Saturday 17 March 2018

British ventriloquist Paul Zerdin 'lost for words' at US success

Winner Paul Zerdin attends the America's Got Talent finale post-show red carpet at Radio City Music Hall in New York (AP)
Winner Paul Zerdin attends the America's Got Talent finale post-show red carpet at Radio City Music Hall in New York (AP)

The British ventriloquist who won America's Got Talent has expressed surprise at his success in the competition.

Paul Zerdin thanked voters for helping him win season 10 of the show, admitting that the victory was "still sinking in" and was "a bit of a blur".

He said: "I never thought it would be like this. I just thought I'd nip over to America, have a go at this talent show, and if it didn't work out then I could come home back to the UK and no one would be any the wiser.

"But the one thing I forgot about was social media. Everything filters back and everyone knows everything now."

Speaking of the moment before he beat comedian Drew Lynch to the first place position, Zerdin said: "I thought that he was going to win it, so I had my congratulations speech all worked out in my head, just to say: 'Well done mate, you deserve every moment of it.' And then, when they called my name out, I was a bit lost for words - which as a ventriloquist is not really a good thing."

The talent show, on which Spice Girl Mel B is a judge, is watched by millions and produced by Simon Cowell's Syco Television.

Scotland-born Stevie Starr, known as the Professional Regurgitator, came fourth, while British magician John van der Put performing as Piff the Magic Dragon also made the top 10.

Zerdin, who has appeared at the Royal Variety Performance and is a former children's television presenter in the UK, won one million dollars (£645,120) as part of his prize, which he intends to use to clear his debts - and buy his puppets a new suitcase.

He has also been awarded a show at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.

He first performed as a magician on the BBC's Tricky Business before going on to host Rise And Shine for GMTV, having been inspired to go into ventriloquism a decade earlier when a family friend made him a puppet theatre, with which he put on shows at the age of 10.

His characters include cheeky pre-teen Sam, pensioner Albert, and Baby.

Looking back at his journey to success, Zerdin advised: "You have to have determination. I remember having an ashtray thrown at me at a workingmen's club, and someone threw a shoe at me once. And a bottle. I've had some pretty hairy nights.

"Someone got up and punched the puppet once and I thought, that's the ultimate compliment really - he didn't punch me, he punched the puppet. He really objected to what the puppet was saying to him.

"But obviously something inside me kept me going really. And I'm glad I did keep going. I do feel like it was worth going through the pain."

Press Association

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