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'America's Got Talent' champion Paul Zerdin: I'm grateful, tired, euphoric and overwhelmed all in one


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 09/17/2015 

America's Got Talent ventriloquist and comedian Paul Zerdin just won the show, so now he needs to let it all soak in.

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With AGT's tenth season in the books, Zerdin said he feels really tired, euphoric and overwhelmed "all in one," People reported.

Zerdin walked away with a million dollars during Wednesday night's finale and enjoyed a celebratory drink after the show with friends.

"I'm so grateful that the American people have voted for me and I'm so excited because it's an opportunity to show people what I do and get out there and make people laugh. You can technically be the greatest ventriloquist in the world, but if you're not funny, then you're just a strange man onstage talking to yourself [and] probably scaring people, so it's all about making people laugh at the end of the day," Zerdin told People.

The lifelong fan of Jim Henson insisted he was a born performer.

"I used to always like dressing up. I remember dressing up in my mum's [clothes] and her shoes and pretending I was Margaret Thatcher, for some reason. I have no idea why. There is a photograph somewhere," he said, adding that he also used to dress up as the local milkman and constantly put on puppet shows for his family.

"We used to have like a serving hatch between the kitchen and the dining room. I used to pin the scenery up... and crouch down on my knees and I had these little hand puppets that I had been given for Christmas and birthday presents and I used to put the puppets up and pretend to do my own version of Sesame Street."

As Zerdin grew up, he graduated from turning his sister's teddy bears into hand puppets to using Muppet characters like Kermit the Frog. Eventually, he moved on to "semi-professional" ventriloquist dolls.

"I didn't really know what I was doing. I look back now, [and] I wish I had footage of the action," Zerdin noted. "I'm sure it was appalling, but you've got to start somewhere."

Zerdin's act finally developed into three main puppets -- Sam, his grandfather Alfred, and Sam's baby brother. These characters' personalities are apparently inspired by people in his real life.

"I'm not taking the mickey out of old people and the fact that you start to lose your hearing and your body sort of packs up on you. I'm just seeing the funny side to those situations, like my father is gradually turning into my old man puppet, and my dad is going quite deaf and he gives me so many good ideas for jokes because he mishears things all the time. I'm constantly writing things down when I'm talking to my dad," Zerdin explained.

Zerdin also gets material for the baby puppet from his five-year-old nephew. The ventriloquist says it's easy for people to connect with his puppets because they are characters "people can relate to."

Zerdin made a huge splash during AGT's semifinals when he turned judge Howie Mandel into a human puppet.

"That was a risk because he could have said 'no.' He didn't know that was going to happen, but I thought that was worth the risk. Why not do it on a judge?" Zerdin explained of the performance that left the other judges roaring with laughter.

"He had seemed like a great sport from the beginning anyway, but it could've gone either way, but he did it so beautifully and the look of fear and panic in his eyes kind of added to the comedy of it all, really, and I was so lucky it worked out well. Who knew he could do Irish dancing like that! He was just amazing so I'm very, very grateful to Howie for being my perfect dummy."

Because Mandel was such a great addition to his act, Zerdin confessed he's more open to the idea of having guest stars in his shows going forward. In fact, he's going to compile a list of names soon.

Zerdin will be taking his act to Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas next month and he "can't wait."

"I guess it is like the performer's ultimate dream to be able to headline your own show in Las Vegas, and I'm so lucky and I'm so grateful to the American people for giving me this chance," he explained.



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