Paul Zerdin chats about being America’s Got Talent season 10 winner


“America’s Got Talent” wrapped its tenth season on Sept. 16 after  several grueling weeks where singers, dancers, magicians, comedians, ventroliquists, and daredevils battled it out to win one million dollars and the chance to showcase their talents in their own show at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas this October. Ten finalists made it to Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Who reigned victorious? Paul Zerdin the ventriloquist! Zerdin is the second ventriloquist to win the show, behind Terry Fator who won in 2007. I had the opportunity to chat with this extremely talented ventriloquist during a conference call with reporters.

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Paul Zerdin is an English comedian and ventriloquist from London whose interest in puppets started at the age of 10 when a family friend made him a puppet theatre. He then read a book on ventriloquism by the legendary Ray Alan and he nurtured his talents in puppetry. On the side, he got a job working in a magic shop developing his magic expertise and worked as a children’s entertainer. He made his TV debut as a magician on BBC’s “Tricky Business” and was a part of the Disney produced kids’ program “Rise and Shine” for GMTV at the age of 20. He won The Big Big Talent Show in 1996 presented by Jonathan Ross, which led to his meeting producer Nigel Lythgoe. Through Nigel, Paul was given the opportunity to perform for royalty when he secured a spot on the Prince’s Trust Gala Show in 1997. By the late 1990’s Paul added standup to performances. He works with three puppets – Sam, his most popular character, along with Baby and Albert.

America's Got Talent judges - PIctured (l-r): Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, Mel B, Howie Mandel

America’s Got Talent judges – PIctured (l-r): Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, Mel B, Howie Mandel

The morning after winning the America’s Got Talent finale, Paul Zerdin spoke with reporters about his win.  Below is a summarized recap of that conversation:

Hi Paul! First let me say congratulations on your win and thanks for speaking with us today.  Can you speak a little bit about what was going through your mind as you awaited the final results? And what your initial reaction 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. 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.”

I thought I would be runner up. And then when they said my name, my heart skipped a beat. 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.

You had some tremendous performances throughout the season. Looking back, is there any performance that stands out as your personal favorite? And what was it about that performance that made it stand out above the rest?

Zerdin:    Good question. Well, I think probably my first audition at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood would stand out for me because it was the first one.  I just thought, “I don’t know what’s going to happen here. It could go horribly wrong, or it could go well.”  Luckily it went well. And I got a standing ovation from the judges and from the audience in the theater, so I thought, wow that’s a great reaction and what a great start.

That filled me with confidence. I think it helped me enormously to carry on and think that I could maybe go far. I didn’t ever think I could win it, but I thought I could get maybe 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. He was such a great sport. He had no idea what was going to happen.  I was so lucky the way that he reacted, because he could have reacted so differently. But he did it just beautifully.  I love doing that piece because I can control. I’ll be doing it in my show in Las Vegas where I’ll get a couple out of the audience — a married couple is what I usually do — and I turn them into my dummies.

I get them doing crazy things. It’s great being able to sort of control them. But of course, you’re not really in control. You control their voices. It’s very much up to the individuals how they react.  Everyone reacts differently.  That’s what I love. I love the danger of that and the fact that you can adlib. And Howie Mandel was absolutely brilliant.

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Paul Zerdin with Howie Mandel on “America’s Got Talent”

Is there anything throughout your time spent in the competition that you were surprised to learn about yourself as a performer?

Zerdin:  Oh, that’s an interesting question. Well, 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. Even though I think of myself as afairly polished performer and 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.

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

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.

You’re worrying about it. Or you don’t want to overrun because you’re on live television — which when you think about it, it’s quite a big deal when you’re right there in the moment.  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 high pressure gig is to forget to enjoy it. I was really conscious to myself. I said, “Come on. Keep smiling. And just enjoy it.” Because it’s an amazing opportunity.

Other than the time factor and battling the nerves, were there any other challenges that you faced?

Zerdin:  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. 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. 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 quarter final. They show a video of you messing around.  I’ve loved that.  I’ve had creative input in that as well. 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.

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, Piff the Magic Dragon or one of the other acts.  I seem to have stamina. But you’ve got to keep going. 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.

By the time you get on stage — in the live performance — you’re absolutely exhausted. 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.

You got to perform with Terry Fator during the finale.

Zerdin:   Yes.

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?

Zerdin:   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.

I suggested a couple of things.He really liked my ideas. And he suggested a couple of things. 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, a ventriloquist has won it again, it just shows to you that 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, as mad and psycho killers or whatever.  Ventriloquists don’t have to be all mad. They can actually be quite funny and quite entertaining.  I think the American public have shown that, that they still love comedy and a bloke with a puppet.

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. 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 advance it and — without sounding pretentious — try and take it to another level and do things different with it.  Play with it. That’s kind of my goal. And so far so good.

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Terry Fator and Paul Zerdin performing on “America’s Got Talent”

You mentioned about Terry Fator having a show in Vegas. You know you’re 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?

Zerdin:          No. 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 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.

How often do you rehearse? 

Zerdin:   It depends what it is really. Whether it be comedy clubs or whatever performances . . .  When it’s for something that’s as high profile as something like America’s Got Talent, and depending on which performance, for example my final performance on the show — where I wanted to show a little bit of everything that I do using techniques, comedy, and also a bit of animatronics as well.   I’ve kind of shown a taste of it throughout the episodes in the series – in the season of it.

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. 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. That was written especially for the performance.  I wanted to try and show off how quickly I could do the different voices.

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. That’s still ventriloquism. Just in a different way. So I wanted to show all of that off in a spectacularly way.  That took a lot of practice.

I practiced and rehearsed, and rehearsed, and rehearsed, and rehearsed because I was  worried that I might cock it up on live television. And I didn’t want to do that. So I practiced a lot for it.

Do you have a person you bounce ideas off of? 

Zerdin:    I have a writing partner that I’ve written with for the last 20 years.  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. He’ll come back and I’ll say I don’t like that, but I like that.

It’ll be very much a collaborative effort really. And sometimes if we’re in the room together, we’ll bounce ideas off and something will make us laugh and then I’ll kind of rehearse it.

It’s a bit improvy. And it’s whatever takes it to get to final stage.Once you’ve written it and you learn it, then I go and try it out in the comedy club.  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.

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.  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 know if it’s going to work or not.  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.

Sometimes I can be on a plane or I can be traveling somewhere.  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 tap in ideas. They can come from anywhere really.

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?

Zerdin:          Yes. Interesting question. Well, I’m going to find out how big the market is really. The feedback has been tremendous. You know Terry has shown that you can be very successful as a ventriloquist.  Obviously the Vegas show is very exciting. That’s kind of my first or the next to the big step, and maybe pursue some more Vegas dates depending on the success of the gigs at Planet Hollywood next month.

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 my kind of comedy with the puppets.

I think in a way this is such a great platform. America’s Got Talent gives you such amazing exposure. You have to really capitalize on it. You’ve got to go for it. And it’s a massive opportunity. These opportunities don’t come around that often.

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. I absolutely want to go for it.  I’ve got so many ideas and things that  if I get it right, you’re limited only by your imagination. I’m very excited about the future.  Who knows? You don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m going to try my very hardest.

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Early days of Paul Zerdin on the BBC in the UK

Were there Brits in the top 10 of this show?

Zerdin:  Yes.

They have a very similar show in the UK. They have Britain’s 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?

Zerdin:          Well, I’ve always been a fan of American show business. All my heroes have comedically been American, from Robin Williams to Jerry Seinfeld. Seinfeld’s one of my favorite comedians and my favorite TV show of all time.  And Sesame Street and The Muppet Show — Jim Henson, Frank Oz.  They’ve been my inspiration and my heroes. I feel I’ve got a big affinity with the United States.

But also, yes we have Britain’s Got Talent. I’ve been lucky enough to perform in the Royal Variety Show. It is a big variety show in front of the Queen or Prince Charles.   I’ve been on it a few times in the UK. Part of the prize of winning Britain’s Got Talent is appearing on the Royal Variety Show. So I thought that would have looked a bit odd if I’d have auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent already having performed on the show that’s the prize.  I thought what I would do is I would sneak over to America. Have a go at America’s Got Talent. If it didn’t work or I got booed off or it was unsuccessful, I would sneak back to Britain and nobody would be any the wiser.  Unfortunately, I forgot about the social media side of things. It kind of – it got back to the UK quite quickly. Luckily, it went well.

So it worked out all right. But that’s why.  America’s Got Talent is the biggest show. If you’re going to do one, why don’t you do the biggest and the best?

On behalf of people who didn’t follow you on AGT and they find themselves in Las Vegas, what would make them choose your show over someone like Terry Fator?

Zerdin:          Oh, that’s a really – that’s a difficult question to answer. Well, Terry’s show is amazing. If you’re in Las Vegas you should go and see Terry Fator’s show. Because he’s fantastic and he’s totally unique.  We are totally different. If you went to see Terry Fator’s show you would love it. I think if you came to see my show you would also love that. We’re just totally different. And we’ve got completely different styles.

You’ve got to be funny and you’ve got to be entertaining. You could be technically the greatest ventriloquist in the world, but if you’re not entertaining, then you’re just a man on stage talking to yourself,  which is a bit weird. You’re going to look a bit odd. And possibly a bit scary.

Terry’s show is amazing. And I would like to think that people will love my show but in a different way. You know I’ve got a lot of experience with performing. There’s lots of audience participation in my show as well. The audience is part of the show, but only if they want to. They’re not forced to do anything they don’t want to do. So there’s lots of room for improvisation. And I have fun. I mean I love doing it.  It’s what I do. It’s what I love to do. I’m a one man stand up muppety sitcom. And the comedy comes from my relationship between myself and the puppet characters, 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. I’ve got a baby, I’ve got a kid — a prepubescent kid — and an old man. And they’re all characters that people can relate to because we’ve all got someone.  There’s something you can relate to with the characters. It’s sort of character comedy in a way. And I think people will enjoy it.

What’s happening that ventriloquism is sort of big again? Is there something culturally that’s happening? Or does it have to do with YouTube?  And do you have any British inspirations?

Zerdin:   Yes. I think that’s a very interesting – you’ve made some good points there. YouTube could play a part in it. There’s all sorts of footage now on YouTube from years gone by. My friends are always sending me clips of acts that they’ve seen on variety shows from  the Royal Variety Show in the ‘60s or ‘70s or whatever.

You don’t really have variety shows anymore, certainly in the UK,  apart from Britain’s Got Talent. The same goes for America’s Got Talent.   There’s lots of singing competitions, like the X Factor and those kind of shows. There aren’t very many variety shows. America’s Got Talent and Britain’s Got Talent are variety shows. I think people love to see something a bit different.

Standup comedy has had a huge success over the last few years in the UK and in America. I would always be on at The Comedy Store, most of the time I’d be on at the end of the night.  Not necessarily because I was the headline act or anything, but because it’s something different. It would be quite difficult to follow my sort of comedy. What you call the spec act would go on at the end.  People would come up to me 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.”

Maybe it’s refreshing. People want something a bit different. People love variety. It just hasn’t had much of a chance over the last few years in television. These talent shows help to remind people that there can be some amazing acts out there that maybe get forgotten.

America’s Got Talent is grueling on any contestant. What was the hardest part personally of your journey during the show?

Zerdin:     The hardest part I suppose was  deciding the best bits of material to use on the show, because you don’t get very long.  So having been touring for some years and performing for a long time, I’ve got a fair amount of material. 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.

You have to save some of your material as well so you don’t peak too soon. Maybe some of the acts did, so by the time you get to into the semifinals or the finals, you’re like, “Oh, my God. What have I got left?” You’ve still got to pull something else out of the bag. That was probably the most challenging– deciding what 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 think I did. That’s probably the most challenging. And being able to make an impact in such a short amount of time. It’s tricky.

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

Zerdin:          No. Not in particular. But there are characteristics that have been  borrowed by certain people I know.  I have a 5-year-old nephew and he’s terrific. He just got to the age where I started as a magician.   I’m teaching him magic. We play tricks on his mom. And I’ve got him into puppets as well, so he gives me a lot of inspiration. He’ll copy me. He’ll see me do something on this TV show on YouTube  and then he’ll try and copy the routine that he’s seen me perform with his little puppet.

There’s a routine I do where Sam my character copies me. 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.

I just thought oh that’s sort of childish thing to do. And I remember doing it all the time to, my friends or my mom and dad when I was a kid. I thought that’s the sort of thing. Those sort of routines or ideas come from real life. And it just seems to work.

A lot of my humor comes from people watching. And my father is slowly turning into my old man character. 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.

They’re not based on anyone in particular, but there’s certain elements to the act and the character that have come from real life situations.

Do you ever plan to add more puppets to your repertoire, especially when you debut your show in Vegas?

Zerdin:          I am working on a new character at the moment. I don’t want to say too much about it. It takes me quite a long time to come up with a new character.

Sam is my kid character with the ginger hair.  I’ve been working with him — it sounds like he’s real doesn’t it — I’ve been working with him for about 20 years. Maybe longer now. And the baby and the old man. It’s taken a long time. I’m not one of these ventriloquists that wants to have loads and loads of puppets. For me, I’d rather have just a few really well defined characters that I can really play with and really explore.  Once you’ve got the character, it’s much easier to write for.  I want to make them as real as possible.  It’s  sort of a real life sitcom with the characters.  I’m keen to just keep on exploring where their characters go and my relationship between me and all of them.

I toured a few years ago and I tried a new character who’s a news reader character. He was based on a famous voiceover artist in the UK who does a lot of voiceovers. He’s got one of those real sort of television radio announcer voices.  I thought it was a great idea, but unfortunately I found out that I couldn’t do the voice without moving my lips, so I had to go back to the drawing board.  I tried him a few times. It didn’t quite work. He’s still a work in progress.

But I’m working on another character though. And when he’s ready I’ll be getting him out.

You mentioned that you and Terry talked before your performance. Can you talk a little bit about what it is you all discussed?

Zerdin:          My lips are sealed. He said he’d been watching my progress on the show. And he was most complimentary. I felt very honored that he said that. I mean he didn’t have to say that.

It’s not often you get to see ventriloquists. There’s 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.  Very seldom do you have ventriloquists all together. If you are on a show, comedy club or a variety show of some sort, there’s usually only one ventriloquist. It’s very rare that you would have two ventriloquists.

He was very sort of helpful and just said, “…Just enjoy the whole thing. And also make sure that you don’t rush into certain things,  because you might get lots of offers. If you play it right you could do really well out of it.  Having seen his show in Vegas a couple of times now, that meant a lot to me. He’s a great performer, and to end up performing with him at Radio City was, a real magic moment.

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 you’ve been on the show?

Zerdin:          As far as I know, Terry has been the most vocal on social media and sent me a couple of lovely messages. And to me, he’s absolutely at the top of his game. So that’s all I, you know, that’s – I’m happy.

I’ve had some messages from some fellow ventriloquists back in the UK who are thrilled that I’ve had this result. The vent community is quite a small community. You don’t tend to have that much to do with each other because you’re never on the same show. So, most of my friends are comedians and not necessarily ventriloquists. I came from a comedy and a magic background.  I have magician friends more than ventriloquist friends.  I now am lucky enough to count Terry as a friend.  I’m happy with that.

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?

Zerdin:    My last tour back home in the UK was 15 and over, so it was little bit more adult.  I have to speak to the producers of the show and find out what the audience is expecting.  I’m guessing that because America’s Got Talent is a family show,  they’re going to want me to do a family show for the live shows in Vegas because they’re appealing to the America’s 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 certain legal reasons, you’re not allowed to say things.  I would hope that it will be a little bit naughtier. But not, obviously, not too rude.

Because you’ve been doing this for 20 years or so, does, do the jokes change in terms of the climate of whatever’s happening in the world? 

Zerdin:  Yes. Every show is different. I mean I have a script. I keep adding to the show. The more you tour, the more you can work on new material. The more you work, I think the fresher the material is because you’re constantly putting in new things.

I’m not a comedian or a ventriloquist that does lots and lots of topical material. That’s not really my thing. 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 . . .  the show is always different and gives me the opportunity to adlib and to improvise — which I love doing. It’s amazing, the fun you can have when you have people from the audience up on stage. They become my puppets who I’m controlling. No show is ever the same.

These questions are going to be coming from fans on social media. The first question is from @ElloPotato, and she says, “Paul, if you didn’t become a ventriloquist, what career do you think you would have had?”

Zerdin:     I was a radio presenter for a short while when I left school. And I was doing magic. I was performing as a magician. And I was learning ventriloquism at the time.  I was also a DJ on a satellite radio station.  I wanted to become a radio presenter. I did do some children’s presenting for a while. Maybe I could have possibly carried on doing that.

I always wanted to do something a bit more childish really in a way. And comedic wise.  I wanted to be the star of my own show rather than a presenter.

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

This is from @gabe_cogan: “At what point during the show could you honestly say I’ve got this?”

Zerdin:  You know I don’t 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 judge’s cuts, that I was doing okay. And on social media you can get an idea what you’re doing is being well received.

Never at any point did I think, “Oh my God, I might win this.” When I was in the final with everybody – The Regurgitator, Drew, Oz the Mind Reader, Benton –  I just thought anybody could win it really.It was really open. So it wasn’t until, you know, even ‘til it was myself and Drew standing there — which I have to say is a very really, you know, it’s quite torturous in a way. Obviously it’s, you know, it’s television – it’s televisual entertainment, you know?

But for us, it’s torture up there on stage knowing there’s millions of people watching you. In between the ad break, they’ll say “And the winner is well . . . you’ll find out after the break.” There’s such tension up there on stage.  I turned to Drew and 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. He’s a brilliant comedian. He’s a lovely guy. The American public love him. He’s going to win it.

Then when they said my name, I was totally flabbergasted. I was shocked. I was thrilled. But also it’s hard, you know, when you get through and someone doesn’t. You feel bad for the person that didn’t win, but also you feel happy that you won. So it’s just real mixed emotions.

America's Got Talent grand finale - Episode 1026 Pictured: (l-r) Paul Zerdin, Nick Cannon, Drew Lynch (Photo by: Will Hart/NBC)

America’s Got Talent grand finale – Episode 1026 Pictured: (l-r) Paul Zerdin, Nick Cannon, Drew Lynch (Photo by: Will Hart/NBC)

My next question comes from @NickVeneziano and he asks, “What did you do to celebrate your victory?”

Zerdin:          Well, I had 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.

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 I’m going to be celebrating I think a bit tonight (the night after the win). And, you know, probably I’m going to stretch it out over a few days if I can.

This one comes from @AndrewMPfeiffer: “Since you didn’t 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?”

Zerdin:          Well, I looked at my phone and saw that I had 73 text messages and hundreds and hundreds of emails and tweets and Facebook messages. I just looked at my phone and I just thought, “Oh my God, that’s insane.” My phone has never been so busy.

It kind of gradually started to sink in that I had won the show. And I looked at the BBC news. And I was on the entertainment Web site. You know– “British Ventriloquist wins America’s Got Talen”. I thought. “Wow I’ve made the BBC news!” You know I’ve made it.  Yes, it was the strangest feeling. I can’t tell you how bowled over and amazed I am by the whole thing.

Since you’ve done magic, is there any similarities between being a ventriloquist and being a magician?

Zerdin:          Yes. I think there are. I’m a member of The Magic Circle in the UK, and, you know, began as a magician.  I like to think that ventriloquism is definitely connected, because it is illusions.  I’m creating the illusion that the sound — the voice — is coming from somewhere else. I think that’s all part of misdirection. And having a magical background to me makes total sense. You’re creating the illusion that a character is coming to life. And you’re making an audience sort of somehow believe in it. I think the two are very very well connected.

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?

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

I just remember being totally captivated and falling in love with these fuzzy little monsters and knowing that someday, in the back of my head,  that I wanted to do something that was connected with all that.   I would say the work of Sesame Street and Jim Henson was my sort of total inspiration.

Do you have any advice for Season 11 contestants?

Zerdin:          Yes. You must go for it. Don’t be afraid. You must absolutely go for it. It’s a huge opportunity  if you get it right, which I was lucky enough to.  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. If you want to go all the way and you think you can,  just pace yourself. That’s what I would say. Think about it — what you’re going to do — long and hard.

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. My advice would be pace yourself.

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?

Zerdin:   I’m indebted really. I’m so happy. And I thank everybody who voted for me. 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.

I’ve shown tastes of my act throughout America’s Got Talent to show what I can do. Come and see the full show and I think hopefully — fingers crossed — people will love it.

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

Thank you again.

Zerdin:          That’s great. Thank you everyone.

Paul Zerdin headshot1 9-18-15

I have to admit there are reality shows on tv that I will likely change the channel on, but reality shows that showcase true talent will always hold my attention. Every week, I watched as people moved on and dropped out either by the judge’s choice or America’s vote. Just like American Idol and The Voice, there was the witty banter of host Nick Cannon with the judges Howie Mandel, Mel B, Heidi Klum, and Howard Stern. And there were the smiles and there were the tears both on the stage and behind.

Unlike many of the other reality talent shows, this show is not restricted by age or type of skill to simply singing or dancing or stand-up comedy. Anything goes. Regurgitation, balancing on mannequins, and riding bikes through fire to name a few. Then there were the tearjerkers such as the teenage boy who danced beautifully despite impending blindness or the fathers who sang or performed magic for their families. The singers, both young and old, could easily give contestants on American Idol a run for their money.  There were so many talented contestants, but in the end, there could only be one winner. With only a 1% difference in the final vote between standup-comedian Drew Lynch and Paul Zerdin, it was ventriloquist Zerdin, with his fusion of wit, ingenuity, and the ability to give life to his three puppets that eventually won the hearts of America’s voters.

You can catch Zerdin’s show in Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in the PH Showroom in Las Vegas on October 22, 23, and 24!

Paul Zerdin performs on final episode of America's Got Talent

Paul Zerdin performs on final episode of America’s Got Talent

You think you have what it takes to be Amerca’s Greatest Talent? Auditions for season 11 will start up in November. You can go to the web site  Any age. Any talent. Any dream.

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Twitter:  @nbcagt / #AGT

Paul Zerdin is on social media!

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Twitter:  @paulzerdin

Courtesy of NBC