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Interview with Paul Zerdin of "America's
Got Talent" on
It was a long call. Paul was very pleasant to talk to
and took a lot of time to answer each question for us
September 17, 2015 12:00 pm CT
Operator: Our first question comes from the line of Cody
hiddenremote.com. 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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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 buddytv.com. Please ahead.
Jeff Dodge: Now you got to perform with Terry Fator during
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
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
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
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
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
Operator: Thank you. Our next question comes from the line
of Sean Daly from thetvpage.com. 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
@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
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
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
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
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
@NBCAGT: All right. Great. Thank you very much again.
Paul Zerdin: No problem.
Operator: Thank you and we have no further questions at this
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
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