1. William Hung: The O.G.
William Hung set our laughingstock-to-riches expectations pretty high, even though he preceded YouTube. In 2004, Hung performed–and ostensibly humiliated himself–in front of the American Idol judges with a rendition of Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs.” Of course, the jerk that is Simon Cowell tried to shut him down with a series of cruel comments. But Hung replied, rather admirably, “I already gave my best, and I have no regrets at all.”
He quickly gained a cult following among the millions of us who love an underdog. Hung went on to sign a $25,000 record deal with Koch Records, home to Sinead O’Connor, KRS-One and Brian McKnight. His first album, Inspiration, sold 240,000 copies and peaked at No. 34 on the Billboard charts. Hung released two other records, including a Christmas album. For real. This for a man who didn’t make it past the first round of American Idol.