(PCM) Being huge fans of America’s Got Talent, it was an epic experience to witness ventriloquist Paul Zerdin being announced as the winner for this highly exciting season, as well as, seeing his amazing performance with Season 2 winner Terry Fator. With a show like America’s Got Talent, you never know what is going to happen and it certainly keeps you at the edge of your seat until the very end.
This season featured an absolutely amazing array of talent, however Paul Zerdin rose above the rest with his unique and quirky sense of humor and incredible ventriloquism skills! We had a chance to catch up with Zerdin after his big win to discuss his time on the show and just what the future has in-store!
On what was going through his head as Nick [Cannon] announced his name as the Season 10 winner
PAUL ZERDIN: 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. You’re 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.
It’s a mixture of jetlag, lack of sleep, and euphoria all together — which, you know, I feel very happy about it. And I’m still slightly lost for words when people ask me about it now like you have done.
On which of his performances stands-out the most
PZ: 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 don’t know what’s 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 that’s 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 didn’t 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, I’ll be doing it in my show in Las Vegas where I’ll 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 it’s great being able to sort of control them. But you’re, of course, you’re not really in control. You control their voices. But it’s very much up to the individuals how they react. And everyone reacts differently.
But that’s what I love. I love the danger of that and the fact that you can adlib. And Howie Mandel was absolutely brilliant.
On what he was surprised to learn about himself as a performer
PZ: I think when you come to perform at Radio City — and I’ve 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.
I’m not a performer that’s like a jabbering nervous wreck before I go on. I’ve worked with some comics over the years who just spend all day worrying about the gig that night. And I’ve always thought that’s crazy. That’s just going to ruin your day.
And I’m, you know, I work a lot and perform a lot. And I just thought, I can’t go through life just worrying about it. I think that’s 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, “Right. Come on. Keep it cool. Keep it cool. Look like you’re in control. Just go out there.” And also sometimes you’re worrying about so much because you’re very limited with time. You don’t have much time. You’ve got to try and make an impact when you’re 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 you’re 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 – you’re worrying about it. Or and you don’t want to overrun because you’re on live television — which when you think about it, is quite – it’s quite a big deal when you’re 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 you’re on a, you know, it’s a high pressure gig is to – you forget to enjoy it. So I was really conscious to myself. I said, “Come on. Keep smiling. And just enjoy it.” Because it’s an amazing opportunity.
On the challenges he faced competing on the show
PZ: I’d say you need stamina for America’s Got Talent. Because it’s 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 it’s all about behind the scenes. And they want to see what it’s 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 York’s an amazing city, and I’ve loved every moment here.
And so you’re filming a lot. And there’s crews — camera crews — taking you around filming the next bit of video which they then show if you’re 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 I’ve loved that. And I’ve 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 I’ve learned that you really need some stamina for this. Because there’s so much hanging around. And sometimes I’d be taken off to a location to be filming and I’d beat the film crew because they were still filming, you know, Piff the Magic Dragon or one of the other acts.
And so, yes, you’ve got to have stamina. And I found out where I seem to have stamina. But you’ve got to keep going. And then you’re 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 — you’re absolutely exhausted. So you somehow have to still pull it out of the bag. And so I’ve learned that I can do that. But it’s quite hard work.
On what it felt like to perform with Terry Fator and being only the second ventriloquist to win
PZ: 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 I’m 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 it’s so unusual. I don’t 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 they’ve been depicted in films and television movies over the years, you know, as mad and psycho killers or whatever.
But ventriloquists don’t 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. You’ve got Terry Fator who’s a massive success story as a result of America’s Got Talent. He has this amazing show in Vegas.
And then you have people like Jeff Dunham who’s an incredible ventriloquist. And, you know, it’s 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.
That’s, you know, that’s kind of my goal. And so far so good.
On his excitement for his upcoming headlining show in Vegas
PZ: It’s amazing. It’s incredible. I never thought of that. I’ve 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 you’re trying to describe Las Vegas or the shows or the casinos and the size of it, you just can’t.
You have to just say – I always say to people you have to just go there. Then you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s just unbelievable. So the fact that I’m going to be headlining my own show at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas next months is – I’m totally blown away by it.
I’m – I say bring it on. You know I’m ready for it. I want to go out there and do my full show. And people that have seen me on America’s Got Talent can see me do my full thing. And that really excites me.
But I’m still, you know, saying I’m going to be headlining in Las Vegas. That’s, you know, that is an absolute dream come true.
On his rehearsal process
PZ: 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 I’m always quite match fit. Because I get to perform a lot.
When it’s for something that’s as high profile as something like America’s 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 I’ve 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 here’s 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 doesn’t 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 you’re not attached to that you’re still in control of and I’m still doing the voice for. And that’s 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 mess it up on live television. And I didn’t want to do that. So I practiced a lot for it.
On his writing process and idea generating
PZ: I have a writing partner that I’ve 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 he’ll go and write it. And then he’ll come back and I’ll say I don’t like that, but I like that.
And we’ll – it’ll be very much a collaborative effort really. And sometimes if we’re in the room together then we’ll bounce ideas off and something will make us laugh and then it’s – and then I’ll kind of rehearse it.
And he – it’s sort of – it’s a bit improvy. And it’s whatever gets – takes, you know, takes it to get to final stage. And you – once you’ve 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 it’s a long process. It’s a very long tedious process. As any comedian will tell you.
But it’s the only way really. And it helps to bounce ideas off. I have a friend who is out here as well who’s a comedian who was helping me with some of the ideas that I used on America’s Got Talent.
And also, he’s a performer as well. So he knows what works. Sometimes I’ve worked with writers in the past who come up with an idea, but because they haven’t got the performing background they don’t necessarily – they don’t know if it’s going to work or not.
Whereas he’s a performer himself. And he knows that it will work. So there’s 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.
On the patch of his career as a comedian/ventriloquist and the market for his brand of comedy
PZ: I’m 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 – I’ve got lots of ideas I would like to – obviously the Vegas show is very exciting. That’s 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. I’ve got lots of TV ideas as well. I’ve got an idea for a sitcom, which I’ve 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. America’s Got Talent gives you such amazing exposure. You have to really, you know, capitalize on it. You’ve got to go for it. And it’s a massive opportunity. And these opportunities don’t come around that often.
You know I’ve been in this business for 25 years now. And I’ve worked all over the place. But this is by far the biggest opportunity I’ve ever had. And so I absolutely, you know, want to go for it.
And I’ve 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, you’re limited only by your imagination. So I’m very excited about the future.
I mean, you know, there’s no telling. Who knows? I just don’t – you don’t know what’s going to happen. But I’m going to try my very hardest.
On the hardest part of his journey on the show
PZ: The hardest part I suppose was – well, partly deciding the best bits of material to use on the show. Because you don’t get very long.
So having, you know, being able – being touring for some years and performing for a long time, I’ve 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 don’t 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 you’re then like, “Oh, my God. What have I got left?”
You know you’ve 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 ‘til last — which I like to think I did.
But that, yes, I would say that’s probably the most challenging. And also, being able to make an impact in such a short amount of time. You know that’s – it’s tricky.
On his advice for Season 11 contestants
PZ: You must go for it. Don’t be afraid. You must absolutely go for it. And then and it’s a huge opportunity. And if you get it right — which I was lucky enough to. And, you know, I’ve been given an amazing chance and I’m 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 you’re going to – if you want to go all the way and you think you can, you just – just pace yourself. That’s what I would say. Absolutely, you know, think about it — what you’re 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 you’ve got to have something else to top what you’ve already done. So, yes, my advice would be pace yourself.
You can see Paul in Las Vegas October 22 through 24 at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. Tickets are on presale now at ticketmaster.com.
Also, to audition for America’s Got Talent Season 11 you can visit www.agtauditions.com.