The Latest Episodes of INSIGHT with Chris Van Vliet
Nov. 29, 2021

Dreams Don't Have An Expiry Date With Terry Fator - America's Got Talent Winner

Dreams Don't Have An Expiry Date With Terry Fator - America's Got Talent Winner

Terry Fator (@terryfator) is a ventriloquist, impressionist, singer, stand-up comedian and the winner of season 2 of America's Got Talent. He has a residency at the New York-New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV. He joins Chris Van Vliet at the Blue Wire Studios at the Wynn Las Vegas to talk about how he got his start as an entertainer, the art of learning ventriloquism, why you should never give up on your dreams, how he created all of his characters, his incredible impression skills and more!


Visit Terry Fator's website:


On wanting to be an entertainer all his life:

“The goal was to become an entertainer, and I tried everything. Before I became a ventriloquist, I was a singer, a magician, a hypnotist… I tried everything. I just wanted to get on stage and make people feel good. So once I discovered that I can do it, I am a big proponent of trying to find something that is unique and different and a talent that not many people have. If you have that and you hone that, then you are going to find an audience.”

On just wanting to perform:

“The stage made no difference at all. I thought well maybe I will be an actor, maybe I will be a tv news anchor, I didn’t know. When I was 10, I auditioned for The Bad News Bears Go To Japan. The problem was that I had seen the other Bad News Bears movie, and when I got there the first thing I said was ‘I’m a Christian, I don’t swear.’ So we can guess that I did not get the part [laughs].”

That defining moment:

“My first memory as a child was me standing on a church cafeteria table at 3 years old and singing. I remember looking at the sea of adult faces that were smiling and clapping. I remember vividly saying ‘This is what I want to do.’ It’s interesting because if you look into entertainment and the psychology of entertainment, almost every big entertainer had a defining moment that said ‘This is it.’”   

The first voices he could do:

“Probably Michael Jackson and Donny Osmond. As a kid, I had to do all the high voices until my voice changed. I got lucky, because when my voice changed, I would talk on the phone and people would say ‘Yes ma'am.’ I’m like, this is a guy. Then I realized it was a blessing, because I can sing male and female voices. It’s a perfect sweet spot and I am happy with my voice.”   

On his amazing vocal chords:

“Well firstly I try to find someone who has a very distinctive voice, like Sammy Davis Jr. He’s got that Kermit the Frog type sound where it’s very deep. Oddly, I can do things with my throat, that sounds dirty, but I can do things with my voice that other people can’t do. I can actually change my vocal chords where I can still do voices even if I have a cold or something. It truly is a gift that God gave me, most can’t understand it.”

On the hardest sounds to make:

“It’s any of them that use your lips. Words that start with br or bl are hard. It’s about practicing them. The books tell you to substitute the b’s for d’s, but I’m doing that and it does not sound good. So I started recording myself, playing it back and substituting for what sounds better. All the ventriloquists do this, which I didn’t know, I am self taught. What you do is put the tip of your tongue against the back of your front teeth, instead of the roof of your mouth. Then the d’s sound more like a b. When you try to do it, you won’t do it as well, but give yourself 50 years and you will be really good.”

On being a good ventriloquist:

“Everyone has to move their mouths. If you see a ventriloquist who does not move their mouth at all, then there is a tape. The only way to do it is to have a little tiny slit open, so the sound can come out. My doctor, who is the doctor to the stars, he worked on Mick Jagger recently. In a recent interview he said that ‘Terry Fader makes sounds that are physically impossible.’ I get a full tone, and it sounds like I am singing. I am doing it all with just a little bit of my mouth open. But all I can say is that it’s a gift.”

On getting the America's Got Talent audition:  

“That was kind of an accident in Providence, Rhode Island. In 2006, my entire show was my puppets doing impressions of singers. 2006 was also the year that America's Got Talent was on. So people were coming up to me ‘You need to get on America’s Got Talent.’ I was thinking that I would consider it, but unbeknownst to me, hundreds and thousands of people are writing and calling NBC saying ‘You’ve to see this ventriloquist, he does impressions of singers.’ I randomly get a call in October 2006 from America’s Got Talent. They said that they were getting a lot of buzz about me, and would I like to audition? I was like sure, but I was really busy. I happened to be performing at the schools in Los Angeles, and it was 15 minutes away from where the auditions were being held. So I drove over, didn’t have to stand in line. I was told I got 5 minutes, if I go longer then they will yank me off the stage and that’s it. There’s 6 producers there, I do my 5 minutes, but then they want more. I picked a few songs off my iPod, did 5 more minutes, and then 5 more…”

The judge's reactions:

“The judges thought I was cheating. After my audition they said there was no way I was doing this, they thought that there was a tape recorder in the puppet. So then I was told to get right up to the table and do Etta James. I got 6 inches from their face and did it, they were stunned, and I was on the show.”  

On a midlife crisis:

“From the time I was a kid, I knew that I was talented. I knew I had a lot of talent, could do amazing things that no one else could do, and that I was good at it. I just assumed that I would hit it and that I would get discovered. When I hit 40, I hit a midlife crisis and was a little depressed for about 6 months. I was like I am 40 years old and I never made it. I was a little depressed, but I knew that I wouldn’t have to go to work as a janitor again. There’s nothing wrong with that, I just don’t like physical labour and I don’t have that passion. I can perform at fairs and for kids, I am living the dream! But every time someone gets kicked off America’s Got Talent and they are crying and blubbering. Not me, if I can get on 3 episodes I can double my price at the elementary schools. I was not worried about getting kicked off.”

On what happened after America's Got Talent:

“I did not know I was going to win, but when I did it all became this whirlwind. It all happened so fast, I’m headlining Vegas, then The Mirage asks me to perform and I headline for 11 years there. I then get a call from my agent asking me if I want to move to New York-New York, because they are really stoked and want me. I was ready for a change, New York New York is my favorite casino, it’s a match made in heaven.”     

How many voices can he do and advice to others:

“We stopped counting after 200. I can pretty much do any singing voice with practice, it took me 5 years to master Frank Sinatra. I can do any voice that I want to do. My advice to people is to not stop working on your craft. If you put the guitar in the closet, the dream will die. If you practice for 15 minutes a day, in 20 years you will be really good, anything can happen. It may not happen, but you will get that satisfaction of getting better and better.”   

What he is grateful for:

“God, my wife and Winston.”

Featured image credit: IMDB

Embedded images credit: Instagram