Several former contestants were invited to return for American Idol’s “The Great Idol Reunion” 20th anniversary episode, including William Hung, 39, who skyrocketed to fame in 2004 for his off-key rendition of Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs.”
On Monday, show host Ryan Seacrest began the segment by stating, “I can’t help but feel that someone is missing the party.”
He introduced the next guest as “someone who helped put this show on the map, dare I say, the legend, whose very name is synonymous with American Idol.”
Hung then stepped onto the stage, dressed with his shirt tucked into a pair of slacks and his hair slicked to the side, and belted out his signature off-key cover while thrusting his hips side to side to the beat of the music.
Hung catapulted to fame after his audition as a 20-year-old engineering student. Judge Simon Cowell at the time deemed him one of the worst singers he had ever seen, to which Hung innocently replied, “I have no professional training of singing.”
After his unsuccessful but memorable audition, Hung went on to perform on various talk shows and appear in commercials.
In an interview with Joe Rogan in 2020, comedian and actor Jimmy O. Yang revealed that he had turned down an offer to star in a William Hung biopic.
He shared that he had “read all 115 pages of [the] script” and confessed that he had “never been so angry reading a script” before. He described wanting to “f*cking vomit.”
Yang also told Rogan that Hung “set us [Asians] back like 10 years,” claiming that Hung was intentionally picked out by “American Idol” producers for a laugh.
Yang pointed out that there were so few Asian actors in the entertainment industry that playing a part also included thinking about the ramifications of a role and whether it represented Asians in a positive or negative way.
“It’s tough being one of few Asian actors,” he told Rogan, and added that he could not just look at a script, but had to also “think about the cultural ramifications … is this good representation?”
“There’s so few of us, each of us that does something means so much more,” explained Yang.
Yang expressed finding issue with Hung as a representative of Asian people, with his thick accent, high-waisted pants and awkwardness.
“William Hung is the exact opposite of Bruce Lee,” said Yang, referring to the martial arts star.
After Hung’s performance on Monday, Seacrest explained how Hung had become a “viral video” before the term had even been coined.
“Now you’re a motivational speaker,” Seacrest said, “What do you talk about?”
“I tell people I believe everyone has the right to try something new without being judged or ridiculed,” responded Hung.
“That’s a great message,” Seacrest concluded, as the crowd applauded loudly.
Other former Idol attendees included Ruben Studdard, David Archueleta and Jordin Sparks – who became the show’s youngest winner at age 16 in 2007.