Vegas Bright writer Kelly Lamrock was impressed with the ventriloquism and impressions of Terry Fator, but not so much with his humor… or lack thereof.
I have a soft spot for impressionists. Veronic DiCaire remains one of my favorite Vegas shows ever. I get a kick out of watching a pro find those little quirks and mannerisms that help them transform into someone else. And Vegas is a great spot for those who like magicians, impressionists, and whatever the hell Cirque du Soleil does. (I’m Canadian, so I can tease. You can’t.)
So, our group having split up to do our own thing one evening, and staying at the Mirage, I decided that I’d finally see what the deal was with Terry Fator, the “America’s Got Talent” winner. After all, he not only does impressions, but he does them through ventriloquism, which is doubly impressive. The clips I had seen looked like fun, so I grabbed a ticket (4th row, aisle) and went to check out the Vegas standby.
The result was decidedly mixed, for me. Terry Fator was a guy with an “A” list talent placed in “C” list trappings. The result was a decent evening, but one that was diminished by the chintzy feel of the operation.
First, the impressions. Look, it’s a hard thing to sing like Roy Orbison, or Paul McCartney, or Axl Rose. To be able to do all three is amazing, and to do it while barely moving your lips is superhuman. Fator is a fine singer in his own right; he has a voice that if it lacks anything, it’s the quirks and imperfections that make famous singers interesting. As a technical impressionist, he deserves everything he’s achieved. I thoroughly marveled at his one-man duet on “The Girl Is Mine”, and I was impressed at how he grasped the idiosyncratic vowels and twang of Elton John and yet also mastered the soaring, quavering tenor of Roy Orbison. If you’ve seen YouTube clips and thought “That looks neat”, well, it is. Fator delivers what he basically promises, and that must be acknowledged.
The man’s stage patter needs help. It didn’t help that to get to the show you burrow deep into the beige convention section of the Mirage. That contributed to the sense I was watching a guy who copied down the monologue of every Bob Hope special in the 1970s and just kept updating the jokes with new celebrity names.
Fator apparently still lives in that part of the world where the funniest part of divorce is that the woman takes the guy’s money, transgender people just want to skip the bathroom line, smoking marijuana is subversive and straight men must constantly watch out for all the gay guys who want them and will jump them. His jokes rarely go beyond these themes. I half expected to hear that his wife is a bad driver and that he hates his mother-in-law.
(Let me step in here and say this is not a political rant. I worked as a standup comic for years to put myself through law school, and I get the value of the comedian being willing to offend to find the contradictions in society. I idolize George Carlin and Richard Pryor, who offended everyone left and right. When Colin Jost of SNL Weekend Update reported that a new app allowed users to choose between 39 gender identities and joked “The app is called Why Trump Won”, I laughed though some were offended. The joke found a new take and told a little truth about the world.)
The reality is that the reason we don’t do mother-in-law and “my wife keeps wrecking the car” jokes is not that they are offensive. It is that they don’t come from a place of truth, anymore. They don’t match the lived experience of anyone who has interacted with actual human beings, let alone find the illogic and absurdities in today’s mores like good comedians do. Satirizing a world that hasn’t existed for 40 years isn’t satire, it’s self-parody. Between the grandpa jokes and the souvenir hawking, the whole thing had an amateur hour feel that was jarring given the price point and the obvious talent of the star.
I wouldn’t tell you to avoid Fator’s show. What he does, he does very well and he is never less than a steady pro in his stage presence. I didn’t have a bad time. But I wish he’d spend some of his millions on some writers to help with the patter around the musical sets. It’s a shame to have to eat all that cheese to get to the prime rib.
[Photo Cred. MyLittleAdventure.com]