt like Heidi and I had a telepathic connection during that performance," he joked. "I just kept making eye contact with her, and I was like, 'You get it! You really get it!'"

America's Got Talent Season 17 airs every Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.