One Day With

Terry Fator on…

Angie, his wife of three years: “I’ve never felt loved like I have since I met that woman. I believe God orchestrated it and got us together.”

An unexpected romance: “I had sworn off women. I was like, ‘I’m done.’ And she heard I was a ventriloquist and she was like, ‘OK, I’m out, I’m not dating a ventriloquist.’ Then she saw part of my show and we met afterwards. I thought she was beautiful and funny and interesting. It took us a week to know we were soulmates. We met April 25, and got married Sept. 3.”

Personalities of ventriloquists: “A very large percentage of ventriloquists are very weird. I said that one time in an interview and it swept through the ventriloquist community — ‘How dare he!’  I was asked why people have such a low opinion of ventriloquists. And I said, ‘When was the last time you saw a good ventriloquist?’ Most of them are pretty bad, right? You see a ventriloquist who comes to your church and they’re not very good. You begin to think all ventriloquists are bad. So it gets a stigma.  But I’ve seen some amazing ventriloquists, too. I think me and Jeff Dunham helped change the perception that ventriloquists are for kids’ birthday parties.”

Ventriloquists he admires, past and present: “Jimmy Nelson was uncannily good. Shari Lewis was amazing, of course. Paul Winchell. Willie Tyler and Lester. Jay Johnson, remember from the TV show Soap? He is beyond amazing. Ronn Lucas is another who is not as popular, but is incredible. And of course, Edgar Bergen, the messiah, the godfather.”

The artistry of ventriloquism: “It is more about creating real characters that people get engaged with than it is about not moving your lips. When it came to that, there was no one better than Edgar Bergen. When you listened to Edgar Bergen, (the character) Charlie McCarthy is a real person and Mortimer (Snerd) is a real person. These are not characters, they’re people.”

How he explains his talent: “It’s a gift. Honestly, there’s no rhyme or reason for it. It’s like asking (NFL Hall-of-Famer) Jerry Rice, ‘How do you do what you do?’ He was born with abilities that most of us can’t figure out.”

A memorable moment at a ventriloquist convention: “A black female ventriloquist came up to me. She said, ‘I just want to thank you, you’re the first ventriloquist I’ve seen with a black puppet (his character Julius) that wasn’t a pimp or a gangsta or a negative stereotype. You have a classy black puppet, and I just think it’s wonderful.’”

How he’s received at conventions: “I will teach workshops at the conventions. It’s fun because I’m kind of a god there. When I do a workshop, the whole place shows up. Everybody wants to be there for mine.”

Pet project: “One of my TV ideas I’m pitching right now is in the spirit of Ed Sullivan. I think there is going to be enough of a nostalgic feel to it, but bring a 21st century vibe. If anyone can revive the variety show it’s me, because I know what people want. Every time they try to do a variety show they screw it up for the rest of us, they put a mishmash of garbage on stage. Well, less is more and it’s gotta have heart.”

Getting away from competition shows — even the one that made him famous: “I believe people are weary of that (America’s Got Talent) format. Every week we have to watch people get their hearts broken. Every week we have to watch their dreams get dashed. That was fascinating and amazing and interesting, but now there is no alternative. My show is, ‘I’m gonna discover the next George Carlin, I’m gonna discover the next Terry Fator and give them the chance to get on television and show their stuff.’ There’s no broken hearts. It’s gonna happen. A lot of people are very interested in it. We just have to find it the right home.”

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