America’s Got Talent 2015 winner, British ventriloquist and comedian, Paul Zerdin, is returning to the UK in the autumn with a 45-date tour of All Mouth which kicks off in September.
The Burton Mail caught up with Paul ahead of his tour to find out what it's all about.
What can people expect from your brand new 2017 ‘All Mouth’ tour?
My dysfunctional sponge family consists of Grandpa Albert, Sam and the Baby, plus two brand-new characters I’ve been working on. Grandpa Albert has decided to take up ventriloquism himself and has been working on a whole new act for the audience. The Baby is growing up fast and has a much bigger vocabulary than your average 18-month-old and Sam needs to learn that he is partly responsible for screwing up the Vegas show we had!
You’ll be featuring two new characters as part of the show – what can you tell us about them?
I’ve been wanting to do an animal puppet for some time now but could never quite work out what or why but now I’ve finally found a way of doing it with a difference, so one of them is my first animal character but not quite as you would expect - don’t want to give too much away yet! The other is an American character. After all my recent experiences in the States I thought it was time to bring something back from across the pond and with this character it gives me the opportunity to have a bit of political fun.
And what do Baby, Sam and Albert think of the new additions?
Sam is rather disgruntled that he might no longer be the star of the show. The Baby absolutely loves puppets so he’s excited and Albert hasn’t really got a clue what’s going on in the world anyway.
Last year was such a busy year for you - how was performing in Cinderella at the London Palladium over Christmas?
To come back to the UK after spending over half of last year in the US was the absolute perfect way to end the year. It was even better knowing half of the cast personally, and playing my favourite part Buttons. The show even got Olivier Award-nominated, which was pretty exciting and makes panto quite cool!
You’ve also recently finished a headline residency at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas – that must have been a dream come true?
I loved having my own show in Las Vegas and it was a great experience, but it took me a while to get to grips with how to make it really work for a Vegas crowd. I’d say that they were the hardest audience I’ve ever played to – you’ have people staggering in drunk half way through, or people coming in to the show in a bit of a mood after they’d lost lots of money in the casino, or people from different nationalities sitting there staring at you because they didn’t understand English. It was quite a challenge but I got the hang of it eventually!
You won America’s Got Talent in 2015 and have had a Las Vegas residency – what is it about British audiences that you love coming back to perform for?
You know, I’m from London and this is very much my home. I’ve enjoyed the whole US experience and AGT gets shown all over the world so it’s helped my career enormously back here in the UK and around the world. I did a festival in Doha, Qatar, a few months ago and got recognised everywhere I went! I absolutely love travelling but there’s nothing better than coming home.
When did your interest in ventriloquism first start?
I had always been interested in puppets, and in particular ‘The Muppets’. However, when I was growing up, I really wanted to be a professional magician. I remember being in my school talent competition and someone read a poem, somebody else did a tap dance and I levitated my sister! I got such a great reaction it really gave me enormous confidence, so when I left school with virtually no GCSE’s I somehow wasn’t worried and began a career as a professional magician, doing close up magic in restaurants, kids’ parties: the lot. I was given a book on how to become a ventriloquist by Ray Alan and at about the same time I saw him perform on the Paul Daniels Magic Show. He absolutely blew me away. I also saw a magician called Wayne Dobson on TV who used ventriloquism in his act and made people in the audience talk, so I was hugely inspired by these two performers and I think that’s really how the ventriloquism came about. I got more and more into the comedy and the ventriloquism and the magic eventually got phased out.
What else does 2017 have in store for you?
I’ve been working on a sitcom idea for myself and the puppet characters for quite some time and I think I’m close to getting it in to a workable state! So, I’m busy writing the script for that with a couple of friends of mine and hope that that might find its way on to TV sometime in the not-too-distant future. It’s like Seinfeld with the Muppets!
Paul's All Mouth tour kicks off at the Tivoli Theatre, in Wimborne on Saturday, September 9, and includes dates at Lichfield Garrick on Wednesday, September 20, the Winding Wheel, in Chesterfield, on Sunday, October 1 and Stafford Gatehouse Theatre on Friday, November 3.
Tickets are available via Ticketmaster here