Q&A with Paul Zerdin Winner of America’s Got Talent #NBC #agt

I was recently invited to a phone interview with Paul Zerdin, the winner of this season’s America’s Got Talent on NBC. Though my schedule would not permit me to participate, I’m very excited to share some of the highlights from the call with my readers.


Q: 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? – Cody Schultz from hiddenremote.com.

Paul: ell, 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.

Q: 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? – – Cody Schultz from hiddenremote.com.

Paul: 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 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.

Q: Do you have a person you bounce ideas off of? Do you have someone that you trust that you can go, “okay, what do you think of this?” – Kenna McHugh from Screenhead.

Paul: Well, 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.

Q: 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? – Sean Daly from thetvpage.com.

Paul: Well, I’ve 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 — 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 — you know they’ve been all my inspiration and my heroes. So I feel I’ve got a big — what’s the word — 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. Actually is a big variety show in front of the Queen or Prince Charles.

And I’ve been on it a few times in the UK. And 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.

So 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, you know, unsuccessful, I would sneak back to Britain and nobody would be any the wiser.

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 that’s why.

And also, you know, 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?

Q: So I wanted to ask a question on behalf of people who didn’t follow you on AGT and they find themselves in Las Vegas. And what would make them choose your show over someone like Terry Fator? – Beth Beacham from Hollywood Junket.

Paul: 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. So if you went to see Terry Fator’s show you would love it. But I think if you came to see my show you would also love that. Because it’s – we’re just totally different. And we’ve got completely different styles.

The bottom line is to be a ventriloquist 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. And you’re going to look a bit odd. And possibly a bit scary.

But 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. And there’s lots of audience participation in my show as well.

So the audience are 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. So I would say to – I’m a one man stand up muppety sitcom, you know, that’s 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 it’s all, you know, I’ve got a baby, I’ve got a kid — a prepubescent kid — and an old man. And they’re all, you know, they’re all characters that people can relate to because, you know, we’ve all got someone that’s, you know, whether it’s our parents or whatever, you know, getting old or you’ve got kids or, you know, you were a kid — whatever.

There’s something you can relate to with the characters. So the comedy comes from the kind of – it’s sort of character comedy in a way. And I think people will enjoy it.

Q: Thank you for speaking with us today. My question is America’s Got Talent is grueling on any contestant. What was the hardest part personally of your journey during the show? – Kimmi Haueter from Fangirl Nation.

Paul: Oh, that’s 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 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.

Q: With that being said, do you have any advice for Season 11 contestants coming up? – Kimmi Haueter from Fangirl Nation.

Paul: Yes. 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.


Q: Your puppets. I love your puppets. Now are they based on real people from your own life? – Lora Bofill from Eclipse Magazine.

Paul: No. Not in particular. But there are characteristics that have been let’s say borrowed by certain people I know. I have a nephew. I have a 5-year-old nephew. And he’s terrific. I’ve just – he just got to the age where, you know, I started as a magician. So I’ve started introducing him to magic. And I’m teaching him magic.

And we play tricks on his mom. And, you know, I’ve got him into puppets as well. So he gives me a lot of inspiration. And I’ll – he’ll copy me. He’ll see me do something on this TV show on YouTube or something and then he’ll try and copy the routine that he’s seen me perform with his little puppet.

And he gives me ideas just by doing that. And also kids are, you know, there’s 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 that’s 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 that’s 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 he’s, 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, it’s – they’re not based on anyone in particular. But there’s, you know, there’s certain elements to the act and the character that have come from real life situations.

Q: Great. Thank you. And my next question comes from @NickVeneziano and he asks, “What did you do to celebrate your victory?”

Paul: 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 early.

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


Follow Paul Zerdin on Twitter and Facebook!

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.

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  1. Cynthia R says:

    I’m so glad he won, he was really talented and so funny!

  2. Karen Glatt says:

    This guy was so good and funny on Americas Got Talent this year and I was thrilled that he won. I bet he does really well in Vegas. Terry Fator is doing really good and so will this guy!

  3. I haven’t watched this show this year, but I love the range of talent they get. There are some really interesting and talented people they find. I wish we could see even more of the auditions.

  4. I usually watch to see who wins but I didn’t get to this time