It’s not every day you cross paths with a ventriloquist. When you do, you likely do a double take. Perhaps you even run. Truth be told, ventriloquists are some of the funniest people on earth, and former America’s Got Talent winner Terry Fator is proof of exactly that. He’s a riot. He’s a celebrity impersonator, a comedian, a singer, and a true showman. He ties it all together for an incredibly unique live entertainment experience – that all stems from a troupe of puppets.
EDGE caught up with Fator, who takes a few moments away from his regular Vegas gig to hit the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom on Sunday, June 30th. And don’t tell him it’s not actually a casino. He doesn’t want to hear it…
EDGE: How’d you fall into ventriloquism? Why’d you fall into ventriloquism?
Fator: The same reason guys want to become rock stars or actors. Everyone knows that chicks dig ventriloquists! Actually I always knew I wanted to entertain. Since I was around 8 years old, I had played around with magic and hypnotism and at 10 years old I found a book on ventriloquism in my school library and the rest is history.
EDGE: How hard is it to train yourself to speak without moving your mouth much at all? What are some common exercises to get “in shape” for ventriloquism?
Fator: For someone without the natural gift it can be very laborious. In order to get really good, it requires an enormous amount of practice (as with anything else). They say that to master anything you need 10,000 hours of practice. Add a 0 to that for me! The main thing is to learn to have your tongue to do the work your lips would normally do (I know, I know; that sounds like a page out of “The Joy of Sex”; actually it’s page 176), but it’s absolutely necessary to do ventriloquism well. A good exercise is to hold a pen or pencil in your mouth to help keep your jaw still and try to recreate “Bs” “Ps” and “Ms” with your tongue only. It does take a lot of effort and practice, but I’m living proof that it’s worth the time and effort to become good at it.
EDGE: What was the moment or experience that led you to decide, ‘Yep, this is what I’m going to chase for the rest of my days…”?
Fator: My parents owned a janitorial business growing up and forced us three kids (my brother, myself and my sister) to work in the business from a very young age. I decided very early on that I wanted to entertain for a living since I enjoyed it so much more than cleaning out ashtrays and toilets. Trust me, cleaning toilets doesn’t leave you flush with cash. Sorry, that joke typed itself.
EDGE: How’d you get hooked up with America’s Got Talent back in 2007? How did that appearance change your life?
Fator: I watched the first season in 2006 and really liked the format so decided that I wanted to give it a shot in 2007. I happened to be performing at elementary schools in LA and they were having auditions at the LA Convention Center and so I went over after one of my shows to audition. There is really no way to properly describe the impact that winning America’s Got Talent has had on my career. It’s really unprecedented to go from playing at county fairs and elementary schools to having a headlining gig at a major Las Vegas strip casino in less than a year. All because of AGT.
EDGE: I love the music component to your show. Was it always a part of it, or was it added in at some point?
Fator: I’ve always been a singer since as far back as I can remember. Once I chose ventriloquism as my career, I added a little bit of music to my show, but after I saw a singing impersonator in Vegas in 2005 I decided to make the impressions of singing the bulk of my act. Little did I know that was the missing ingredient to my show and my career really exploded after that.
EDGE: Who are some of your favorite “voices” to impersonate? How often do you add new people and characters to the mix?
Fator: I love doing Michael Jackson’s voice, Willie Nelson, Etta James, Elvis, and many others. I try to add new voices and characters regularly, and throughout the year I will add new characters and songs so my show is constantly changing. I’m also focused on adding modern singers like Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift so my show appeals to all ages.
EDGE: You seem to be working every day. How do you stay inspired?
Fator: Love of life and love of wife keeps me inspired. And not in that order! I have a generally positive outlook on life and creating makes me feel fulfilled so I continue to create and push the boundaries of my abilities.
EDGE: What do you do when you’re not talking to puppets? How does Terry Fator “decompress”?
Fator: I love to go to Disneyland and Disney World. I also play video games a bit to relax and get my mind off life’s normal pressures.
EDGE: How long does it take to create your puppets? What does it take to create your puppets? Do they have health insurance?
Fator: Every puppet is a different experience. Creating a character can range from weeks to several months or even years. I start with an idea, cull that down to specifics on character look, decide what type of puppet it will be (soft-sculpture, carved wooden or latex, etc.), work with the puppet makers to get the look just right, then create the character and decide on a voice and what songs they will be singing. It’s a labor-intensive experience but incredibly satisfying to finally debut a new character. They are covered under Obamacare so they can’t choose their doctor or insurance plan, but they can choose their own carpenter. Truth is, for the people who work for me, I always paid for their health insurance—it’s the right things to do.
EDGE: You’re heading our way for a show at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom. What excites you about getting out of Vegas for a minute? And of all places you chose the Granite State ... You know this isn’t actually a casino, right?
Fator: I love to perform around the country because not only does it give my wife Angie and I a chance to travel together and see a lot of different areas, but I know that I have fans from all over that may not be able to see me in Vegas. But wait, no actual casino? That’s the worst truth in labeling since Kim Kardashian wore a white wedding dress.
EDGE: What’s the making of a great show? What can folks expect when they come out to see you perform?
Fator: I feel that a great show is one that takes audiences on a roller-coaster of emotions. I want to be the conductor and the audience my musicians as I lead them through whimsy, laughter, and maybe even a bit of reflection. Not only is the show I am bringing hilarious, but my audience will see and hear dozens of impressions of their favorite singers, everyone from the legends to the modern superstars.
EDGE: Hampton Beach is a boardwalk type of a place… That said, what’s your favorite “boardwalk” cuisine? There’s a lot of fried dough stands…
Fator: Corn dogs and funnel cakes are my favorite boardwalk cuisine. I can’t resist either when I perform at places that have them.
EDGE: Do you take advantage of driving in the carpool lane on the highway with all those puppets in your car?
Fator: Who needs puppets? The personalities are all with me all the time so I feel that I should be able to. That being said, I don’t. I doubt a police officer would agree with my logic. Plus it’s never a good idea when a police officer is checking my license to throw my voice like someone is in the trunk of the car.
To get in on the action, visit www.casinsoballroom.com
Go & Do
What: Ventriloquist Terry Fator
When: 8 p.m., Sunday, June 30
Where: Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, Hampton Beach
Tickets: $37 to $67
More info: For tickets and details, visit www.casinoballroom.com