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NBC Insider America's Got Talent

Simon Cowell Says Terry Fator Is 'No Question' the Most Successful AGT Contestant

And he's returned for AGT: All-Stars.

By Jackie Manno & Megan Carpentier
Terry Fator Performs Unforgettable Ventriloquism | NBC's AGT: All-Stars 2023

America’s Got Talent has seen so many successful Contestants throughout the years, but there's one specific Act who stands out in the mind of Judge Simon Cowell: ventriloquist Terry Fator.

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“There's no question, he's the most successful Contestant we've ever had," Cowell told People in November 2022. "He's had three Vegas deals ... worth about a hundred million." 

It’s not the first time Cowell has waxed effusive about the puppetmaster: Appearing together on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2008, Cowell said Fator was one of the “two most talented people on the planet.”

Read more about Fator’s life and career below.

Terry Fator on America’s Got Talent

Americas Got Talent's Tom Fator Successful3

Fator’s Season 2 Episode 3 audition in 2007 didn’t get off to the most auspicious start: As he took the stage, then-Judge David Hasselhof moaned “Oh no, another ventriloquist.”

But then Fator’s puppet, Emma Taylor, performed Etta James’ “At Last” (watch a version of that act in the video above) and Hasselhof joined Judges Sharon Osborne and Piers Morgan to vote him through. He ultimately won the competition singing “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” as a duet between his James Taylor-esque puppet and a puppet of Kermit the Frog.

After taking home the ultimate prize in Season 2, things went well for Fator: He was ranked one of the world’s highest-paid comedians in 2019, per Forbes. Then, after performing in the Season 17 finals (seen in the video below), he returned to compete on America’s Got Talent: All-Stars in 2023. 

Terry Fator, Darci Lynne and Celia Muñoz Perform on America's Got Talent | NBC's AGT Finale 2022

Cowell was thrilled by the news. “The fact that he would come back and compete, I mean I was thinking, 'Why would you do that?'" he asked in an interview with People before the season.

"He just said, 'Look, the show gave me a break. I love the idea of this competition and of course, I wanna compete again,” Cowell added. “And he did. That says a lot about him."

Fator, though, placed second in the Superfan vote in his preliminary round and was thus eliminated from the competition.

He did, however, return to perform with finalist Ana-Maria Mărgean, in a duet between his Elvis-themed puppet, Maynard, her, and her dog puppet, Waldo.

Terry Fator and Ana-Maria Mărgean Perform an UNFORGETTABLE Ventriloquism Duet | AGT: All-Stars 2023

Terry Fator in Las Vegas

Terry Fator performs on the America's Got Talent Stage

Following his initial win on AGT, Fator inked a deal for 15 engagements with the Las Vegas Hilton for $1.5 million in 2008.

He then inked a 5-year deal with the Mirage for nightly shows starting in 2009, which was worth a reported $100 million at the time. The Mirage re-upped his contract multiple times after that, according to Forbes, offering him up to $20 million per year if he sold out his Monday-Thursday shows.

His show closed at the Mirage in March 2020. 

Fator’s act, however, was one of the first to reopen in Vegas in late 2020, in a show at the New York, New York casino called “Who’s the Dummy Now?” It’s currently slated to run at least through September 2023.

The comedian also plans to spend the summer of 2023 touring the U.S. and Canada with a show called “Tarry Fator: On The Road Again.”

Is Terry Fator still married?

Fator married his current wife, Angie Fiore, in November 2015. In an anniversary post in November 2020, he stated that had been the couple’s second wedding, having first held a ceremony in September 2015 to commemorate her parents’ wedding anniversary. (In a Facebook post in April 2023, Fator stated the couple had gone on their first date eight years ago.)

He had previously been married to Taylor Makakoa, a model and his then-stage assistant. The two tied the knot in November 2010, but announced their plans to divorce in February 2015.

Fator and his first wife, Melinda Fator, were married in Denver in 1991. She filed for divorce in their home state of Texas in February 2009, which he announced that July.

This story was originally published on November 18, 2022. It was updated June 30, 2023.