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By Krista

Interview with Paul Zerdin of "America's Got Talent" on NBC 9/17/15

It was a long call.  Paul was very pleasant to talk to and took a lot of time to answer each question for us thoroughly.

September 17, 2015 12:00 pm CT

Operator: Our first question comes from the line of Cody Schultz from Please go ahead.

Cody Schultz: Hi Paul. First let me say congratulations on your win and thanks for speaking with us today.

Cody Schultz: My first question is, can you speak a little bit about what was going through your mind as you awaited the final results? And what your initial reaction was when Nick announced your name as the Season 10 Champion?

Paul Zerdin: Well, when it was whittled down to myself and Drew I thought that Drew would win it definitely. I thought he was an amazing comedian. Very, very, very lovable character -- personality. The audience loved him in the theater and, you know, out and about in America.

And I thought that he was going to win it. So I was preparing in my head what I would say to him before I got told to get off the stage. And I was going to say to him, you know, well done. The best man won. Youíre a great act and congratulations.

And I thought I would be runner up. And then when they said my name, my heart skipped a beat. And it took a bit of a - it took a moment to sink in really. I still the feel the same really.

Itís a mixture of jetlag, lack of sleep, and euphoria all together -- which, you know, I feel very happy about it. And Iím still slightly lost for words when people ask me about it now like you have done.

Cody Schultz: In the interest of the follow-up, you had some tremendous performances throughout the season. So looking back is there any performance that stands out as your personal favorite? And what was it about that performance that made it your stand out above the rest?

Paul Zerdin: Good question. Well, I think, well, probably my first audition at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood would stand out for me because it was the first one. And I just thought, I donít know whatís going to happen here. It could go horribly wrong, or it could go well.

And luckily it went well. And I got a standing ovation from the judges and from the audience in the theater. And so I thought, wow thatís a great reaction and what a great start.

So that filled me with confidence. And I think helped me enormously to carry on and think that I could maybe, you know, go far. I didnít ever think I could win it. But I thought I could get maybe, you know, quite a bit further in the competition.

That was a big moment for me. And also having Howie last week in the semifinal be my human dummy. I mean that was a bit of a moment because he was such a great sport. He had no idea what was going to happen.

And I was so lucky the way that he reacted. Because he could have reacted so differently. But he - whatever he did, he did it just beautifully. And I love doing that piece because I can control - I do it from, you know, Iíll be doing it in my show in Las Vegas where Iíll get a couple out of the audience and I -- a married couple is what I usually do -- and I turn them into my dummies.

And I get them doing, you know, crazy things. And itís great being able to sort of control them. But youíre, of course, youíre not really in control. You control their voices. But itís very much up to the individuals how they react. And everyone reacts differently.

But thatís what I love. I love the danger of that and the fact that you can adlib. And Howie Mandel was absolutely brilliant.

Operator: Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Kristyn Clarke from Pop Culture Madness. Please go ahead.

Kristyn Clarke: Hi. Thank you so much for speaking with us today.

Paul Zerdin: Hello there.

Kristyn Clarke: So Iím curious to know is there anything throughout your time spent in the competition that you found that you were surprised to learn about yourself as a performer?

Paul Zerdin: Oh, thatís an interesting question. Well, I think when you come to perform at Radio City -- and Iíve been lucky enough to perform all over the place, all around the world doing different sorts of gigs and things -- no gig has ever been quite as big as Radio City.

I mean that theater holds just under 6,000, I think it is. And even though I think of myself as a, you know, a fairly polished performer and, you know, pretty experienced, I still had jitters in my stomach. I had butterflies just before I started my performance.

Iím not a performer thatís like a jabbering nervous wreck before I go on. Iíve worked with some comics over the years who just spend all day worrying about the gig that night. And Iíve always thought thatís crazy. Thatís just going to ruin your day.

And Iím, you know, I work a lot and perform a lot. And I just thought, I canít go through life just worrying about it. I think thatís ridiculous. But I try and channel the nervous energy.

So I would just get a little kind of buzz just before I started. Before I walked out on the stage at Radio City. But I remember being slightly surprised that, you know, I did have that slight jitter.

And I just kept saying to myself, ďRight. Come on. Keep it cool. Keep it cool. Look like youíre in control. Just go out there.Ē And also sometimes youíre worrying about so much because youíre very limited with time. You donít have much time. Youíve got to try and make an impact when youíre on a live TV show and you want to try and make the best impression you can.

You want to impress the judges. You want the audience at home to love what youíre doing. And you want a great - you want great feedback from the theater audience as well. And to try and do that in like two minutes -- or whatever it is -- is quite hard.

And so I - youíre worrying about it. Or and you donít want to overrun because youíre on live television -- which when you think about it, is quite - itís quite a big deal when youíre right there in the moment.

But I somehow managed to channel it into positive energy and any nervous energy was hopefully, you know, went into the performance and made the performance better.

The one thing you sometimes can forget to do when youíre on a, you know, itís a high pressure gig is to - you forget to enjoy it. So I was really conscious to myself. I said, ďCome on. Keep smiling. And just enjoy it.Ē Because itís an amazing opportunity.

Kristyn Clarke: Absolutely. And as a quick follow up question, other than the time factor and battling the nerves, were there any other challenges that you faced?

Paul Zerdin: Well, Iíd say you need stamina for Americaís Got Talent. Because itís not only about the performance on stage. More of it is behind the scenes and the reality element to the show -- which obviously is what people want to know, and TV audiences, you know, relish now.

Because itís all about behind the scenes. And they want to see what itís like, you know, going on before you go on stage. And all the reality filming out and about around New York -- which, you know, New Yorkís an amazing city, and Iíve loved every moment here.

And so youíre filming a lot. And thereís crews -- camera crews -- taking you around filming the next bit of video which they then show if youíre lucky enough to get through the next heat and get into the next final, quarter final, whatever it is. And they show a video of you, you know, messing around.

So Iíve loved that. And Iíve had creative input in that as well. So I suggested ideas that we could do like go to an Italian restaurant with the different puppets and having a food fight and all those kind of silly ideas. I wanted to do stuff that was different and funny above all. That was the main thing. Just try and be as entertaining.

And Iíve learned that you really need some stamina for this. Because thereís so much hanging around. And sometimes Iíd be taken off to a location to be filming and Iíd beat the film crew because they were still filming, you know, Piff the Magic Dragon or one of the other acts.

And so, yes, youíve got to have stamina. And I found out where I seem to have stamina. But youíve got to keep going. And then youíre filming all day. And then you have to come in and do a dress rehearsal for the live performance. And then do the live performance.

So by the time you get on stage -- in the live performance -- youíre absolutely exhausted. So you somehow have to still pull it out of the bag. And so Iíve learned that I can do that. But itís quite hard work.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Jeff Dodge from Please ahead.

Jeff Dodge: Now you got to perform with Terry Fator during the finale.

Paul Zerdin: Yes.

Jeff Dodge: Now, you know, he won Season 2. You know he set such a high bar for ventriloquists on the show. So what does it feel like, you know, to be in his company as only the second ever ventriloquist to win?

Paul Zerdin: Well, I feel totally bowled over by it. And so honored. And to end up performing a spot with him on stage last night in the, you know, before the results began. You know Iím there on stage with Terry Fator live from Radio City on live on NBC. I had to pinch myself before I went on.

Because it was a bit of a moment. And to know that I kind of had his theater approval was - it meant a huge amount to me. And what a nice guy. He was so lovely. And we had a very quick rehearsal beforehand. And the day before, we were just talking about some ideas.

And I suggested a couple of things. And he really liked my ideas. And he suggested a couple of things. And it was just so nice. And itís so unusual. I donít think two ventriloquists ever performed together -- certainly not on the telly as far as I can remember. And especially live on a show like this.

It was a really special moment. And to know that, you know, a ventriloquist has won it again. It just shows to you that, you know, I think for a long time people have thought that ventriloquists were a bit mad and a bit crazy. And the way theyíve been depicted in films and television movies over the years, you know, as mad and psycho killers or whatever.

But ventriloquists donít have to be all mad. They can actually be quite funny and quite entertaining. And I think the American public have shown that. That they still love comedy and a bloke with a puppet.

And I think it helps that ventriloquism is coming back. Youíve got Terry Fator whoís a massive success story as a result of Americaís Got Talent. He has this amazing show in Vegas.

And then you have people like Jeff Dunham whoís an incredible ventriloquist. And, you know, itís helping put it on the map really. So to be part of that and hopefully carry on doing that, and trying to do something new with ventriloquism. And trying to, you know, trying to sort of advance it and -- without sounding pretentious -- take - try and take it to another level and do things different with it -- play with it.

Thatís, you know, thatís kind of my goal. And so far so good.

Jeff Dodge: Yes. And as a follow up, you mentioned about Terry Fator having a show in Vegas. You know youíre going to be having a headline act in Las Vegas in October. So how excited are you for that? And did you ever think you would get to that point?

Paul Zerdin: No. Itís amazing. Itís incredible. I never thought of that. Iíve been to Vegas on a number of occasions and seen as many shows as I could. Because I always - I would go and see whether it be Cirque du Soleil or Terry Fator or David Copperfield.

I was always, you know, blown away by the size of the venues. The just the whole scale of Vegas. I mean, you know, to people in the UK when youíre trying to describe Las Vegas or the shows or the casinos and the size of it, you just canít.

You have to just say - I always say to people you have to just go there. Then youíll know what Iím talking about. Itís just unbelievable. So the fact that Iím going to be headlining my own show at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas next months is - Iím totally blown away by it.

Iím - I say bring it on. You know Iím ready for it. I want to go out there and do my full show. And people that have seen me on Americaís Got Talent can see me do my full thing. And that really excites me.

But Iím still, you know, saying Iím going to be headlining in Las Vegas. Thatís, you know, that is an absolute dream come true.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Kenna McHugh from Screenhead. Please go ahead.

Kenna McHugh: How often -- Iím just curious -- how often do you rehearse? Whatís your thought process on that?

Paul Zerdin: It depends what it is really. You know I gig a lot. And whether it be comedy clubs or whatever performances I gig a lot. And so I like to think Iím always quite match fit. Because I get to perform a lot.

When itís for something thatís as high profile as something like Americaís Got Talent -- and depending on which performance -- but for example the last performance -- my final performance on the show -- where I wanted to show a little bit of everything that I do using, you know, techniques, comedy, and also a bit of animatronics as well -- which Iíve kind of shown a taste of it throughout the episodes in the series - in the season of it.

But I wanted to sort of cram it all into the one final episode just to say this is what I do. This is my whole family. And hereís a taste of kind of everything in a very, very short space of time.

There was a piece I did right at the very end where I was - there was Sam my kid character, there was a baby down by my feet in his little stroller, and then there was the old man who was in his mobility scooter, and we were having a dialogue quite quick there.

I must say that was written especially for the performance. And I wanted to try and show off how quickly I could do the different voices. And also just how the, you know, three - it doesnít have to be a man standing there with his hand up the back of a puppet to be a ventriloquist.

You can have a puppet that youíre not attached to that youíre still in control of and Iím still doing the voice for. And thatís still ventriloquism. Just in a different way. So I wanted to show all of that off in a really quick I would say spectacularly way. And that -- I must say -- that took a lot of practice.

And I practiced and rehearsed, and rehearsed, and rehearsed, and rehearsed because I was just, you know, I was worried that I might cock it up on live television. And I didnít want to do that. So I practiced a lot for it.

Kenna McHugh: Okay. And the follow up question is how do you think this out? Do you have a person you bounce ideas off of? Do you have someone that you trust that you can go, ďokay, what do you think of this?Ē

Paul Zerdin: Well, I have a writing partner that Iíve written with for the last 20 years. And he - I will come up with an idea and say I want to do a routine about whatever. And then heíll go and write it. And then heíll come back and Iíll say I donít like that, but I like that.

And weíll - itíll be very much a collaborative effort really. And sometimes if weíre in the room together then weíll bounce ideas off and something will make us laugh and then itís - and then Iíll kind of rehearse it.
And he - itís sort of - itís a bit improvy. And itís whatever gets - takes, you know, takes it to get to final stage. And you - once youíve written it and you learn it. And then I go and try it out in the comedy club.

And sometimes it works like a treat. Sometimes it kills. And sometimes it completely falls flat. Dies on its butt and I have to start again or rewrite it and tweak it. But itís a long process. Itís a very long tedious process. As any comedian will tell you.

But itís the only way really. And it helps to bounce ideas off. I have a friend who is out here as well whoís a comedian who was helping me with some of the ideas that I used on Americaís Got Talent.

And also, heís a performer as well. So he knows what works. Sometimes Iíve worked with writers in the past who come up with an idea, but because they havenít got the performing background they donít necessarily - they donít know if itís going to work or not.

Whereas heís a performer himself. And he knows that it will work. So thereís more trust in the material. So, yes, it definitely helps to bounce ideas off someone.

But sometimes I can be on a plane or I can be traveling somewhere and I could have had a couple of drinks and suddenly I get inspired and start writing ideas down. So you never know. I always have my notes on my phone open so I can just, you know, tap in ideas. And they can come from anywhere really.

Operator: Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Sean Daly from Please go ahead.

Sean Daly: You started talking a few minutes ago about what this is going to mean for your career. Iím wondering if you could talk a little bit more about that now that youíve had this exposure. Now that youíve had the opportunity to, you know, be named the winner. And youíre going to get to finally play Las Vegas.

What does this mean for your career as a comedian -- as a ventriloquist? Terry, of course, has enjoyed great success. But, you know, I - how big is the market really for ventriloquists? And how are you going to proceed?

Paul Zerdin: Yes. Interesting question. Well, Iím going to find out how big the market is really. I - the feedback has been tremendous. You know Terry has shown that, you know, you can be very successful as a ventriloquist.

And I have lots of - Iíve got lots of ideas I would like to - obviously the Vegas show is very exciting. Thatís kind of my first or the next to the big step. You know and maybe pursue some more Vegas dates depending on the success of the gigs at Planet Hollywood next month.

And also, television ideas as well. Iíve got lots of TV ideas as well. Iíve got an idea for a sitcom, which Iíve been kind of working on for quite a while now. And some other reality ideas involving, you know, my kind of comedy with the puppets.

And I think in a way this is such a great platform. Americaís Got Talent gives you such amazing exposure. You have to really, you know, capitalize on it. Youíve got to go for it. And itís a massive opportunity. And these opportunities donít come around that often.

You know Iíve been in this business for 25 years now. And Iíve worked all over the place. But this is by far the biggest opportunity Iíve ever had. And so I absolutely, you know, want to go for it.

And Iíve got so many ideas and things that I want to do that I think in a way, you know, if I get it right, you know, youíre limited only by your imagination. So Iím very excited about the future.

I mean, you know, thereís no telling. Who knows? I just donít - you donít know whatís going to happen. But Iím going to try my very hardest.

Sean Daly: Okay. And then as a quick follow up, I think there were -- if Iím correct -- there were Brits in the top 10 of this show.

Paul Zerdin: Yes.

Sean Daly: They have a very similar show in the UK. They have Britainís Got Talent. Why did you decide to come here as opposed to showcasing yourself on that show? Is that part of your plan to move to America?

Paul Zerdin: Well, Iíve always been a fan of American show business. All my kind of sort of heroes have been - tended to be, you know, comedically have been American, from, you know, Robin Williams to Jerry Seinfeld -- Seinfeldís one of my favorite comedians and my favorite TV show of all time.

And Sesame Street and The Muppet Show -- Jim Henson, Frank Oz -- you know theyíve been all my inspiration and my heroes. So I feel Iíve got a big -- whatís the word -- affinity with the United States.

But also, yes we have Britainís Got Talent. Iíve been lucky enough to perform in the Royal Variety Show. Actually is a big variety show in front of the Queen or Prince Charles.

And Iíve been on it a few times in the UK. And part of the prize of winning Britainís Got Talent is appearing on the Royal Variety Show. So I thought that would have looked a bit odd if Iíd have auditioned for Britainís Got Talent already having performed on the show thatís the prize.

So I thought what I would do is I would sneak over to America. Have a go at Americaís Got Talent. If it didnít work or I got booed off or it was, you know, unsuccessful, I would sneak back to Britain and nobody would be any the wiser.

Unfortunately, I forgot about the social media side of things. And it kind of - it got back to the UK quite quickly. Luckily, it went well. So it worked out all right. But thatís why.

And also, you know, Americaís Got Talent is the biggest show. If youíre going to do one, why donít you do the biggest and the best?

Operator: Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Beth Beacham from Hollywood Junket. Please go ahead.

Beth Beacham: So I wanted to ask a question on behalf of people who didnít follow you on AGT and they find themselves in Las Vegas. And what would make them choose your show over someone like Terry Fator?

Paul Zerdin: Oh, thatís a really - thatís a difficult question to answer. Well, Terryís show is amazing. If youíre in Las Vegas you should go and see Terry Fatorís show. Because heís fantastic and heís totally unique.

We are totally different. So if you went to see Terry Fatorís show you would love it. But I think if you came to see my show you would also love that. Because itís - weíre just totally different. And weíve got completely different styles.

The bottom line is to be a ventriloquist youíve got to be funny and youíve got to be entertaining. You could be technically the greatest ventriloquist in the world, but if youíre not entertaining then youíre just a man on stage talking to yourself -- which is a bit weird. And youíre going to look a bit odd. And possibly a bit scary.

But Terryís show is amazing. And I would like to think that people will love my show but in a different way. You know Iíve got a lot of experience with performing. And thereís lots of audience participation in my show as well.

So the audience are part of the show, but only if they want to. Theyíre not forced to do anything they donít want to do. So thereís lots of room for improvisation. And I have fun. I mean I love doing it.

Itís what I do. Itís what I love to do. So I would say to - Iím a one man stand up muppety sitcom, you know, thatís all going on. And the comedy comes from the - my relationship between myself and the characters -- and the puppet characters. And not just a bloke standing there with a puppet doing jokes for the sake of it.

There seems to be more of a reason based on the character. The age of the character and the personality. And so itís all, you know, Iíve got a baby, Iíve got a kid -- a prepubescent kid -- and an old man. And theyíre all, you know, theyíre all characters that people can relate to because, you know, weíve all got someone thatís, you know, whether itís our parents or whatever, you know, getting old or youíve got kids or, you know, you were a kid -- whatever.

Thereís something you can relate to with the characters. So the comedy comes from the kind of - itís sort of character comedy in a way. And I think people will enjoy it.

Operator: Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Will Pavia from The London Times. Please go ahead.

Will Pavia: I just wanted - following up on the British thing. Did you ever feel like an imposter coming over as a Brit? I mean thereís obviously quite a few of you. But, yes, how did that play? And how did you feel about it?

Paul Zerdin: An imposter. Well, thatís interesting. Good question. And I never felt like an imposter. Americaís Got Talent is open to anybody around the world. And also you have to remember that three out of the four judges are not American.

Will Pavia: Yes.

Paul Zerdin: So I didnít feel an imposter at all. I just thought itís a big showcase. Itís a big talent showcase and if youíve got a talent then, you know, youíre welcome to audition for it. And if they like you then you can potentially go - you can go far.

So no, I didnít ever feel like an imposter. I felt very, you know, they made me feel very welcome from the very beginning.

Will Pavia: Great. Well, my follow up would be to do with you sort of slightly touched on this already. But I suppose I wondered whatís happening that ventriloquism is sort of big again. Or itís being revived.

I mean youíre obviously one of the people whose leading that. But is there something culturally thatís happening? Is it like a revival of vaudeville that weíre seeing? Or is it to do with YouTube? Or whatís going on? And do you have any British inspirations? You mentioned some of your American ones.

Paul Zerdin: Yes. I think thatís a very interesting - youíve made some good points there. It could be, you know, YouTube could play a part in it. Because, you know, thereís all sorts of footage now on YouTube from years gone by.

And I know that my friends are always sending me clips of acts that theyíve seen on variety shows from whether it be the Royal Variety Show in the Ď60s or Ď70s or whatever. You know comedy clips and variety acts.

And, you know, you donít really have variety shows anymore -- certainly in the UK. You know apart from Britainís Got Talent. And the same goes for Americaís Got Talent. And I think these shows - it is a variety show really.

Thereís lots of singing competitions. You know like the X Factor and those kind of shows. But there arenít very many variety shows. And Americaís Got Talent is -- and Britainís Got Talent -- they are variety shows. And I think people love to see something a bit different.

You know standup comedy has had a huge success over the last few years in the UK and in America. And I think every so often having worked at The Comedy Store for years, you know, I would always be on at The Comedy Store most of the time Iíd be on at the end of the night.

Not necessarily because I was the headline act or anything. But because itís something different. And it would be quite difficult to follow what I - my sort of comedy. So the what you call the spec act would go on at the end.

And I think, you know, people would come up to me often saying oh, you know, we loved what you did tonight. When we heard there was a ventriloquist on we were like oh really? And then we realized it could be funny. We had no idea.

So I think itís just maybe itís refreshing. I think people want something a bit different. And people love, you know, I think people love variety. It just hasnít had much of a chance over the last few years in television.

And I think these talent shows help to kind of remind people that there can be some amazing acts out there that kind of maybe get forgotten.

Operator: Our next question comes from Kimmi Haueter from Fangirl Nation. Please go ahead.

Kimmi Haueter: Thank you for speaking with us today. My question is Americaís Got Talent is grueling on any contestant. What was the hardest part personally of your journey during the show?

Paul Zerdin: Oh, thatís a very, very difficult question. The hardest part I suppose was - well, partly deciding the best bits of material to use on the show. Because you donít get very long.

So having, you know, being able - being touring for some years and performing for a long time, Iíve got a fair amount of material. And you want to go out and do your best material. And make an impact. And get through each week to show that you can get to the finals.

But also, you have to kind of save some of your material as well so that you donít peak too soon. And I think sometimes maybe some of the acts did. And so by the time you get to yourself and you find yourself getting into the semifinals or the final and youíre then like, ďOh, my God. What have I got left?Ē

You know youíve still got to pull something else out of the bag. And so that was probably the most challenging was deciding what, you know, the right material was going to be for each performance knowing that you still have to save something back and kind of save the best Ďtil last -- which I like to think I did.

But that, yes, I would say thatís probably the most challenging. And also, being able to make an impact in such a short amount of time. You know thatís - itís tricky.

Kimmi Haueter: And as a quick follow up. With that being said, do you have any advice for Season 11 contestants coming up?

Paul Zerdin: Yes. You must go for it. Donít be afraid. You must absolutely go for it. And then and itís a huge opportunity. And if you get it right -- which I was lucky enough to. And, you know, Iíve been given an amazing chance and Iím so grateful and thank the American public for voting for me.

And the judges. But you have to just absolutely go for it. But if youíre going to - if you want to go all the way and you think you can, you just - just pace yourself. Thatís what I would say. Absolutely, you know, think about it -- what youíre going to do -- long and hard.

Because sometimes you could go out there and sort of blow it all too soon. Because you want to get to the next round. But youíve got to have something else to top what youíve already done. So, yes, my advice would be pace yourself.

Operator: Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Lora Bofill from Eclipse Magazine. Please go ahead.

Lora Bofill: Your puppets. I love your puppets. Now are they based on real people from your own life?

Paul Zerdin: No. Not in particular. But there are characteristics that have been letís say borrowed by certain people I know. I have a nephew. I have a 5-year-old nephew. And heís terrific. Iíve just - he just got to the age where, you know, I started as a magician. So Iíve started introducing him to magic. And Iím teaching him magic.

And we play tricks on his mom. And, you know, Iíve got him into puppets as well. So he gives me a lot of inspiration. And Iíll - heíll copy me. Heíll see me do something on this TV show on YouTube or something and then heíll try and copy the routine that heís seen me perform with his little puppet.

And he gives me ideas just by doing that. And also kids are, you know, thereís a routine I do where Sam my character copies me -- copies everything I say. And that came from seeing I think it was a kid in a park was just - walked past one day with his mother in a stroller or whatever. And the mother was saying right shut up now. And the kid was going yes, right. Shut up now.

And I just thought oh thatís such a sort of childish thing to do. And I remember doing it all the time to, you know, my friends or my mom and dad when I was a kid. I thought thatís the sort of thing. So that - those sort of routines or ideas come from real life. And it just seems to work.

So a lot of my humor kind of comes from sort of people watching. And my father is slowly turning into my old man character. And heís, you know, my dad is losing his hearing. And he says the funniest things. He totally mishears things all the time. And that gives me enormous inspiration for material for my old man character Albert.

And, you know, itís - theyíre not based on anyone in particular. But thereís, you know, thereís certain elements to the act and the character that have come from real life situations.

Lora Bofill: As a follow up to that, do you ever plan to add more puppets to your repertoire? Especially when you debut your show in Vegas?

Paul Zerdin: I am working on a new character at the moment. I donít want to say too much about it. It takes me quite a long time to come up with a new character. You know Sam is my kid character with the ginger hair.

He - Iíve worked - Iíve been working with him -- it sounds like heís real doesnít it -- Iíve been working with him for about 20 - I suppose 20 years maybe. Maybe longer now.

And itís taken a long time to get his character right. And the baby and the old man. Itís taken a long time. Iím not one of these ventriloquists that wants to have loads and loads and loads of puppets. For me Iíd rather have just a few really well defined characters that I can really play with and really explore.

Because once youíve got the character and you know the character itís much easier to write for. And so I want to make them as real as possible and itís like I sort of, you know, a real life sitcom with the characters.

And so Iím keen to sort of, you know, just keep on exploring where their characters go and my relationship between, you know, me and all of them. But I am working on another character. I donít want to give too much away. But I, you know, Iím going to keep working on it until itís ready.

And I donít want to go out there - I toured a few years ago and I tried a new character whoís a news - is sort of a news reader character. And he was based on a famous voiceover artist in the UK who does a lot of voiceovers and speaks like this. Coming up after the break.

And heís got a - one of those real sort of television radio announcer voices. And I came up with the character. And I thought it was a great idea. But unfortunately I found out that I couldnít do the voice without moving my lips.

So I had to go back to the drawing board. And I tried him a few times. It didnít quite work. Heís still a work in progress. But Iím working on another character though. And when heís ready Iíll be getting him out.

Operator: Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Jamie Steinberg from Starry Constellation Magazine. Please go ahead.

Jamie Steinberg: I was wondering. You mentioned that you and Terry talked a little bit before your performance. Can you talk a little bit about what it is you all discussed?

Paul Zerdin: My lips are sealed. Yes, we talked about, you know, he said heíd been watching my progress on the show. And he was most complimentary. And, you know, I felt very honored that he said that. I mean he didnít have to say that.

And ventriloquists itís not often you get to see ventriloquists. Thereís a famous ventriloquist convention in Kentucky which I went to many years ago. And funnily enough I interviewed Jeff Dunham it must be over 20 years ago for British television.

But very seldom, you know, do you have ventriloquists all together. And if you are on a show, if youíre on a, you know, comedy club or a variety show of some sort thereís usually only one ventriloquist. Itís very rare that you would have two ventriloquist.

So you donít really kind of come into contact much. So to have two ventriloquists in a room having a chat and also sharing similar experiences because Terry had such success from Americaís Got Talent and, you know, having just won it myself he was like, you know, you - obviously I didnít know Iíd know Iíd won the show at that point.

But he was very sort of helpful and just said, you know, just enjoy the whole thing. And also make sure that you, you know, you donít rush into certain things. Because you might get lots of offers. And, you know, if you play it right you could do really well out of it.

He gave me some really great advice. And having seen his show in Vegas a couple of times now that, you know, meant a lot to me. Because heís a great performer. And to end up performing with him at Radio City was, you know, a real magic moment.

Jamie Steinberg: Well, we mentioned all the wonderful people that voted for you. Can you tell us exactly what you would like to say to everyone who is a fan and supporter of you and your comedy?

Paul Zerdin: Well, I, you know, Iím indebted really. Iím so happy. And I thank everybody who voted for me. And I hope I will do them proud on my show in Vegas. If you can come and see the show in Vegas you can see my full show.

And, you know, thereís been - itís been a sort of - Iíve shown tastes of my act throughout Americaís Got Talent to show what I can do. And come and see the full show and I think hopefully -- fingers crossed -- people will love it.

And I am so, so grateful. And I, you know, itís an honor to be able to perform here in this amazing country. And I really thank the people from the bottom of my heart.

Operator: Thank you. Our next question comes from Emily Morgan from HNGN. Please go ahead.

Emily Morgan: I was just wondering if youíre going to be keeping - obviously AGTís a very family friendly program. Will you change anything when you go to Vegas in terms of thinking making it a little dirtier or a little adult factor to it?

Paul Zerdin: Thatís a very good question. My last tour back home in the UK was a 15 -- I think it was -- 15 and over. So it was little bit - a bit more adult. Thatís a really good question. And I have to speak to the producers of the show and find out what the audience is expected.

Iím guessing that because Americaís Got Talent is a family show theyíre going to want me to do a family show for the live shows in Vegas because theyíre appealing to the Americaís Got Talent audience.

It might be slightly cheekier than anything you would have seen on TV. There were certain things I wanted to do on television but because of, you know, certain legal reasons or whatever youíre not allowed to say things or whatever.

And I would hope that it will be a little bit naughtier. But not, obviously, not too rude.

Emily Morgan: Right. My follow up is because the - because youíve been doing this for 20 years or so, does - do the jokes change in terms of the climate of whateverís happening in the world? Or wherever youíre performing?

Paul Zerdin: Yes. I mean every show is different. I mean I have a script. This show - I keep adding to the show. So when - and the more you tour the more you can work in new material. So the more you work I think the fresher the material is. Because youíre constantly putting in new things.

Iím not a comedian that does - or a ventriloquist that does lots and lots of topical material. Thatís not really my thing. But I will always keep the show fresh.

And so, you know, when you - if you come and see the show and if you came back - if you came to the first night and you came to the last night you would notice there will be different things.

Because of the audience reaction and because of the interaction between myself and the characters and the audience. And especially when Iím using people from the audience to be part of the show. It - the show is always different. And gives me the opportunity to adlib and to improvise -- which I love doing.

And itís amazing, you know, the fun you can have when you have people from the audience up on stage. And they become my puppets who Iím sort of, you know, controlling. It - no show is ever the same. So, yes, the show is always kept fresh.

Operator: Our next question comes from Krista Chain from The TV MegaSite. Please go ahead.

Krista Chain: You spoke about Terry Fator speaking with you before the show and all. Have you received a lot of encouragement and information from other ventriloquists since youíve been on the show?

Paul Zerdin: As far as I know Terry has been the most sort of vocal on social media and sent me a couple of lovely messages. And to me heís, you know, heís absolutely at the top of his game. So thatís all I, you know, thatís - Iím happy.
Iíve had some messages from some fellow ventriloquists back in the UK who are thrilled that, you know, Iíve had this result. But, you know, like I was saying in an earlier - to an earlier caller the vent community is quite a small - itís a small community.

But you donít tend to have that much to do with each other. Because youíre never on the same show. So, you know, most of my friends are comedians and not necessarily ventriloquists. But, you know, I came up from a comedy and a magic background. So I have magician friends more than ventriloquist friends.

But I now am lucky enough to count Terry as a friend. And thatís, you know, Iím happy with that.

Operator: Thank you. Our next question comes from @NBCAGT, go ahead.

@NBCAGT: Hi Paul. So as mentioned, these questions are going to be coming from fans on social media.

Paul Zerdin: Yes.

@NBCAGT: So the first question is from @ElloPotato, and she says, ďPaul, if you didnít become a ventriloquist, what career do you think you would have had?Ē

Paul Zerdin: Well, I was a radio presenter for a short while, while I was - when I left school. And I was doing magic. I was performing as a magician. And I was learning ventriloquism at the time.

But I was also doing some - I was a DJ on a satellite radio station. And I wanted to become a radio presenter. So maybe I would have gone - I did do some childrenís presenting for a while. So maybe I could have possibly carried on doing that.

But I always wanted to do something a bit more, you know, a bit more childish really in a way. And comedic wise. I wanted it to be more, yes, I wanted it to be - I wanted to be the star of my own show rather than a presenter.

But I loved radio. And I loved the fact that I could do silly voices. And I loved that whole medium.

@NBCAGT: Great. Thank you. And my next question comes from @NickVeneziano and he asks, ďWhat did you do to celebrate your victory?Ē

Paul Zerdin: Well, I had some friends - some family and friends with me at the show last night. And so after I did a number of interviews straight after the results, I managed to go back to the hotel, have one quick drink with everyone, and then I had such an early start this morning with some TV and radio that I had to get up early and I had to go to bed early.

So I had to actually be quite boring. And unfortunately there was no champagne or anything. Literally there was a beer. There was a beer, a quick catch up, and then straight to bed to get some beauty sleep.

So Iím going to be celebrating I think a bit tonight. And, you know, probably Iím going to stretch it out over a few days if I can.

Operator: Thank you. Our next question is a follow up question from Kenna McHugh from Screenhead. Please go ahead.

Kenna McHugh: Yes. Iím - well, since youíve done magic is there any similarities between being a ventriloquist and being a magician?

Paul Zerdin: Yes. I think there are. Iím a member of The Magic Circle in the UK. And, you know, began as a magician. And I like to think that ventriloquism is definitely connected. Because, you know, it is illusions.

Iím creating the illusion that the sound -- the voice -- is coming from somewhere else. So I think thatís all part of misdirection. And having a magical background to me it makes total sense.

Yes, so youíre creating the illusion that a character is coming to life. And youíre making an audience sort of somehow believe in it. So, yes, I think the two are very, you know, very well connected.

Operator: Thank you. Our next question is also a follow up from Kimmi Haueter. Your line is open. Please go ahead.

Kimmi Haueter: Hi. Another question I had was you reportedly began playing with puppets when you were a child and you were given a little puppet stage as a gift. What was it about ventriloquism and puppets that spoke to you at such a young age when you received that gift?

Paul Zerdin: I think the biggest influence was watching Sesame Street as a kid. And those moments -- those classic moments -- which everyone will remember where you had Kermit sitting on a wall talking to a kid and learning - teaching the kid to count.

Or watching the Count himself, you know, teaching the audience how to count. Or thereís Grover or Cookie Monster and just talking to kids and just having fun. Those moments were for me absolute magic.

And I just remember being totally captivated and falling in love with these fuzzy little monsters. And knowing that someday I just -- in the back of my head -- I just knew that I wanted to do something that was connected with all that.

So I would say the work of Sesame Street and Jim Henson was my, you know, sort of total inspiration.

Operator: Thank you. And our next question once again is a follow up question from @NBCAGT. Please go ahead.

@NBCAGT: This is from @gabe_cogan: ďAt what point during the show could you honestly say Iíve got this?Ē

Paul Zerdin: You know I donít think I could ever say that to be honest. I knew from the feedback from the quarterfinals, from the getting the golden buzzer, from the judgeís cuts, that I was doing okay. And I - and on social media you can get an idea that youíre - what youíre doing is being well received.

But thereís no - I never at any point did I think oh my God, I might win this. When I was in, you know, in the final with everybody and everyone in the final -- you know The Regurgitator, Drew, Oz the Mind Reader, Benton -- you know everyone was so I thought absolutely the top of their game I just thought anybody could win it really.

It was really open. So it wasnít until, you know, even Ďtil it was myself and Drew standing there -- which I have to say is a very really, you know, itís quite torturous in a way. Obviously itís, you know, itís television - itís televisual entertainment, you know?

But for us, its torture up there on stage knowing thereís millions of people watching you. And, you know, in between the ad break, you know, theyíll say and the winner is well youíll find out after the break. And then I would say to Drew, you know, I turned to Drew just to - thereís such tension up there on stage.

I turned to Drew and I said when they went into the commercial break I said maybe me and you should just have a punch up here on stage and just see who wins. And that will decide the winner.

We were just making jokes just because of the nervous tension. And at that point I thought Drew was going to win it. Heís a brilliant comedian. Heís a lovely guy. The American public love him. Heís going to win it.

And then when they said my name, I was totally flabbergasted. I was shocked. I was thrilled. But also itís hard, you know, when youíre - when you get through and someone doesnít. That, you know, I feel - you feel bad for the person that didnít win. But also you feel happy that you won. So itís just real mixed emotions.

@NBCAGT: Sure. Another question for you. This one comes from @AndrewMPfeiffer: ďSince you didnít really have too much of a time to celebrate last night, how did you feel when you woke up this morning and it really set in and your remembered that you won?Ē

Paul Zerdin: Well, I looked at my phone and saw that I had 73 text messages and, you know, hundreds and hundreds of emails and tweets and Facebook messages. And I just looked at my phone and I just thought oh my God, thatís insane. Thatís, you know, my phone has never been so busy.

It kind of gradually started to sink in that, you know, I had won the show. And I looked at my - the BBC news. And I was on the entertainment Web site. You know British Ventriloquist wins Americaís Got Talent. And that, you know, I thought wow Iíve made the BBC news. You know Iíve made it.

Yes, it was - itís the strangest feeling. I canít tell you how, you know, how bowled over and amazed I am by the whole thing.

@NBCAGT: All right. Great. Thank you very much again.

Paul Zerdin: No problem.

Operator: Thank you and we have no further questions at this time.

Paul Zerdin: Thatís great. Thank you everyone.

Kelly Fernandez: You can see Paul in Las Vegas October 22 through 24 at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. Tickets are on presale now at

Also, to audition for Americaís Got Talent Season 11 you can visit


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