Terry Fator says he was “beyond thrilled” when he found out Jeff Dunham was coming to Las Vegas.
“I’m a huge fan myself and I’m really happy he’s here,” says The Mirage headliner, who until Friday was the only star ventriloquist on the Strip.
Fator has had since June to figure out what he would say, and do, about Dunham, ever since Dunham announced he was getting off the road and setting up shop at Planet Hollywood Resort.
And this is it: “We really are completely different types of entertainers. It’s kind of comparing apples and oranges.”
Specifically, Fator describes himself as “an all-around entertainer,” doing “more a variety-type show. We have a little bit of everything. Every era and decade of music you can imagine.”
Fator is reinforcing this with “A Country Christmas,” the annual makeover of his show, Monday through Dec. 25. And you may have noticed ads for the regular show bill him as “The Voice of Entertainment” and show him holding a microphone, not a puppet.
“There’s plenty of room in Vegas for both of us,” he says of Dunham. “People are obviously going to make that connection,” but “the only thing we have in common is that we use ventriloquism as our vehicle.”
Actually, it’s not quite the only thing they have in common.
They are both from Dallas.
Both discovered ventriloquism in grade school via a library book.
Both have a (bald) character named Walter.
Both are in their second marriages, to younger women who model.
And both had big game-changers within a month of each other in 2007. For Fator, it was winning “America’s Got talent” that August. For Dunham, it was introducing Achmed the Dead Terrorist in a Comedy Central special that September.
But it’s that vehicle, ventriloquism, that will test how much they do or don’t have in common. How many people would see two ventriloquists on one trip to Las Vegas? But there is plenty of repeat traffic. And whether it’s by design or accident, the two only perform on two of the same days: Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Fator has come up with creative, simple solutions for sustaining interest seven years after his “Talent” victory. He performs a different show out of state on weekends. And his Mirage ticket prices are lower — $8 on the bottom end, $31 on the top — than they were three years ago.
And the two have gone different ways with tone. Dunham’s characters use language that upsets his mother. Fator says, “My show has gotten much cleaner in the last few years. … I was being pressured from so many directions to go that way. There was a time every single character did a dirty joke.
“My wonderful wife Taylor’s the one who said, ‘This is not you. You’re letting people pressure you into being someone you’re not.’ ”
So to Fator, the differences are clear. To the public? We’ll see.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0288.