Terry Fator is exactly where he wants to be. A talented and successful ventriloquist, singer, comedian, and celebrity impressionist, Fator currently performs four shows a week at The Mirage in Las Vegas. He escapes from the desert on weekends to perform other parts of the country, which includes an upcoming show at The Sands on Saturday, June 23rd. Recently, The Valley Ledger had the opportunity to speak with Fator to learn more about his early years and what the future holds.
One of the biggest misconceptions about this second season winner of ‘America’s Got Talent’ (2007) is that he became an overnight sensation. He walked away from the show with a million dollar prize, and a year contract at The Hilton in Las Vegas. Later on, The Mirage offered Fator a deal too good to refuse, a five-year residency contract paying out $100 million. Call it a twist of irony; Fator had actually worked over half of his life to get his career to this point.
Originally from Texas, Fator was around ten years old when he developed an interest in magic shows and ventriloquism. He saw ventriloquism as more original art form for himself, as he began practicing to throw his voice. “I was influenced by Edgar Bergen with Charles McCarthy, Paul Winchell, Jimmy Nelson and Jay Johnson with his puppet, Bob.”
“I also watched every comedian who was around at that time, Carol Burnett, Jerry Lewis, and Tim Conway,” he noted as favorites.
Growing up with a brother and sister, music played a large influence in his life. “We were allowed to listen to anything and everything. But when we listened to too much of one musical style, my parents made us switch to something else. So it was a well rounded musical upbringing.” By the late eighties, Fator was touring with ‘Freedom Jam’ as the lead singer, and then joined ‘Texas the Band’. And right around that time, Walter T. Ardale, one of Fator’s puppet creations was worked into the band. The record labels had noticed, and prepared to offer a contract, they wanted Fator to lose the puppet. Fator walked away.
His story is inspiring for everyone who dares to chase their dreams, nothing short of the American dream. Fator’s unwavering commitment moved forward as he fine-tuned his act. He presents a unique combination of comedy, celebrity impersonations and non-celebrity voices through ventriloquism, and plenty of music. He spent years performing endless Birthday parties, corporate events, and county fairs, as he longed for his big break. That big break happened when he hit the second season of ‘America’s Got Talent’, and the rest is history.
In additon to his Las Vegas shows, Fator also penned a book, “Who’s The Dummy Now” in 2008, and released a country album, “It Starts Tonight” in 2013.
Today, Walter T. Ardale, a country singer puppet, is one among over a dozen puppets used in Fator’s act. When asked if Fator sometimes views his puppet creations as friends, or feels like they’re his children, Fator is quick to remark, “No. They’re neither. There is a very firm line drawn.”
To say that Fator is the kid who didn’t grow up is pretty accurate. “I’m a big kid, both on and off the stage. I’m married, and we don’t have kids, but my wife would say I am a large child at heart.”
Fator explained the creation process of a puppet. “Sure, there’s a small part of me in each of them. But I’m an observer. Comics have that quality. It’s from observing real people that my characters are born.”
It was time to have Fator play a little game. Let’s suppose, in this fantasy situation, that you were awarded two tickets to the following events. The only catch is you had to bring a puppet as your plus one, so which puppet would you bring with you to… the super bowl?
Fator laughed. “Wow. It would have to be Duggie. Duggie Scott Walker. He would be there for the beer and the party.“
How about a fine dining restaurant?
“Definitely Vikki (The Cougar). She loves to socialize.”
And who would you bring to the Academy Awards?
“That would be Berry Fabulous,” Fator laughs, “He would fit right in. That’s his catch-phrase”, as Fator sang, “I’m Fab-u-lous!”
How about the opera?
And how about a Nashville Country music jam?
Ok, now let’s say you had some time to discover the Lehigh Valley. Who would you bring along to the Crayola Crayon Factory?
And a Yuengling beer tour?
“That would have to be Duggie.”
It’s easy to see that Fator is passionate about his work, and also very passionate about military charities as well. Fator donates 100% of the profit of the sales of his merchandise to two charities, both of which have wounded warrior programs, The Airpower Foundation and The Snowball Express.
As for any spoilers, on what to expect from his upcoming performance at The Sands, Fator isn’t about to give it all away. “Duggie will be there. But I will tell you this,” he said with excitement, “the show is completely different from my Vegas show. It will make everyone happy, and feel fabulous! They will be left with a feeling like they’re on top of the world.”
It comes easy for Fator to put an audience at ease and to share his extraordinary gift as one of the world’s best entertainers. As he is the type of man not to rest on laurels, he is also working on a new music album. For Terry Fator, the road may have been long journey, but he has reached his destination at the top.