Terry Fator loves making his audiences smile.
Ever since his win on the sophomore season of America’s Got Talent, the Las Vegas headliner has entertained millions of fans through his memorable characters such as Emma Taylor, Hyphen and Winston, the Impersonating Turtle.
In addition to performing with his co-stars, The Voice of Entertainment, shows off his comedic muscle as his jokes and impressions of many musical icons including Garth Brooks, Dean Martin and Aretha Franklin make his audiences laugh and cheer at the Mirage.
For this edition of A Conversation, Terry opened up about how his process to create a character and the challenges he face keeping his show fresh.
Jacob Elyachar: When did you first get interested in ventriloquism?
Terry Fator: When I was about 10-years-old, I discovered this book called Ventriloquism for Fun & Profit by Paul Winchell. That book showed how to throw your voice and even how to build your own ventriloquist dummy. From that moment on, I was hooked.
JE: How did that passion lead you to the entertainment world?
TF: I think it is the same for a lot of entertainers. You start performing for fun, for family, then for friends, then the next thing you know you are on stage. That ongoing passion has been a real blessing. I have always believed that the people who are happiest in life are those who can somehow end up making a living at their hobby.
JE: Your life was changed when you auditioned for and won the second season of “America’s Got Talent.” Why did you audition for the NBC hit in the first place?
TF: At that point in my career, I was really at a point where I wasn’t moving to the next level. In fact I wasn’t moving at all. Then, my brother, Jep, told me about AGT and I figured, why not, what do I have to lose?
JE: Could you please describe the first time, you appeared on the Las Vegas stage? What was that experience like?
TF: It was absolutely surreal to be able to stand on a stage in Vegas and perform my first show! I remember thinking to myself as I was walking down the steps to perform my first song that this is the culmination of every dream I have had since I was a child. It is very hard to describe in words when someone has an experience like that!
JE: You have created some incredible characters. How long does it take to create each of your characters?
TF: Once, I have the idea for the physical look of the character we send it off to get built. Then, comes the hard part. Finding the personality for the character and the reason they are “stopping by” the show. To me, jokes are great but enduring comedy comes from who the character is and their situation.
JE: What are some of the challenges that you face in order to keep your show fresh?
TF: We do a few things to make the show fresh. We are always bringing in new characters and rotating out ones who have been in the show for a while and replacing them with ones who have been on ‘vacation.’ I also try about once a year to do a total rewrite of the characters and what they are saying. Plus, at least two to three times a week, I work on adding a topical reference or two to keep things up to date.
JE: What are some of the highlights from your run in Las Vegas?
TF: Getting to work every night with my wife Taylor and a fantastic band and crew. One of my favorite nights was when Marty Short stopped by to see the show. Then, when he did his show and I brought Vikki the Cougar on stage to interview them as his Jiminy Glick character. It was so much fun.
JE: In addition to your show in Vegas, you also take your show on the road. What do you like about touring?
TF: Touring is in my blood, I did it as a musician and later as a performer, so it’s a chance to bring the show to people who might not get to see it in Las Vegas.
JE: How has social media helped you reach fans and Las Vegas guests?
TF: We post new content every day from Taylor, the puppets and me. From videos to funny photos it’s a great way for fans to check in on what we’re up to and for me to keep them informed about the shows and tours.
JE: If you had the chance to meet with aspiring performers, what advice would share with them?
TF: Do not take your paycheck in casino chips, have a spouse as wonderful and supportive as Taylor and always remember, every night you owe it to give your audience 100- percent. They really can sense if you love what you’re doing and that you want to give them your best… and if they really appreciate that.
For more information about Terry, visit his website: http://terryfator.com/
To view some of Terry’s videos on YouTube, click on the link to his official channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/officialterryfator?feature=watch