Interview: Terry Fator on Trump, Working Clean, and his Borgata Atlantic City Show

Terry Fator and his puppets


The one thing that you must know about Season 2 America’s Got Talent winner, Terry Fator, is that he won’t work blue. The Texas-born, comedian-impersonator-puppeteer-ventriloquist puts fair, clean but wickedly funny family entertainment first (along with a love of the U.S. military, as Fator’s CD sales and merchandise proceeds benefit military charities), when performing his 200+ celebrity impressions. After being recently named (for the second time) in the Forbes list of top earning comedians (just behind Kevin Hart and Jerry Seinfeld), Fator got a rare opportunity to leave his Vegas residency at the Mirage to appear at Atlantic City's Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa where he’ll appear on September 7.

A.D. Amorosi: So, as a longtime ventriloquist and an impersonator, you had to have heard voices in your head as a kid?
Terry Fator: Well, kind-of. As far back as I can remember I was doing impersonations. People. Things. Just sounds. It all came naturally to me. I started doing ventriloquism when I was 10, and really got it all together right away. My very first puppets and characters were…. Well, do you remember José Jiménez?

A.D: Of course.  From The Ed Sullivan Show.
Terry: I listened to these records that my dad had in his collection. I impersonated Bill Cosby, too. Their exact inflections, and what they were saying. I don’t even believe that I thought of it as impersonation, it came so naturally. I eventually grew out of doing speaking voice impersonations, and into singing impressions. Even at age 12, though, I had a puppet who sang Michael Jackson songs while I impersonated him.

A.D.: How do you know when a voice is building in your head, enough so that you want to bring it out to the microphone? What is that process?
Terry: There really is no one thing. I could always just do it. I never questioned whether a character was ready, and I do have to work at it to make sure the inflections are right, but it is just a gift. 

A.D.: Doing a voice is one thing. Making it sonorous and melodic is quite another. Do you have innate musical abilities or perfect pitch?
Terry: Just ear. Purely ear. I hear it and copy it and have no formal musical background or training. It’s pretty nuts that I can do it.

A.D.: You’re not a political comedian by any stretch of the imagination. How did Trump become part of your act as a puppet, and how is that working?
Terry: He’ll be on stage with me at the Borgata. The funny thing is, my intention in dong him originally did not come from his politics. I started doing him in my Vegas routine, and he quickly became the most popular puppet. The reason I believe he has so much appeal, love him or hate him, he’s funny. He makes you laugh. I don’t make fun of people. I have fun with people. I have fun with people’s quirks. If you love him, you won’t think I ripped on him. If you hate him, you won’t think I just supported him.  I just have fun with the bigness of his character. I would never do a character only known for politics – not Hilary or Obama – because we only know them from one thing. Trump transcends politics. We know him from The Apprentice. We know him forever. I can find plenty of stuff with him to joke about. I don’t want to offend or lose half of my audience. I want an entire room to have fun.

A.D.: Is there a real responsibility in being a clean comedian or working for the good of all ages? Is it difficult to craft a set that is relatable to all?
Terry: Yes. I try to write material that everyone will love. Dirty is a cheap laugh. It’s easy because people are shocked, and you can use that as a starting point.

A.D.: Is it hard starting from clean and winding up there?
Terry: I wouldn’t call my show squeaky clean either, I love doing the double entendres in my set. My caveat is that you have to be able to have a clean explanation for any joke. Something that may be hysterically funny to adults, must slant blue. But when you’re five year old asks for an explanation as to what that means, you better have one. Or I better have one.

Terry Fator appears Friday, September 7 at 8 PM at The Borgata Event Center at Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa, 1 Borgata Way, Atlantic City, NJ., For prices and more info, visit

Photo courtesy of Marion PR

Posted on Friday, September 7, 2018