If you’ve seen Terry Fator’s show at the Mirage, you know it’s about more than just puppets.
There’s singing, dancing, comedy and even a live band.
But puppetry is still at the center of the show, and Terry Fator says he is a ventriloquist first and foremost.
He can imitate not just the speaking voices, but the singing voices of celebrities like Adele, Etta James, Garth Brooks, Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney — and all without moving his lips.
"I work hard at it and I do spend a lot of time and effort but it's just something I was able to pick up from the time I was a kid," Fator said. "I didn't even know I was an impressionist until my late 20s."
What started as a childhood hobby has grown into a famous career for Fator, who won “America’s Got Talent” in 2007 and has headlined Las Vegas since 2009.
He just signed a new contract that keeps him on the Strip for another five years, and just added a new, politically charged puppet to his routine: The Donald.
"The funny thing is, I don't do political humor," Fator said. "I'm not a political person when it comes to my stage show ... my job is to make people laugh and forget.
"But when the Donald came along ... honestly, at first I thought it was a joke."
So why no Hillary Clinton puppet?
"Because the only reason we know Hillary is through politics. Whereas the Donald has been a real estate mogul, and a reality star and he's been all these other things so I can bring him out as a personality."
And that's what Fator said he tries to do - be apolitical and choose things that people won't get tired of.
"I want something that we're still going to want to hear in 10 years, I make sure that the song is not going to be something we're sick of," he said.
Apprently his strategy worked. It's been nine years since Fator won America's Got Talent, and the success of his show earned him another five-year contract with the Mirage.
It's a far stretch from his first performances at the Clark County Fair in Logandale, Nev. It was during one of those early performances, seeing other impersonator shows such as Danny Gans, when Fator heard his calling.
"I was sitting in the audience in the Danny Gans Theater, and every time he went from one voice to another, I'm looking around and the audience goes nuts - it was one of those light bulb moments where I went, 'Holy cow, you know, I can do this. I can make a career out of this.'"
Fator had been doing voices for years before with a Dallas, Texas-based band, voicing everything from Ozzy Osbourne to Randy Travis and Guns n Roses. Fator said he spend the next two years revamping his routine, becoming a talk-show like host for his cast of puppets.
With his smaller shows at county fairs and small venues, Fator said he would struggle to get 10 or 20 people in his audience. But once he started the impressions, shows started becoming standing-room only.
"I never expected it to hit like it did, but it did hit," Fator said.
Winston the turtle is a crowd favorite at Fator's shows, who also made an appearance during the KNPR interview.
Winston was part of the routine for Fator's America's Got Talent break.
"It just captured America's hear when he sang Roy Orbison," Fator said. "I have to be honest I had no idea it was going to have an impact like that."
"I did," Winston replied.
Terry Fator, ventriloquist
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