Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
America's Got Talent winner brings puppet comedy to Brum
British ventriloquist Paul Zerdin has been at the cutting edge of puppet comedy in the UK for decades but after winning America's Got Talent, he's seeing a resurgence and is preparing to bring his tour to Birmingham.
The show, which costs £21 a ticket, includes some of his favourites sponge colleagues of rude old man Albert, precocious teenager Sam and the demanding newborn baby. Fans will be intrigued to hear that he's adding some new puppet characters to the tour of his bodyguard Roger and an urban fox.
Talent shows have always worked in the comedian's favour as it was back in 1996 that a then-24-year-old Paul won LWT's The Big Big Talent Show that brought him into the British limelight. Decades later, with the hope of cracking the US too, he made the wise choice of entering America's Got Talent, which he won in 2015.
Not only did he pocket a cool million dollar prize fund but also secured a residency for his puppet show in Las Vegas.
Now that residency has come to an end, the London-born 47-year-old is back on home soil for the latest tour, which he describes as "stand-up comedy where I happen to use puppets".
Paul reveals about the show: "The idea with Roger is, when I did America's Got Talent they gave me a bodyguard, and I can't get rid of him. He's paranoid and thinks everyone's out to get him and me."
Paul added: "While the Urban Fox stowed away in my luggage when I was packing and couldn't get out, so he's now involved in the show. I've never had any animal characters, and I've always liked the idea of having one."
Despite the new characters, it is still geriatric Albert that is closest to Paul's heart, probably because a lot of the material for Albert comes from Paul's 92-year-old father.
Adding some extra glamour, there's hi-tech special effects in the show to bring it up to date. That is through Paul's collaboration with Tim Rose, who worked on Star Wars and The Muppets and animatronics by specialist Dave Houseman.
Paul with some of his comedy puppets
I remember seeing Paul win over the audience at Birmingham Hippodrome when he starred in the panto of Jack and The Beanstalk in 2014 alongside fellow comedians Matt Slack and Gary Wilmot.
His cheeky style of puppetry had everyone bent over in stitches and he was perfect fun for a panto. Paul returns to panto again this Christmas when he will star at the London Palladium for his 25th year of performing in pantomime.
Until then, Birmingham gets to enjoy his material in the Autumn at the Old Rep.