Q&A: Terry Fator
It doesn’t seem as if a decade has gone by since Terry Fator took the title on America’s Got Talent and earned his dream job as a Las Vegas headliner. Then again, his success has been so consistent and his unique show so popular through the years, it almost feels as if he’s always been on the Strip, entertaining a broad, all-ages audience with comedy, music and a troupe of characters he created.
After flying by his ninth anniversary this year of performing in his own theater at The Mirage, Fator is running on all cylinders in Las Vegas and planning some new projects, as he shared with us during a recent episode of the All The Vegas podcast. You can listen to the full conversation right now at allthevegas.com.
You just returned from a rare vacation. Where did you go?
I went to Italy and then Paris, actually four places in Italy: Rome, Venice, Tuscany and Florence. It was a blast. It was so funny because it happened quickly. My wife, I adore her, but she cannot make a decision. “What do you want to do?” “I don’t know.” Finally one day she had a nail appointment and I got on the phone and booked a trip to Italy, so we just did it. But we had so much fun. I learned how to make pasta from scratch and came back and did it at home. The food was really good but we were thinking there would be a giant jump from what we’re used to and it didn’t feel that way, probably because we get the best here, especially in Las Vegas. We have the best chefs in the world.
When you get the time to travel and relax, are you still thinking about your show and maybe looking for inspiration?
I can’t help doing that. It’s just what I do. Anyone who is a comedian is an observer of the human condition and the world around them and I’m always looking for something funny in any situation. I grew up in a traumatic childhood with a lot of violence and abuse and my escape from that was humor. I would crack jokes and try to keep my brother and sister laughing the whole time. That was always my escape and I still do that all the time, even on vacation. I’ll come up with an idea and write it down, and my wife will say, “That’s great, now get back to your vacation.” I just love what I do so much. I even brought a puppet along when we went on a tour in Italy and ended doing about a 15-minute show for our tour group. It was a ball.
So does that mean comedy came before singing and ventriloquism?
I think impressions came first. I was talking at 9 months old and I couldn’t even walk. I get stories from my mother about people saying “hippopotamus” and “helicopter” to this little baby in a crib and I’d repeat it back to them. That ability to impersonate came quickly and all while growing up, if I heard something I’d mimic the sound or voice. I was singing from the time I was two years old and I was always the class clown every single year in school, always trying to find the joke in everything. Then when I was 10 I found a book about being a ventriloquist and that changed everything.
You love your job but it’s not without its struggles. What’s the most challenging part of the show?
It’s hard to say because it never has felt like work. A week into my vacation, I couldn’t wait to get back. I walk on that stage and that adrenaline rush is better than anything I could ever get doing anything else. I think the most challenging part is doing something like I just put in. We lost Aretha and I just put in Aretha Franklin. Hitting some of those high notes without moving my lips—I can hit them with my lips moving, that’s fine—but I close the mouth and try to hit them and it’s just painfully hard. But I put in the work and do the homework and by the time I get onstage it’s right. It’s interesting: Your body goes through a completely different state when you’re onstage than when no one is there. I don’t know if that’s adrenaline or what it is, but everything changes for me when I get in front of an audience.
Which character do people ask about and want to see the most?
It’s going to shock you and I’m as shocked as anybody, but it’s Donald Trump. I don’t political comedy because no matter what you do, you’re going to irritate half the audience. I could never do Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or even George W. Bush because politics is all we know of these people, but Trump transcends politics. He’s kind of a pop-culture icon that just happens to be president. But I still don’t go for the political stuff. We have fun with his hair and the fact that he says words like “bigly.” I go for that. So hopefully whether you love him or hate him, it’s still funny.
What’s next for you?
TV. I’ve been flying to L.A. three times a week to work on several TV projects. It’s definitely going to happen, I just don’t know where yet. But I’ve got a lot of cool ideas.