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Is ventriloquism enjoying a resurgence?

Things are always cyclical. There are always small groups doing it, it’s the same for magic. Paul Daniels had a show on the BBC for 15 years, and there was Wayne Dobson on ITV – he did comedy magic. He was one of my heroes.

And as variety became less popular you had new acts like Simon Drake, who was quite dark and graphic – burning people alive. Then Derren Brown came and reinvented it again.

But there have never been that many ventriloquists – partly because it’s really difficult. It took me two years to learn the basics, but I’ve been doing it for 20 years and I’m still getting better!

Is it particularly popular now?

Some of this stuff does appear to be coming back. My friend [ventriloquist] Nina Conti is doing really well, and The Muppets movie did amazingly well – they’re making another film.

The BBC has commissioned a new Muppet chat show for next year, produced by Jim Henson, for prime-time Saturday night. If it is original and edgy, then it still has its place.

And you’ve done your own TV pilot …

We’ve been developing it for a while. It’s The Muppets meets Seinfeld. There hasn’t been anything quite like it.

Does it frustrate you that ventriloquism is seen as an outdated entertainment?

I have worked at The Comedy Store for years closing the show and I’d often get people coming up to me afterwards saying: “When we heard there was a ventriloquist on we thought: oh no, but we didn’t realise it could be so funny.”

What’s been your strangest show?

On my last summer tour I did seaside gigs, and I’ve performed all over the world. I did a gig in Buenos Aires where I flew out for a 20-minute after-dinner show in a palace.

And I’ve entertained the troops in Iraq. They were some of the best audiences I have ever played for.

Paul Zerdin: Puppet Master.
Bloomsbury Theatre.
Oct 3. £16  WC1H 0AH
Tube | Euston Square


Interview: Comedy ventriloquist Paul Zerdin on talent shows, surprising audiences and his new show Puppet Master
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