I’m starting to feel really old. It’s already the 10th anniversary for NBC’s seminal talent competition America’s Got Talent. One of this year’s top contenders is ventriloquist Paul Zerdin. He tells us what it’s like to be part of AGT’s landmark year, ventriloquism and more.
Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself – that we didn’t learn by watching the show?
Every time I come to the States and eat in a diner I have to have a booth like in Monk’s Café in Seinfeld. I have a lot of eccentric dysfunctional friends and feel like my life is a kind of episode of Seinfeld. My life is never dull.
Ventriloquism is such a rare talent, how did you get into it?
I started playing with dolls at an early age, I had no friends! I began life as a boy magician when I was about 9 years old and then a few years later was given a book on how to become a ventriloquist. I’d always loved the Muppets and in particular Sesame Street and somehow always new I’d do something that involved Magic and Puppets.
How long did it take you to get good at it?
It took me about 2 years to learn the basics of speaking with your mouth shut! But I’ve been doing it for about 25 years now and I think there’s always room for improvement.
It’s the 10th year anniversary of the show, what does it mean to you to be part of a milestone year and would it mean if you won?
Well its wonderful to be part of a celebratory year with AGT. It means that they’re going to really pull out all the stops especially for the live shows this year.
Not counting the Muppets, Dame Judith is probably the most famous Ventriloquist, what are some of your other inspirations?
Forgive me but I’ve never heard of ‘Dame Judith!’ I thought Jeff Dunham was probably the biggest name in Vent at the moment along with past greats Edgar Bergen, Paul Winchell and Shari Lewis. Ronn Lucas was the first ventriloquist I ever saw that used soft Muppety type characters and he influenced me enormously especially with his genius creation of his fire breathing Dragon, Scorch.
Besides winning AGT, making a lot of money and playing Vegas, what would your ultimate dream/goal be?
Isn’t that enough!!!! I guess getting my own TV show off the ground starring myself and the puppet characters. I have a baby, a kid and an old man. It would feature footage from live gigs and then what goes on between us at home. Sort of across between The Muppets and Seinfeld!
Other than performing in front of the judges what has been your favorite moment on your AGT journey?
Being able to talk about myself for hours on end to a camera! It’s the next best thing to therapy!
Why should we vote for you?
Everyone loves a puppet! And stand up comedy with a puppet and a bloke with a British accent…. What’s not to like!