We speak to ventriloquist and America’s Got Talent winner Paul Zerdin ahead of his appearance at the 2023 Group Leisure & Travel Awards ceremony. 

Paul Zerdin is regarded by many as the UK’s number one ventriloquist and has appeared on countless TV shows including Comedy Rocks with Jason ManfordTonight at The London Palladium with Bradley Walsh, and Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show. He has performed at The Royal Variety Performance on three occasions.

After Paul won America’s Got Talent in 2015 he enjoyed a headline residency at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas and has also toured the US and UK with his critically acclaimed All Mouth and Puppet Party shows.

He’s going to be entertaining and presenting the Group Leisure & Travel Awards ceremony on Wednesday 4th October at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Milton Keynes - get event and ticket details here.

Paul Zerdin

Star ventriloquist and America’s Got Talent winner, Paul Zerdin will be entertaining guests and hosting the Group Leisure & Travel Awards 2023.

We started by asking him…

…what can guests at the Group Leisure & Travel Awards ceremony expect? 

I’m going to bring Sam and Albert (my puppets) along to the awards ceremony. Albert can be slightly more risqué which works well for that type of crowd. I may also require some assistance from the audience for something - I’ve got a lot of new material which I love doing too.

How has the art of ventriloquism changed over your 30+ year career?

I was conscious of using Muppet-type characters early on because I thought that they would be more accessible to a wider audience and I was influenced by The Muppets and Sesame Street. As I started to become more successful I thought about how I could make the show more interesting and that’s when I looked at animatronics to bring the puppets to life. 

Paul Zerdin

Paul and his sponge family - Sam, Albert and the baby.

On the finale in my last tour, I had Sam on my arm, Albert on his mobility scooter and the baby in the high-chair and the latter two were animatronics. I did a quick-fire routine where we were all talking, it’s the most difficult routine I’ve ever learned. I use animatronics sparingly to enhance the show where needed.

I like the fact that ventriloquism has moved on in that respect. You don’t have to have your hand up a puppet, I can be two or three feet away, or in the audience, and controlling them.

I’ve got a puppeteer called Tim Rose who’s absolutely brilliant and unique. He was Admiral Ackbar in Star Wars. I say what I want to do and he’ll go away and work out exactly how it can be done. 

Do different audiences warm to particular characters?

The great thing about my background is that I started in holiday parks with summer seasons in Blackpool so it was very family-focused. 

When I first introduced Albert into my show in Blackpool years ago, I was looking at the room - you’re always trying to read the room and editing your dialogue as you go along because you can see what they’re going for. Kids looked at Albert and thought, he’s an old person, I’m not interested, so I was very conscious of him appealing to everyone which he now does. He’s got to an age where he doesn’t remember what he says or doesn’t care what he says so I’m always having to correct him. 

Children prefer Sam who’s a cocky little kid. They can relate to Sam and the baby but when they see how ridiculous and silly the old man is, he’s just an older version of Sam. 

Watch Paul’s ‘golden buzzer’ moment on America’s Got Talent: 

You’ve described your new show, Puppetman, as your most personal show yet. Why is that? 

I’ve got all my favourite characters but there are also moments in the show that I talk about some of my experiences in America and in particular Vegas. As you get older you can start being a bit autobiographical and look back at ridiculous things that have happened, particularly the experiences I had off the back of America’s Got Talent. 

I think about this kid from Wimbledon who conquered America. I had some amazing touring experiences in America and Canada playing arena-type gigs. I remember my tour manager and I skipping through the casino floor, being escorted by two burly bodyguards. There were some really funny moments so I talk about those and turn them into jokes.

An aerial view of Las Vegas at night-time with casinos, fountains and rides.

Paul enjoyed a headline residency at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas after winning America’s Got Talent

Tell us about your new characters

I’ve got Roger the bodyguard, an Urban Fox and a talking ice-cream called Tony Gelato who’s Mafia. 

Roger is loosely based on Buzz Lightyear and on the last tour, I had to explain to Roger that he needed to stop interrogating people in the audience. He said, ‘but I’m a bodyguard’ and that’s when I had to say ‘no, you’re just a puppet’. It was a bit like when Buzz finds out he’s just a toy.

I’m inspired by cartoon characters and animations. I’m also a people watcher and I get ideas all the time. My niece and nephew have given me lots of ideas for routines over the years. 

Paul’s ‘must’ have item on the road is…

… a tube of Colman’s mustard. I always keep one of those in the glove box. I have it with everything. 

Where’s your favourite place to perform?

The London Palladium is probably the greatest theatre on the planet which I’m lucky to perform at every Christmas in the Panto. That’s one of my absolute favourites. The Comedy Store is also one of the greatest places for gigs in the world and has something very special. 

And what about where you like to visit?

I love diving and water skiing so the Caribbean is beautiful. I love the Indian Ocean and have been to the likes of Mauritius, the Maldives and the Seychelles, over the years. I’ve been lucky to go to some really fabulous places. 

White sand and blue sea in Mauritius, Indian Ocean

Paul has travelled all over the world - through touring and working on cruise ships - and loves the Indian Ocean.

What do you love about panto?

This is my eighth year at the Palladium but my 29th in total, I’ve always loved it. I started when I was about 20. I spend most of the year touring around the place talking to myself on stage and at the end of the year I can go into a show and be other people. It’s so nice being with real people, not just people I’ve invented. 

How do you look after yourself on tour?

The only advice I can give myself is to try and have an early night and a good night’s sleep and not drink too much. But it’s sometimes difficult to get home at a decent time. You just have to try and get into some kind of routine.

“I want to keep exploring and am very thankful that my little puppet show has taken me around the world.” 

Could you ever have imagined this would be your career when you started out? 

Never. I’d been to Vegas before but only for holidays. When I ended up performing there, it wasn’t on the agenda. It just happened. 

America is an amazing place and I toured parts of Canada too. I love travelling and going to places. 

Ventriloquist Paul Zerdin with his puppet Sam

Paul has a new tour, Puppetman, which he’s taking to venues across the UK this autumn. 

Vegas was your dream come true. What’s next? 

I’ve always found that my plan or my dreams never turn out the way I expect so if I don’t have any, I might be pleasantly surprised by what happens next.

I’d like to keep doing what I’m doing and keep getting better. Off the back of America’s Got Talent, I can go around the world now because people get to know about you in quite remote places. I want to keep exploring and am very thankful that my little puppet show has taken me around the world. 

Paul Zerdin will be the special guest host and performer at the 2023 Group Leisure & Travel Awards, which takes place on Wednesday 4th October in the city of Milton Keynes.

The best in group travel will be rewarded as we come together to network and celebrate.

For event and ticket information click the link:

Awards Ticket Info