Ventriloquist Paul Zerdin brings his sitcom-style puppet show to the Lighthouse Theatre, Kettering, on September 12. Here he answers a few questions ahead of the show.
Let’s delve into the world of Paul Zerdin.
Ok, just don’t mention ventriloquism! [Laughs] I love saying that during radio interviews, panicking the presenter just before we go live on air.
So, tell us how you first got into puppetry.
I used to watch Sesame Street and then The Muppet Show. I remember getting a teddy bear and I cut the back open, took all the stuffing out and put my hand into the mouth and made a puppet out of it. I’d been given some puppet marionettes by a friend of the family and we built a puppet theatre. My family all recorded the voices with me. I come from a family of show offs [laughs]. I started doing that for friends’ birthday parties about the age of 12 and I was interested in ventriloquism but I didn’t know how to do it properly. Me and my friend used to do shows together for our friends, which included me doing magic. I wanted to be a magician first and foremost and I forgot about the puppetry initially and became a magician when I left school.
Tell us about your very early performances...
I used to sit in the audience of Paul Daniel’s shows as a kid and watch shows being filmed. They had guest acts on from all over the world; some amazing acts from Vegas. The puppet thing I grew out of and couldn’t see myself doing that long term, whereas magic, you can do ‘close-up magic’ and show people card tricks or do an illusion show on stage. I did shows at school, and normally someone would recite a poem, sing a song or do a tap dance... but I levitated my sister! I got an agent when I left school, but she had lots of magicians on her roster and told me I needed something different to stand out. So I started learning ventriloquism properly. Eventually I phased out the magic.
When did you discover your talent for voices and mimicry?
I could always do silly voices. As a kid I was always fascinated by voices and constantly mimicked cartoon characters. I had a short career in radio, too. I did airport information radio; travel information on all the flight times at Heathrow. I had a mid-morning show on a satellite radio station too. I used to do all crazy voices, like Donald Duck reading the weather. Sadly, you can’t understand a word he says, so it didn’t quite work out [laughs].
You’re on a new tour, The Paul Zerdin Show. Tell us what we can expect?
If you liked the last show, you’ll love this one. The old man, Albert, is determined to find me a girlfriend from the audience, so we’ll be getting the crowd involved there. Sam has delusions of grandeur thinking he can enter himself in to Britain’s Got Talent and the baby is becoming a rap artist. Throw in some audience participation a little bit of magic and you’ve got a truly sponge based night of comedy. Sam is doing ventriloquism himself too and he has a little dummy of me. I can’t wait to test that out and see how that goes down.