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Monday, December 29, 2008


Hi again,

Can you believe it? Tom Ladshaw went to the nearby museum and found the name of the mystery photo. I wasn't able to find it in my own search.

Your blog is pretty impressive. Some really great ventriloquists there.
I'm not looking for publicity and I am not in that category, so I am declining your offer. Very kind.

Now at eighty-five, I'm all but retired from vent, but still take an active interest in it. Just can't carry the suitcases any more. While I've downsized and sold a number of my puppets, I never will part with my Selberg and Verna Finley puppets. My very first puppet is now living in the Philippines. (a Knee Pal ) I had tears in my eyes when she did her last show here. So did some of the audience as she told them her good-bye !

My "rocking-chair project" although I'm not in a rocking chair, is writing. If you noticed my website, you'd see I have a picture/story vent book for children.

Ruth Means Tucson, AZ


Bill, (I am sorry) 'Mr. DeMar' had sent this to me to add to this blog...G-d bless his happy soul... Mr. DeMar see you in July at the conVENTion..Till then have a wonderful time, keep em laughing.

I was born at a very early age, in fact it was 6:00 am, I remember the time because I was the one who had to shut off the alarm. I only weighed ½ lb. How did you live you may ask? I sold newspapers. (thank you Robert Orben) for those opening remarks.I was a radio nut. Had my ear in the speaker all the time. Loved the Bergan and McCarthy show. All more detailed in my book, “VENTRILOQUISM and related subjects” recently republished by Tom Ladshaw.
Carved my first figure out of balsa wood. Very first vent show ever, was in a talent contest, and I won first place, Demanded by the audience, before the judges could decide. My second show was the next week-end in another contest, and I won that one too. It got into the papers and a local magician ask me to tour with his family, in the vicinity. That was at age 17. At age 20 I went into the army and was sent to Germany and spent most of my time in Special Services traveling around Germany entertaining with various shows. All of them contained someone who made it later in the civilian world, to some degree. When I got out of the service, I picked up my Marshal figure on the way home. Started to work more on a regular basis when I started working Night Clubs/strip joints. Also worked a lot of fairs with many known performers. Traveled on tour for several years with the ‘Ink Spots’ and the ‘Harmonica Rascals’, and some magic circus shows. That also had some names, like ‘Lash LaRue’. In about ’74 I was asked to tour the country doing school show assemblies, one to four a day. Fortunately I had designed my act to set up and pack up quickly. My last school tour was in ’96. I don’t miss the smoking drunks in the night clubs, but I do miss the little kids in the early grades. Always had to travel to get any work, never could get anything in my own home town. Still can’t
This is a great way to introduce you to this man's world buy his book and read it I am sure you will be glad you did... Remember go see a vent show, even if its set for children and you there to watch to learn, a great learning tool. Look over the internet there are great children's vent all across the country, find one pick it up and'll be glad you did.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Mr. Jimmy Nelson
I must say I have not had the pleasure of meeting the great J Nelson, I have been in the business of show for many long years, I have not for the past 6.5 but I must say I remember you well as the spokes person with Danny and Farfel on the 'Childrens Hour' program from NY with Ed O'Herlihey, for Nestles nestles makes the very best CHOO CO LAT, when you snapped Farfel's mouth shut. Because of the many years ago it happened I just can not remembwer what Danny said in that commerciaI, I also remember you when my parents watched the Milton Berle Show on ABC New York and you were spokes person for Texico.. We are the men from Texico, we work from Maine to Mexico...THE BIG BRIGHT TEXICO STAR...
I'd like to do a personal Bio on you and your career for my BLOG
You have probably met many ventriloquists throughout your career, you have opened or headlined many a stage and we would love to record that in our blog for prosterity. Please be so kind as to assist us with a short or medium size bio on the beginning middle and current stages of your career, you know the typical when where why who and what how old you were when you began who were you influences, your role models, where your career has taken you, who you have opened for the high lights and lows of your career thus far, and what others can do to try and get to the stages you have graced. . Hope to see you soon at the conVENTion in July. Thank you so much again
Seasons greetings to you and yours from me and mine

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Ventriloquist Jimmy Nelson catapulted into the limelight in 1952 when he and his faithful companions, Danny O’Day and Farfel appeared weekly on Milton Berle’s “Texaco Star Theatre.” Danny is the wise-cracking kid with the soprano voice and Farfel is the floppy-eared hound dog that waxes philosophical. In 1955 Nelson became the television spokesman for Nestle’s Chocolate for ten years. Nelson now lives in Cape Coral, Florida, with wife, Betty. Their six-strong tribe of offspring are grown and scattered throughout the U.S.A. Far from being out of the public eye, Nelson still maintains a break-neck schedule. Several years ago, Society First Federal Savings Bank of Fort Myers, Florida, recruited Jimmy to do a series of television ad spots with Farfel and Danny. The campaign was a success, and he served as Assistant Vice Presidentt of Marketing/Public Relations. He recently retired from that position; however, he continues to carry a heavy personal appearance schedule. In 1988 Jimmy Nelson was inducted into the Ventriloquist Hall of Fam and joined other Hall of Famers Edgar Bergen, Paul Winchell, Shari Lewis, and Senor Wences. All of his figures were custom-made for him by Frank Marshall. Jimmy says, “I’m very proud to have known the man and to have his figures.” In July, 1998, at the International Ventriloquist Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, Jimmy Nelson was awarded the "Lifetime Achievement Award" by his peers, an honor given only twice in the convention's history.

Monday, December 22, 2008


Russ was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and he found the love of the Dummy at the age of 4, he was a working student of the voice and sang in operettas as a young boy, he made his own Pinnochioand he was booked to appear on Ed Sullivans show in 1962. has appeared on all the great variety shows with some of the greatest entertainers of that era. He appeared on Hollywood Palace 5 times, and the Ed Sullivan's show...But before the big stages were available to him he had to make good on the small stages like amatuer, carnivals, the circus, bars and restaurants, side shows and Coney Island before getting any big breaks. Though he had serious emotional problems, was prone to suicide, low opinion of himself, a perfect psychiatrist couch job, but working as opening act for some of the biggest names like Liberace, Bobby Darin, Victor Borge, Jayne Mansfield, Dom DeLuise, Eartha Kitt, to name just a few, he got booked to Appear on the Dean Martin Show, Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, in Las Vegas at the Dunes, Sands, Sahara,Riviera, and in between his gigs at the hotels he opened his own schools to teach the art of acting at student work shops. He also did caberets and comedy clubs and TV, it was the variety show era and he was booked for most of them and this put him on a steadier road. He taught himself to write his own comedy, he generated smiles and laughs, made a few sheckles, Russ has been before the lights for over 60 years entertaining millions of people on 6 continents. Some of the other shows he appeared on were countless talk shows, Steve Allen Show, Joey Bishop, Mike Douglas, Rowan and Martin's Laugh In, and he is still performing today.
With timing, belly laughs, music and glitz, this is a world-class stand-up ventro-comic, a comedian of imagination and scope – surely one of the best ever to cross the stage.
Russo Louis has opened for, or shared the stage with, Dean Martin, Alan King, Rowan and Martin, , Eddie Rabbit, Tammy Wynette, Pat Boone, Louis Jourdan, Victor Borge, Dale Robertson, John Davidson, Oak Ridge Boys, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, The Pea Picker himself Tennessee Ernie Ford, , Jim Stafford, Goolly!! Jim Nabors Mitzi Gaynor, Norm Crosby, Jerry Van Dyke, Tony Bennett didn't get a dinner Red Buttons and Anne Meara. There is just so much one could add here, its literally an entertainers who's who, you fill in the missing names.. but remember that this man is a gentleman threw and threw who puts on a fabulous show.


The greatest gifts are those of the Volunteers. The Hammer Barber people are are a goodly part of them. They found the time and the talent to donate and help raise funds for those in need. Branson went all out this past weekend to help raise $135,000 by ringing the bells on behalf of the Salvation Army's Red Kettle, Nationally there over over 25,000 bell ringers to get those small change donations. This fine organization helps serve more then 40 million people in need. Jim, the Ventriloquists across america are thankful to have you and your talent as part of that group, thank you for what you do. Those who wish to be included along with Jim go to your nearest Salvation Army Office and make it known that you also would like to be amongst those who do good things... I have done my share of raising single handedly along with my puppet friends to help raise many thousands of Dollars over the past many years for MDA, AIDS, and community fund raisers by phone... Everyone of us can do the same thing...Have a wonderful holiday and give someone you don't know the joy of the season.

Friday, December 19, 2008


The ad appeared on the last page of most every comic book I read as a kid. The cartoon graphics for all the ads looked like they were drawn by the same artist. It's very familiar to any comic book reader.
The intention of the ad is to depict the kid as a ventriloquist. It is after all a comic book ad, but that's never the way I saw it. To me the man carrying the trunk is the ventriloquist and he is performing for the kid, not the other way round.
Even as a child I instinctively knew the rules of ventriloquism. Rule #1 you can't throw your voice past the ear of the listener. Since the trunk is on the man's back and the boy in front of him it is impossible to make the man believe there is a voice coming from his trunk. However the reverse it quite easy. The man can easily pull off the effect being between the listener (the boy) and the object of mystery (the trunk).
If there is one symbol that says ventriloquism to me it is this ad. It has in some way become my life. The first time I saw it I was a little boy wanting to be a professional ventriloquist. Now looking at it I am the old man carrying around a trunk with a voice inside. My role has changed but the feeling I get looking at the piece of art will always be the same.
Learning ventriloquism at such a young age I never felt the need to send off for the 25¢ "instrument". In reality the device was a leather and cellophane "swazzle", basically a whistle fitted inside the mouth at the juncture of the teeth and gums. With the proper air current directed by the tongue the cellophane vibrates and makes a loud high pitched tone. With subtle changes in air stream and tongue position, actual notes can be crafted. Certainly it can make a great whistle sound and imitate birds but as far as helping anyone "Throw your Voice" it can not accomplish that claim. The free book on "How to Be a Ventriloquist" never once mentions the swazzle in creating a ventriloquial voice.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Yes I have many questions and lets just begin at the beginning, a very good place to start..You were born where and when,
Westminster, Maryland - Nov. 1962

Tell me about your studying vent and your practice sessions...
Started studying vent seriously in 2004 - early 2005. I'd pratice multiple times daily as recommended by the Maher Course - also rehearsed chunks of the act with figures in front of mirror and video camera. Its important to say that while I liked vent earlier - I had not practiced since I was a kid, (and then a very limited time) and had never performed it on-stage BEFORE I decided to switch my career from full time magic to full time ventriloquist.

who actually inspired you was it more magic then vent, and if so who were you burning to imulate? I believe you mentioned Paul Henning, was he the person you most wanted to be like?
As a kid, I wanted to be a professional magician. Doug Henning (not Paul) inspired me, but David Copperfield's grand illusions made me want to become an illusionist. My early magic shows were poor attempts at copying him. I look back now and cringe...

Did you incorporate the ventriloqism into the magic?
Not when I was working as a pro. I was strictly a magician/comedian.

Did you do any shows when you were in school, whether elementary middle or high school?
Yes, I started doing shows around the age of 11 for my church. I watched other magicians who were great at promoting themselves and learned their techniques, so I was able to get some newspaper articles which led to more shows. I was fairly active, performing for groups and events all through my school years.

Were you in the military and did you do magic or vent while serving the country?
Never in the military.

How young were you when you had your first performance and who was it for?
First performances for my magic were entertaining my family. My first paid show, I was 11 years old and the show was for a group at my church. Think I made $10.

When and where did you meet the Mrs. How did she get involved in your act?
I was contracted as a strolling magician at the Baltimore Fishmarket Nightclub. She was a waitress in one of the bars there. We met at after-hours hangouts and ended up getting married. At the time I was doing illusions and needed an assistant. She volunteered to help and we worked out an incredible dynamic on stage. Instead of being an assistant, she became a partner. We considered ourselves the "Sonny & Cher" of magic. The show developed to the point it was more about the comedy than the magic.

Where you traveling the circuit at this time?
I'm not really certain there are "circuits" any more. Maybe in some of the comedy clubs. No, I was working civic groups, some corporate events, festivals, fairs and the occasional cruise ship. (VERY occasional.) Back then shopping malls paid very well - but that fell out from under us in the mid-90's when they started doing Kids Clubs. At that time they started hiring less expensive acts. It was always a struggle to keep working as a magician since there was so much competition - but we did okay.

Who were some of the big names you opened for?
Country Singer Rodney Atkins, America, Chubber Checker, The Drifters (multiple times), The Diamonds, The Marvelettes and a few others that I can't remember off the top of my head. I also performed on-stage with Bob Keeshan, aka Captain Kangaroo in 1990.

You see everyone has a story, but when you think of it, because its yours, you don't think its as big as you might think, but guess again my magical friend. Do you like doing kid shows, shows for adults or mixed audiences?
As a magician, I perferred working family audiences, although I also had a successful school assembly program to help balance out my weekdays. As a ventriloquist, I prefer adult audiences, but also do family audiences.

Tell me about your Vent Figures by name and what they mean to you.
I have too many figures. My main figure is Dangerous Dudley Duck, a Pavlov's Puppet. He is my "say anything" guy and because he is a duck, and cute as heck, he can get away with it. He knows what he's doing, but if he crosses a boundary, its easy for the audience to forgive him. I enjoy working with Dudley and because I do so much with him, I am most comfortable ad-libbing with him.

Deeder is my Robert McRay Basswood Bighead figure. Deeder is a country boy who swims in a very shallow gene pool. Not exactly the brightest guy, but you get the feeling that while he's good natured, you don't want to cross him.

In my shows I also use an Axtell Drawing Board. Those characters are currently working - but I have a bunch that I am playing with and hope to develop into the act. Among those are:
Rauol - A spanish monkey (Pavlov's)
Sammy - A Monster Puppet (Puppets By Cher)
K.J. - A Kem Poyner/Bill Nelson creation who is a drunk
Sin-Gin - A customized Axtell Dragon
Percival - A Pirate Poet that gets seasick
Clair-Voy-Ant - A Psychic French Ant (Pavlov's)
Maurice - A grumpy old nursing home escapee (Dan Payes)

When did you start traveling the world and with who?
I contracted my first Cruise Ship with an agent in Florida. Most of my work had been self-booked to that point and I still do most of my own contracting. The cruise opened some possibilities for international work - but because I was doing illusions and un-experienced with freighting equipment I limited that end of my business. When I switched to vent, the show became easier to transport and I started working internationally again.

How did Ken Groves come into the picture?
I met Ken Groves at a fair in Western Pennsylvania. He was working ventriloquism on one stage and I was doing comedy magic on another. He happened to be staying at the same hotel and we started talking. Because our shows overlapped, I was only able to see his first show, and he repaid the visit and came to see my last show. We liked each others acts and became friends.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Gary Koepke born in Detroit, Michigan May 9, 1957. some of his fondest memories are of Jimmy Nelson, Edgar Bergen Paul Winchell. Liking what he saw drove him to request a Jerry Mahoney figure from his parents, but the early requests were denyed. They thought it was a passing fancy to him. But that didn't stop Gary. azt the age of 8 soon seeing Bergen give some tips on how to become a vent on a tv show. So Gary made his own hand made puppet, got a book out of the library Winchell's "Ventriloquism For Fun and Profit" He watched every variety show hoping to catch glimpses of vents and their banter, especially Ed Sullivans show. And at this time his parents bought him his Danny O'Day figure from a sears catalog.

In 1969 at the age of 11, Gary found a hand-carved figure made by the late Jack Coats in a local magic shop, put a deposit down, and borrowed the money from his parents to pay off the balance. Now with the bug well implanted in him at the age of 12 off he went to Vent-O-Rama in Colon Mich. and a Magic Con as well 'Abbott's Magic Get Together, where meeting and getting good sound advice from the likes of Jack Coats, Bill Boley Howie Olsen and Paul Stadelman. In 1971-2 and 3 he won the junior vent of the year award and origionality award in 1971.

Gary was relocated to Lawrenceville, Georgia in 1974 when his father was transferred with his company. He began performing in his new high school and became friends with another student named Steve Whitmire, now of the "Muppets" fame. They performed together and learned from each other.
The summer of 1975 found Gary performing at the 'Six Flags Over Georgia' amusement park, 8 shows a day, 6 days a week. He also attended the 1st Annual Ventriloquist Convention in Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky and performed during the opening evening's festivities.
In 1978 - 1979 Gary, along with Steve Whitmire, co-hosted a local children's TV show and were nominated for a state Emmy award.

In 1982, Gary was laid off from his job as a draftsman and began performing full-time doing club work with invaluable advice from Johnny Main. He continued this pursuit until 1984 when it was discovered that he was going to be a "pa-pa." He returned to working full-time, but kept his interest in vent alive on the side.
Gary has performed for the Amoco Oil Corporation, Exxon Corporation, Motown Records, Chevrolet, Burnam Van Lines Corporation, Pratt & Whitney, the US Dept. of Agriculture, and other major corporations too numerous to mention.
His main characters are Pete Brooks - a 20 year old looking for fun carved by the late Jack Coats, Roscoe Clower - a young country boy from Snellville originally made by Steve Whitmire, but redesigned and built by Verna Finley, and Paco - a Mexican parrot which is an adult sized version of Axtell's 'Burds' puppets. Also included in the figure 'arsenal' are Paul Brooks - Gary's first Coats figure which is an 8 year old boy, Sheldon - a Mary Ann Taylor turtle, Grandpa Jake - a John Arvites figure which was a door prize at the 1982 conVENTion in KY and subsequently purchased from Captain Dick, Georgie - a 19" Coats figure used for fun, Karlton - a talking glove character, and an Axtell magic drawing board which is being used to develop a variety of characters.
Gary's newest hard character is a Conrad Hartz character purchased in May of 1997 which is named R.K. Hill. R.K. is a street person, but one with a difference. He has a job to go along with his IQ of 47. He took to the streets when the premiums were raised on the benefits at his county job. However, R.K.'s always up and his philosophy of life is life's always great!
The year 1996 saw a renewed interest in performing for Gary when his daughter Amber also began performing as a ventriloquist and they attended the conVENTion in Kentucky. He and his wife Vanessa attended the 1st Ventriloquists' Convention in Las Vegas and Gary is a member of the International Ventriloquists' Association and the North American Association of Ventriloquists. He also has 3 younger children waiting in the wings who also have expressed a desire to learn ventriloquism themselves, making this truly a family affair.
Gary's other hobbies include tinkering with figure making and repair, playing guitar and writing music, magic, and administrating S.O.D. - acronym for Speaking of Dummies which is a local vent club in Georgia.


The two remaining ventriloquists with the most votes are Terry Fator and Jeff Dunham neither one is a loser, both are fabulous professional ventriloquists, and its the selection of the people who read this BLOG who selected the winner for 2008. The first winner of this award. We thank all who have participated in this election since the BLOG'S inception in July 2008, that we appreciate all who have cast their vote. 2009 will be a banner year. The voters will be selecting another vent by their peers... This award is similar to The People's Choice Award. We the people select --------as the winner of the 2008 'Vent of our Choice' Award.

For all of you who have placed your vote for Vent of our choice 2008 we applaud you..for those who haven't there is only 2 weeks left to make that selection.. Please pass this on to all who are vents and all who love the art of Vent...An award will be presented to the recipient at the 2008 conVENTion, should he be present or it will be presented in proxy, should he/she not be present. If you belong to other groups please spread the word there as well. We as vents recognize great talent and do our best to let the community know that we like them, so in doing my part with the help of all of you we take the time to vote, thank you.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


At the age of 7 TY was inspired by Edgar Bergan, how did Bergen work his magic. So his parents bought him a book and he was introduced to the world of words and before long was putting on shows for his classmates. From elementary thru high school, he had the pleasure of entertaining at his school assemblies. He has been a vent for over 20 years. In 1985 he opened for Maze and the rest as we know is Ventriloqist history. TY got his break in 1994 with the Busch Gardens in his native home of Virginia. Soon he was attracting large crowds. Before long he was entertaining at schools, fairs, festivals, comedy clubs, corporations, cruise ships, family style concerts all across the country. Ty like origionality, he write his own material, who knows his characters better then he does. He looks forward to one day having his own educational show on PBS. Children need guidance and TY-Rone feels he's just the guy who could show it to them.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


BURR TILLSTROM. Born October 13, 1917 creator of the puppets Kukla, 1936; Ollie, managed the puppet exhibits and marionette theater at Marshall Field and Company in Chicago, 1938; In 1939 he presented his Kuklapolitans to the NY Worlds Fair, where he exhibited the new media Television, Burt opened the door to the Puppeteers who wouldn't have had an opportunity if not for him, such as Jim Henson,Paul Winchell, Shari Lewis. Burt went on to bigger fame when he produced his own show with his Kuklapolitans which went national. During WW2 he performed with the USO as well as local hospitals and Red Cross. After meeting with Fran Allison and promissing her a 13 week gig, it turned in to 10 years. Burr was the voice of all he created which was all the puppets on his show. They were Kukla, Ollie, Beulah, Cecil Bill as well as 11 others. 1948-52 when it was picked up by NBC. In 1954 it was moved to ABC for 3 years. Has a broadway run in 1960. Made some appearances in1964-5 ' on That Was The Week That Was', In 1969 the show was brought back to life for PBS. He then hosted a CBS Children's Film Festival in the 1970s; appeared on NBC series That Was the Week that Was, 1964-65. Recipient: more than fifty entertainment awards, including five Emmys. Burr Tillstrom died in Palm Springs, California, on Dec 6th 1985. His awards for the work he performed was numerous an Emmy, a Peabody Award, nominated for a grammy, after his passing he was inducted into the Radio and Television HOF.
Thank you for posting that bit about Burr and his Kuklapolitans on your blog today. I was lucky enough to have grown up in a time when puppeteers and vents were all over television. Some like Burr are almost forgotten today. Anyone wishing to know more about Burr and his creations should visit the Unofficial Kuklapolitan Website I also have a MySpace page devoted to Burr, Fran and the Kuklapolitans.Take care,Leslie Evans,Lawrence, KS USA


Bil Baird found the love of the puppet when at the age of 8 his father made him a puppet. Baird was born 1904 in Neb., and grew up in Iowa. At the age of 14 Bil was giving his own shows in the home of his father. Bil went to a T. Sarg performance and found true love in the world of puppetry, and began greating his own puppets., making everything from soft delicate wood puppets to larger then life creations. A graduate of the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, he began work with his mentor Tony Sarg in NYC at the age of 24 and by the time he was 30 he formed his own company 'Baird Marionettes' and he gave his first performance at the Chicago Worlds Fair. 1950 his Marionettes performed in the Broadway musical Flahookey, night club tours, commercials, TV specials and the rest as they say was history. He toured the world making stops in Russia, India, Afghanistan, for the US State Department, also made a permanent mark in the movie The Sound Of Music, in the GoatHerd sequence, performed in several Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parades, as well as performing at several Worlds Fairs.


Peter son of legendary puppeteers Bil and Cora Baird, passed away 7/16/2004 at the age of 52 from esophageal cancer. He began his training at the age of 5 and carried on the family legacy. He worked for the family business from age 7. By the time he reached the age of 19 he attained professional status. He performed, directed, and wrote for many of the Baird productions. He toured internationally with the theatre until his father's death in 1987, when he began creating on his own. Peter played Broadway in 'Davy Jones Locker and took it on tour with his parents. He was involved in the Pinocchio in 1989 National Festical. He was involved in The Shining Time Station, he operated Grace the Bass in the shows Juke Box Puppet Band.

Peter was pivotol in the Davy Jones show and was in 100s of commercials. He was active on stage, television and films, such as "The Muppets Take Manhattan" and "Howard the Duck".

MacNider Art Museum was visited by Peter to give a show for the 150 or so who showed up when Peter brought back to life the many puppets his father created and donated to the museum. A donation to the BIL Baird Endowment fund will help keep these wonderful puppets alive for many many years to come. MacNider Art Museum In Mason City. BothBil and Peter will be surely missed. If you have memories to share please send them in so I can post them for you.
A longtime friend of Peter Baird has established the Peter Baird Endowment Fund at the MacNider Art Museum to support the care and maintenance of the treasured Baird Collection and help educate future generations of the joys of puppetry. Donations can be given in his honor to the MacNider Art Museum, 303 Second Street SE, Mason City or by calling 641-421-3666.
Peter is fondly remembered as a free, independent, and creative spirit. He will be missed by those who had the pleasure of knowing him, both young and old.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Those days have not gone away, not as long as there is a ventriloquist out there doing his comedy with his pal, partner, yes you can say it D U M M Y. Oh how wonderful, those golden days of the comedy duos, like Abbott and Costello , Laurel and Hardy, Martin and Lewis, the Smothers Brothers, Nichols and May, Stiller and Meara and I am sure that you can add your favorite here. The comedy of those great kings has not completely vanished, the ventriloquist can rewrite the stuff that kings were made of to fit the routines they have for their figure and themself, yeah your right one of them isn't alive, or at least you might think not, the illusion performed by the vent, at least the better vents brings that illusion to life. Your job is to strive to be one of those better vents, yes you can be a Edgar Bergan or a Paul Winchell or pray with me, evan a Shari Lewis. But have no fear comedy lovers … there are still two person comedy acts to be found ... even if one of those persons is … well … a dummy! I’m telling you to play the straight man to a piece of wood, letting him/her get all the bigger laughs.

Ventriloquism is keeping the art of the comedy duos alive on our stages today. You will need the perfect partner, not just any figure but one that fits the requirements and looks you are searching for that fits. Not gonna be so easy, may we make a few suggestions, if you can't find him, which could be almost an impossibility, due to the fact that there are so many different types out there, well then build him/her yourself. Ok you might say how do I go about doing that Einstein? There are so many how to build books out there, but I am going to suggest some ideas. Mike Brose or go see Al Stevens Pictures step by step directions for hard figures You might also want to visit Steve Axtell's site as well for the soft puppet fancier in you.
First let me say there were some great puppet makers in the 30s-40s-50s and 60s as well as today like the McElroy Brothers, Frank Marshall, Mike Brose, Dietweiler, Payes, Axtell. I mention soft puppet makers here as well as hard because the market for the soft puppet today is just as wide open as that for the hard. Al Stevens has dedicated a large portion of his website to the making of figures and it is recommended reading for any and all wood be figure makers. I know that when I was a kid there was no such thing as a step by step directory on how to build your own figure, but that has all changed today. Today you can buy Figure parts you might need for a broken leg, arm or even repair worn paint, noses, ect. Todays puppets are mechanically able to be free standing without the vent touching the figure , but by remote control, they can make the figure move and speak from a short or long distance from it.
Remember figure making is fun, yes you might be a little frightened at first but by following all the directions available on the internet or the books available at your library or your own bookstore, will help ease the worry. Read Figure making can be fun by Mike Brose and he will walk you through the making of your character, don't worry he's safe. Enjoy go small at first wade in the water, when your learning to swim stay at the shallow end, as you get to be a better swimmer your going to go deeper and for a more lengthier swim... enjoy all the world of vent has to offer.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

David Pendleton

David has a cast of 4 characters one funnier then the next...Aunt Tilly, loveable but blunt, who is a 94 year old spinster. Then there is Mack Elroy a trouble maker with a quick wit, Buford the Beagle, sorta slow and lazy and last but certainly not least Vern the Bird, who is a vulture somewhat lost in his own mind.

David got started at the ripe old age of 6 when his grandparents bought him a puppet he was begging his parents for for a year. You see he has this fascination for all puppets like most kids when he was a kid of 4 or 5, the puppets from Captain Kangaroo and Sesame Street. His first puppet was a toy Charlie McCarthy and a record called Instant Ventriloquism made by Jummy Nelson. He sat in front of a mirror and repeated over and over again without moving his lips, memorizing the script that came with the record. In a few years he was feeling ready to perform on a real stage for the cub scouts. His grandmother helped him write his routines, beginning to do shows for birthday parties, service clubs, churches, street fairs and what ever came his way.... At the age of 11 He had his first opportunity to go to Vent Haven Museum. Tell me about this one. Show me that one. Inquisitive minds needed to know, I was still in search of my first professional puppet. He learned about the McElroy brothers. He was so moved by this figure with the moving eyebrows, wiggling ears, moving eyes, hair that stood up ect that he wanted one of his own, but of course by this time the brothers were retired. Time passes and David is now a high school student and made it every year to the student talent shows. He now has a professional figure he named Otis. His fellow students loved Otis's antics about the faculty, when it was time for graduation he really let loose with some zingers and broke up the student graduates. On to college in Ohio and a job at the theme park which gave David the opportunity to sharpen his skills and help his act grow. Aunt Tilly and the Beagle Buford became part of his act at this time. Aunt Tilly's personality was influenced by his grandmother who he was living with at this time. Through Ventriloquism David's dreams were more than met. He traveled all over the country with his show and even more, all over the world. Back to the McElroy, not giving up he kept searching, knowing that the price of such a find would be astronomical, one day met a senior retired person who was in possesion of such a find, this was around 2002. Lucky for him, she was excited about selling him and getting him back on stage and in the hands of a well trained ventriloquist. You see this person's grandfather was a vent during world war two, before and after for 60 years. Well we made an appointment to meet at her apartment the following day, and need I say sure enough it was the McElroy and I was overwelmed and she said that G-D was saving him for me... Tears cascaded from David's

face from excitement. Well he bought him and renamed him Mack McElroy, dressed him in a tux, and he has been part of the act since June 2002. David is still making them laugh, try to catch one of his shows you'll be enlightened when you do.
Hey N Jay, I got to see his show on "Banana Comedy Show" last night.They interviewed him and it was great.He even got a volunteer from the audience to come up and be the "dummy".Love your site too.
Thank you keep comming back always adding something new...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Emmett Kelly Sr.'s Weary Wiley Sweeping the Spot Light

Emmett Kelly, Sr. born Dec 2nd 1898 in Sedan, Kansas a clown for wringley Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus and performed as Weary Willy. But before all that fame came his way he worked as a cartoonist for a silent film company and drew his first tramp cartoon, he was the underdog who could never succeed no matter how much he tried, except just that once in a while he did??? His fame was world wide and because of it was inducted into the Clown Hall of Fame in 1989. In 1967 Emmitt Kelly's Museum was built. Emmett took his dream one step further. He joins Howe's Great London circus as an aerialist and doubling as a white faced clown. He soon joined John Robinson's circus as a trapeze artist..It was here he met fell in love and married his soon to be wife Eva Moore. But still performing his white face clown antics. In 1933 Weary Willie made his appearance and became successful due to the period they were living in, the great depression. He was soon working at the Hagenbeck-Wallace circus lucky to have work, remember the depressions too most of the jobs. 1935 he joined the Cole Brothers and Clyde Beatty Circus. In the late 30s he joined the Mills Circus in England.. He was given the honor of performing for the Queen of Spain and Winston Churchill as well as other major players in the world. His big break came during the war 1942 when he met John Wringling North who hired him for ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. His sweeping of the spot light became world famous ending each show, during the show you might find Weary Willy in the stands playing to the audience, or he might be dusting off the animals or hanging up his laundry. As a child I remember going to the curcus not for the tight rope walker, or the lion tames, yet they were all great, but to see the then famous Weary Willy better known to me as Emmitt Kelly. He was with that circus for 14 years. He popularity spread to the broadway stage, tv and movies, as well as a mascot for the soon to move Brooklyn Dodgers. 1957 he joined the Shrine circus and made personal appearances worldwide. on March 28th 1979 Emmett Kelly Sr. Passed on to the big circus in the sky. Look up every once in a while and you just might see a clown sweeping the stars around.

Emmett Kelly's autobiography, written a few years before his death, containing much information about the creation and performance of his Weary Willie character.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Bill was born Sept.9th 1935, in a house that was then 125 years old. He enjoyed playing in the house due to its tin roof and the sound that was created when it rained. The house was just outside of Sharon Groves, KY. His first taste of the life as a magician came when he witnessed first hand a Medicine man show selling snake oil that was making lots of money from the sales, but his eyes were on the magicians and their tricks. From that moment he wanted to do that too. The Boley's were a poor family, barely able to make ends meet, they had none of the modern facilities of plumbing or electricity, but Bill had a battery operated radio with which he would tune in to listen to Edgar Bergan.
He saw some kids in school getting attention with the girls, because of some magic they performed and he wanted to get some of that himself, so without being trained he spent countless hours till he finally learned to perform some of those tricks himself. Well after learning to do some tricks he finally sent away to a catalog company to order a catalog to but some tricks. The small allowence he was given for lunch was soon saved and Bill went without lunch to get those tricks. Picture this little boy going to his mail box planting himself on the grass till the mailman came with a package just for him. Then the day came when a man and a monkey character were performing on the street getting tons of laughs and not wanting to be left out, ordereded a monkey puppet out of the catalog. Bill put on the show whenever anyone would come to the house, his popularity grew due to his antics with his monkey puppet. Bill met and befriended a magician named Bill Harris who gave him an Abbotts Magic Co. catalog and some other magic magazines.

In one of those magazines was an Ad by W S Berger, Bill wrote him and soon they became fast friends. Bill soon joined the IBV and began receiving the Oracale, so Bill began to correspond with other Vents who were the same age as he was...
Soon Bill landed a job working in a hospital, getting married and lived in the rooms provided by the hospital, soon his wife got a job in the hospital as well, soon Bill began doing some schools, churches, banquets and parties with his magic...soon saving enough money he bought a TV and what do you think one of the first shows he watched? Right Paul Winchell. His wife bought him a Jerry Mahoney vent figure. Bill bought the Winchell book 'Ventriloquism for fun and profit". Bill took the lessons to heart and his practice became a daily routine in front of his mirror. Magic became another venue for him and soon he was spending part of his paycheck each week purchasing magic tricks, and he joined the Brotherhood of magicians. While perfecting his magic and vent he would enter talent contests and either come in first or second with his vent. One of the prizes was a stint on a TV show, which he was asked to become a regular. Soon it was time to get a figure somewhat larger then his Jerry Mahoney, he did, through the Maher Studios, his new figure had 8 movable features, his first Freddy. He got himserlf in the papers for a few different publicity stints such as running for Sheriff, joining the Lions Club, and yet another with Freddy holding his new born baby.

Hey wait Where's Freddy? Freddy was kidnapped, a publicity opportunity was presented him that of the kidnapping. Someone actually stole him and the case out of Bills car and left a ranson note. The wire service picked up on it, reaching papers as far away as New York, infact this story was on the front pages for a few weeks and the kidnappers got a change of heart and threw the case out of the car with Freddy inside in front of a radio station.

Soon Bill was wrestling professionally under the name Charvac in 1958-9, he continued working at the hospital at night and doing his magic and vent during the day.. In 1963 Bill and his first wife divorced and he remarried in 1964... A new theme park opened Kaintuck Territory and Bill got a position there in the summer while doing his school shows during the school season. He did some big name stars of country MC'ing on weekends.

1975 was the first year that Vent Haven Museum held its convention at the Drawbridge Hotel in Ft Mitchell KY and of course Bill was one of the many professionals to attend. 4 years later he was voted Ventriloquist of the year, he was approached by carnival cruise lines to perform for the lines and he excepted. It began with a 2 week stint, turning into a month, then 3 and finally 12 years, working the cooler months and the warmer months he did his schools and the theme park.

Another divorce came upon Bill and while he was performing on the cruise ship, he met and fell in love with Charlene. But she lived too far away for a romance so Bill thought it was over, done, till an agent landed him a job at the Iowa State Fair. The same state Charlene lived in, so while in Iowa, she got him a lot of gigs and that romance turned into marrage.

Soon with the aches he was getting in his feet Bill went to visit a doctor, he had some small growth trimmed away and went back to work, but when getting back home Charlene took him to the emergency room , gangrene had set in, so the doctor had to remove 1/3 Bills right foot. The next year and 1/2 Bill spent bed ridden. He was in a lot of pain and took a lot of medication. In the spring of 1997 he began having serious heart problems. He was very weak and had 4 serious blockages. While hospitalized he recorded what was to become his biography.

In October, Bill held his first annual Bill Boley Magic & Vent Event. The first event was very tiring on him. Bill did a community show to pay for the use of the recreation center which was his first show in a year and a half. Once again, Bill started performing and for the next 2 years despite a few set backs it looked like Bill was going to have some good years ahead of him.
In 2000 Bill's condition worsened. He again began having some heart problems and his strength just wasn't there. He still did a bit in his shop, but not like the previous years and Charlene said that he never talked about performing anymore.

In October, Bill hosted his 4th Annual Bill Boley Magic & Vent Event. He was weak, but rested up the day before so he could attend the night before dinner with everyone at the local Shoney's and be ready for Saturday. Bill had a great time and pruchased still more stuff for his collection. Sunday morning everyone was invited to come to his home to visit the shop and see the Dummyden.

Bill was back in the hospital for the last time on December 11, 2000 and passed away on December 17, 2000 at 8:30 in the morning. Bill Boley was laid to rest on December 20, 2000 at the Green Hill Memorial Gardens in Hopkinsville, Kentucky

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


N J: Just a few moments time out to wish all the puppets out there and their ventriloquists partners a very H A P P Y- T H A N K S G I V I N G
JellyBean: To all... and to all a good night (picking up the moment NJ stops)

N J: Wait a moment thats from a christmas song
JellyBean: Then how about G-D- B L E S S -U S- E V E R Y O N E (shrugging shoulders)

N J: Wait a cotton picken moment here thats from.... (looking at JB sternly)
JellyBean: Snow White and The Turkey Dinner (jumping right on NJ's last word)

N J: No No its a very famous Christmas Carol
JellyBean: Oh yeah! Carol Channing (lookng all around at the aud. then at someone directly )

N J: Hey were supposed to be good and nice its the holiday season
JellyBean: I can be nice for $50 bucks (smart aleckie wiggle)

N J: Now stop that JellyBean!! Can't you be like me? (now upset with JellyBean)
Jellybean: Nope (looks NJ up and down)

N J: No!! (firmly) Tell me, why not? (looking him right in the eye)
Jellybean: Because I can't be good for nothing. (pulls back and looks him in the eye)

Sunday, November 23, 2008


The birth of the castle as we see it today began in 1961, by Milton Larsen, a writer from the NBC-TV Truth Or Consequences, Milt met with the then owner of the former mansion, Thomas O. Glover, to talk over arrangements. Milton's late father a recognized magician, William W. Larsen Jr., always wanted to build a club strictly for magicians. So the task was before them to turn a rundown apartment building into its former glorious state. About a year and a half later January of 1963 the doors opened. Today 4 decades after those doors opened, The Academy of Magical Arts calls it home.

The rooms in the castle are as follows:

The Palace of Mystery, the largest theatre in the castle showcasing stage magic and grand illusion. The Houdini Seance Room, this is held for a selected few of 10-12 persons at a time, where Harry Houdini was known to appear to a chosen few. Here a party of 10-12 can enjoy a 5 course dinner as well as the seance. The castle has five dining rooms. The library, one of the most extensive collections of magic and illusion gathered from the five corners of the earth (how's that possible?) A bar named for W. C. Fields, who began his career as a juggler magician. Albert Pillar Theatre, the academy of magical arts classroom, where as a beginner, intermediate or advanced magician can hone his craft. Close-up gallery, where magicians provide close-up magic to the chosen few. The Grand Salon, the grand staircase, where you will find a life-sized painting of one of the founders, Milton Larson. Invisible Irma's Room, a piano room, with the ghost of Irma playing the piano upon your request. The museum, a stage-sized magic and illusion room. Another pub, called the Hat in the Hare. These are the rooms that fill the refurbished mansion. Hope you enjoyed your tour. Let's move on to some more history.

To enter the portals of this castle you must be a member, with a membership card, follow all rules and regulations, and they are strictly enforced. There are dress codes which also must be followed. To make arrangemnets for resevations to dine here you again must be a member and show your card and make those reservations one week in advance. Have a good appetite to dine here, to enter the restaurant cost $20 M-TH-$25 on Fri-Sat per person Sat and Sun Brunch is $15. This is relaxed attire no coat or tie required, but no shorts or sandles either, and those under 21 are welcome. The castle hosts 5 shows in three theaters. Be sure to plan time to explore the art and architecture. Ghosts may arrive as early as 5PM and the castle closes at 1pm. Wanna stay over night at the castle they will make arrangements for you, but be aware of the Piano playing ghost at midnight.

Most of us like a little libation before and during the show, the Hat and The Hare provides that, found in the dungeon of the castle, but if you fear the dungeon there are other watering holes through out the castle, as described above.

The Academy of Magical Arts is the water mark of all Magic around the world. There are a few types of membership to the academy, A Membership, which helps to enhance the knowledge of the world of magic, Junior Membership, given to the younger magician 13-21, they have meetings once a month and have access to the castle where they learn from classes and lectures from some of the most prominate names in the world of magic they perform at the annual Future Stars of Magic, to be a member you must audition. Another membership is the Honorary Lifetime for World famous Magicians who have contributed to the advancement of the academy. Then there is the Associate Membership for those amatuers or friends of magicians who just like the atmosphere of the castle or what magic stands for. Who must be approved by the board. Then there are the Magicians Membership for active magicians, still practicing their craft, as a career or hobbyist, have auditioned before the membership reviewing board. Currently there are over 2500 members living in 25 countries who fit into this category, remember this catagory also includes historians, producers, directors, writers and inventors...

A little more history of the founders, William Larsen was a prominent attorney who was the co- founder of Sphinx magazine and the Ginii which became the most respected in the world. His love for magic was so strong that he gave up his Law practice to take his family on the road as the 'Larsen Family of Magicians'. During WW2 Bill Sr bought the Thayer Magic Co. and opened the Thayer Studio of Magic. In 1951 he formed the Academy of Magic Arts and Sciences. If you had a subscription to the magazine you had instant membership to the academy. For the next few years the academy bestowed fellowhip and recognition to magicians around the world. Bill passed away in 1955 taking with him the academy. Mrs Larsen carried on the Ginii magazine. To carry on from after the building of the castle , Milt was building a clubhouse for magicians...The rebuilding of the academy was in forward motion and put into lifetime presidency was William Jr. All the subscribers of the Ginii were made members automatically. Today that membership is 5000+ strong worldwide. I hope you enjoyed this tour as well as I did and If you are in California make it a point to visit the castle. I am sure you will be glad you did..........


This article was written by Mitchell Ashley for the Converging network, I hope you find it as amusing as I have.
Joe Biden's kind of been left in the dust as Obama's begun putting together his cabinet team. So, I thought I'd put up this little post to brighten all of our days. One of the funniest comedians I like is a ventriloquist Jeff Dunham. His main puppet is an old crotchety guy named Walter. Walter likes to say it like it is, not holding back much. Kind of like...ah... Joe Biden, and he looks like Biden

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Just say the word 'clown' to a kid and smiles as wide as an ocean come across their faces...Many have run off to join circuses, just because they wanted to be a clown, some have been very successful some have made very big mistakes. But some of you have grown up and missed that chance, but have you. Your not ded and you still have that desire to make kids laugh till it hurts. Your not alone, they are many many who still have that same burning yearning need, its awful how much it hurts to want something so bad but you let it slip away...DON'T LET IT HAPPEN. Where would this world be without the clowns who have made us laugh when we were growing up, those who were in the circuses, the clowns who turned into comediand and visa versa...It use to be that every person who dreamed of becoming a clown also dreamed of attending the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Clown College. This was one of the greatest clown schools in the world, it no longer exist, becase we have enough clowns to stock all the circuses, or do we?

Because this school closed doesn't mean there are other schools to learn in, like Mooseburger Clown Camp, even an on line clown school and the California clown school.
Self taught clowns are also out there, they have read books and learned the craft. You can go to your local library and request books on how to be a clown, you can also go to your local book stores and request your very own copy, no matter you can learn to teach your self how to be a clown. What Skills are needed? Many different clowns focus on different skills, like balloon art, magic, juggling and ventriloquism. You will need to take lessons in acting, dancing as well as speech to enhance your skills...

A clown constantly gets their mettle tried, remember one very important thing, kids are not always nice, they will try your spirit. But remember one thing always 'you must be nice to them . Its not easy to be a clown, its demanding hard work. Even if you are dealing with a bratty kid. You must smile and keep the show going... on with the show.

Ok on with the show, who are you? Whats your persona, Do you have a name and a personality, well its time to choose onme. Choose one that is catchy, one that is funny, like SLOPPY POPPY the hobo clown, SILLY DILLY the silly clown, WILLY NILLIE the sad clown. Choose your costume or better still make your own, if you choose to buy one there are many magic and costume shops where you can select the outfit that suits your persona and alter it to make it perfect. OOOPs less we forget the clown face, the make up.. what will you look like? Come up with a style that is you but have lots of fun go to the extreme. .

Ok lets go to work, remember those skills you've chosen to perfect well lets put them to the task, loosen up and relax, slapstick, pratfalls, whistles, horn blowing, try some amusing banter, a wheeze, a froggy voice, you make the choice. Keep your program in the theme of your clown persona. If you have chosen to be a clumsy clown and you do juggling, you’ll want to drop things a few times, for example. Developing a program will help you to remember your skills and your best acts.

Getting out there in front of the kids for some is the hardest part of being the clown, but start small, family or your kids friends, and the kids in the neighborhood will do just fine to begin. See what sort of reaction you get from them. What worked and what didn’t? Learn from them, they are gonna be your barometer, they will laugh at some stuff and not at others, remember which and make a mental not and when you do your act again, omit and replace and constantly do that till you have a well worked routine. Work your way up to the bigger groups as you hone your skills and perfect your routine. Offer to do free shows at places like the library, hospital and children’s homes. As you become more comfortable with your act you can start to advertise your services. You may even find that you will get a few paying jobs from the free shows you put on while developing yourself. Always make sure you have a few business cards or flyers with you just in case.

After you have done all this, you can call yourself a bona fide clown. It is a long, hard road to become a clown but if you have the dedication and dream to become a clown, it will seem more like fun than work.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


A scupter and wood carver who specializes in the worlds best Vent Dummys. Today he is known for his big head one of a kind Dummys. From age 9-17 he was a professional ventriloquist. Some of his acting credits were as the side kick to Conan the Barbarian on TV, in 1998 or you might remember him in 2002 Legend Of The Phontom Rider a movie he wrote and starred in. Or as a guest role on Walker, another TV show.Robert is well remembered for his Australian Croc a funny croc who need not speak a work, but just by the way he looks around and behaves, makes him extremely funny.

The first figure he owned was a plastic Charlie McCarthy doll, he wasn't happy with the face so he began to charge the characteristics. When he turned 16 someone ordered a dummy from him so he cast his first dummy from fiberglass.

Edgar Bergen made a guest appearance on Romper Room and guess what, Robert was on that show as part of the kids group, it was love at first sight...
Soon fiber glass took a back seat to his one of a kind wood carvings, this way each dummy was unique, Roberts feelings about this is that when the Ventriloquist takes the stage he brings with him something no one else has seen before.
At the age of 17 Robert joined the Navy, when his time in the Navy was through he found himself in California, he did what most good looking guys do he tried his hand at acting, well he did more then try, he found success, but not just actihe also found success at casting, producing and writing. He played a good guy at the beginning but once he was cast as Conans sidekick, he got roles as a bad guy and enjoyed it because he got a chance to play with all the mechanical toys.

He begins each character with 14 planks, then makes its shape, based on the discription the client gives him, he shapes the head and gets the feel for that head. Smataleck types might have the nose turned up.. but not till the head is finished does anyone know what its going to look like, not even Robert. He has no set rules to his creations, not set guide lines, he doesn't set out to build thetypical Jerry Mahonewy style, his clients eather speak with him about the temperment or character of the puppet they want or write a few sentences as to discription, and Robert goes to work."The look is exaggerated there's good reason for that. Kids and even grownups are very apprehensive about a ventriloquist puppet when it comes on stage, partly because of their reputation as being evil … the demonic possessed puppet. It even goes back to Egyptian times when they were called belly talkers, and they were always considered witches. So you have a barrier to cross in the first five minutes to get the audience comfortable with the character. My theory is that once you walk up on the stage with one of my characters, the audience already knows the story of the figure ... it's in the carving. It's already funny, so you don't have to go through that buffer zone, and you're already into your act. And kids aren't afraid of the big head, it reminds them of Saturday morning cartoons!"
Sculpting is more the feeling Robert wants then carving, when creating the characters personality. Sculpting can always be altered. Using a product called Magic Sculpt, he feels he can make the characters a little more in-depth than he can with wood.
Sketching is a rarity with Robert, he pulls the figure out of the wood by carving down into it. He uses a Fordham rotary tool to get the basic shape, but then goes to a Dremel for the detail. And each piece is already purchased before he starts. Though he loves working with ventriloquists, about 80% of his work goes into private collections. And many of his customers want whatever he comes up without any input.
"I'm fortunate right now to have a known body of work. People will say, I get your next piece and put a deposit down ... no matter what it is. I like the freedom to let the character develop itself. The more restrictions they put on it, the more generic it becomes. I can do that, I used to be a celebrity caricaturist [working in clay], but I tell them they're taking the fun out of it. When it's done, they say, it is more than I expected and exactly what I needed."
The final step in creating the dummy is painting. You can still change a character's features, Robert noted, with paint. Robert described how characters don't often feel right when he's done carving, but adding paint can change the look and bring a character to life. Which brings him to the best part of the process ... being finished. Like much creative activity, the work can be agonizing and painful, but he loves the results.
For a dedicated, professional ventriloquist, Robert offers a deeply discounted price. The usual range for his puppets is five to eight thousand dollars.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Ad libbing means you make it up as you go along. If an actor leaves the written script and adds their own words. Its short for the latin phrase ad libitum...meaning without constraint. As in performing without a script would be ad libbing, making it up as you go along, catching it on the fly. As Webster puts it--to improvise--which means you have to do something not prepared or scripted. If you find yourself at a loss for words you should come up with something preferringly funny, or even gestures. If your job calls for being in front of audiences most of the time, an ad-libbing skill would come in handy every now and then in tight situations. It means to make up words, phrases, whole lines, even up to or surpassing 6-8 mins in your routine. If you forget your lines in a program or show. The main concept is to be on your toes at all times and ready for anything, like this, should it occure.
First let me clear some misnomer. Comedians do not walk out on stage open their mouths and say the first thing that comes to them, whether it be banter with the aud or a comedic routine.
Comedians do not create their act 100% as they go along. The art is not to make it up on the spot, but rather to make it appear as if everything is made up on the spot. Here's one way to do that.

Sometimes an audience member will ask a question or yell out something and you just happen have a bit in your routine scheduled for later, but that fits in with their comment. Jump immediately to it and do that part of your prepared act. If you have another chunk of material that fits in, do it as well to boost laughs even if you hadn't planned on using it. So if you have a routine that is set, upset it to fit the time. You might have to drop out some of your planned routine to make this work, but you look better for it. And it keeps you in the alotted time frame. With ad libbing loop back to where you left off. Must say that this takes experience, don't attempt this unless your well prepapred to do so.

This sets the pros apart from the beginners, no not the ability to make it up as you go along but to be able to dig into your routine where ever and when ever and be able to resume the routine by working your ad lib to smoothly get back. Its called "In The Moment" and a great comedian Lenny Bruce was responsible for creating this style.

When its possible, answer the audience's questions and ad lid your way back, the important thing here is to respond to the audience. When you get an unplanned comment from an listener and you can respond with a memorized, but appropriate chunk, audience members will leave the venue thinking you are a comedy genius. Because they saw you "improvise" a one, three, six, whatever minute bit in response to an on-the-spot-comment. You had to be "making it up" cause how could you "know" that audience member was gonna say that? The important thing to remember here is no comedian MAKES UP EVERYTHING ON THE SPUR OF THE MOMENT!!Not even the most seasonned...

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Placing a smile on someone's face is worth a lot, both in monetary and artisitic reward, to turn that smile into a laugh is priceless. Oh and before I forget its also healthy for you. Ok where do we begin? Well guess what there are no set rules, suprise. The market is insatiable for skits, dialogue and scripts, because there aren't enough good writers to go around.

There are easy ways, known as fall down slapstick, dressing in a clown costume, big red nose and all, wet someone with a seltzer bottle, or watering flower, but wait, don't you think its just too much work to achive the simpliest thing, a smile a laugh. So then what else can we do, guess again wild minds of the dum dum world....lets write our own stuff, what stuff you might ask oh wisdom genious' of the wonder world. Lets write our own Comedy.

Comedy is dificult but rewarding, comedy is personal. What makes you laugh might not make me laugh, but then again I laugh at just about anything, at this point I am laughing about this material.... Anyone can be funny occasionally, but to always be on target, can be a handfull, wow!! a hand full? Of What? Putting your mind to the task can be most rewarding. Fresh material is always being searched for, wonder if they go out in the dark with flash lights? Imagine 20 or 30 guys out at night with flash lights searching for the joke that could have gotten away.

Jokes fall into various catagories, here they are: Exaggeration, Underplaying, Pun, Twisted clich
Reverse gag, Word association, Truthfulness, The picture /Visual gag, The self-insult, Illogical logic, Insult and Combinations.

Next time you watch a comedy show, write down what makes you laugh, I did and it requires a tomb to collect it all, I will do some of them, well maybe in another writing... look at the catagories and see which ones they fit into. A joke can fit into more than one catagory. A joke must have the audience's undivided attention. It should be easy for them to understand, the audience must be able to devour your material easily, if they have to struggle with the stuff they lose concentration and the comedy disappears.

Where do jokes come from, its a combination of 2 ideas that relate to a point. Think about a few of your favourite one-liners you'll see there are two though. Your mind begins with one idea, which makes you think of another idea and when you find the right combination, WHAMO!! joke meister you done did it again.
The first part is a cliche, the second the punch line is an unexpected interpretation that's realistically literal. When your audience is expecting one thing and you give them something else, the twist, this usually makes them laugh.

Jokes don't always come that easily, but there are many thousands of older ones to choose from, try altering a few that already exist. Take the idea of a joke then reassign it to another issue or venue so that it won't be familiar as the same joke. It's a perfectly acceptable way of coming up with new material. It also provides different views and tangents of where you could spring other ideas.

Now you have an adequate amount of jokes lets put them into a routine, Put them in some sort of order so that the continuity flows, therefore getting you easily from one gag to another. Without going smoothly from one joke or idea to another is like climbing up a ladder and missing the rung, OOOPSIE!! Get the picture? Smile your on KOOKOO camera. Writing gag routines is very difficult, try to make your minds eye see things in a funny way, then write what you see. It becomes easier if you have a recognizable style, if your character is recognizable, which means don't mix up the character with different styles of jokes, unless its meant to be that way. Make your material suit the character, not the character suit the material. If you are a comedian that doesn't have a distinctive style then create one. Anything that makes your comic different from others will help to create his/her own character and style.
Instructions Things You’ll Need: Notebook for ideas Draw Inspiration from Others
Step 1:Watch and read as many comedy sketches as you can . You'll learn what's funny and see what's been done before.
Step 2:Dissect what you found funny about a certain sketch and why it worked for you. Talk to others about what worked for them.
Step 3:Bounce ideas off people around you, or brainstorm with a group.

Step 1:Write down anything that makes you laugh or smile for a week, then pick the best three ideas from your list.
Step 2:Start one page for each idea and write the title at the top.
Step 3:Jot down words, connections or anything you can think of for each subject until your three pages are full. Begin your draft by writing on the subject that had the most ideas.

Start the Writing Process
Step 1:Select an original setting for your sketch, not the obvious. Choose only one location.
Step 2:Work backwards. Start with the punch line at the ending and work out how to get there.
Step 3:Limit the characters to a maximum of three.
Step 4:Write enough so that you have about two minutes' worth of material. There should be a big laugh approximately every 15 seconds of the sketch.
Step 5:Describe the action in detail, and give your characters real names to help with the creative process.

Try Well-Loved Formats
Step 1:Escalate an idea by starting off small and ending in chaos.
Step 2:Juxtapose new with old, big with small, rich with poor.
Step 3:Place your characters in dangerous or improbable situations.
Step 4:Play with language, lists or funny-sounding words.
Q: How many xxxxx does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: The answer revolves around taking stereotypical traits of the group you are referring to, and applying them to the task in hand.
Thus we end up with something like:
Q: How many Israelis does it take to change a lightbulb?
A; Six. Four to storm the room and take control of it, one to forcibly eject the old bulb, and another one to screw in the new one.
Focussing on the Israeli tendency to direct action we use that to change the bulb. A couple of things to note here. Is it lightbulb or should it be light bulb. You say tomato ... I just prefer the former.
The second thing is the 'screw' variation.
Q: How many xxxxx does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
This variation brings in extra sexual connotations, although they still seem to be fairly limited. So this isn't the stuff of the Comedy Store or your regular Open Mike nights. These type of jokes are the sort you tell your friends, or pass by email. However, it is extremely difficult to unearth new ones, hence my blog quest. One angle I am using is turning the joke into more than just a one or two line answer and actually making it into a mini sketch. As there are no hard and fast rules, I consider that's fair. However, I am seeking the perfect one line answer to a new lightbulb joke, and that's my ultimate goal.This one already existed but I like the play on words.
Q: How many mystery writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Two. One to screw it almost all the way in, and the other to give it a surprising twist at the end. If I can come close to that sort of smart answer I'll be doing OK.
Are you beginning to see the picture..............................

What do I talk about on stage?
How do I get started developing a comedy act?
How can I easily remember my comedy material?
How can I get rid of nervousness before I get on stage?
How can I improve my delivery?
If you have already been involved in stand-up comedy for awhile, you may also have important questions like:
How can I make my comedy material funnier?
How can I add more punchlines to my comedy material?
How do I come up with better jokes?
How can I improve my timing?
How do I handle hecklers?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Some folks have a wider vocal range than others. I have a high to a very low range while others have a VERY LIMITED range. It is your vocal box that determines that. Just check that out with your friends and see what I mean. Most women cannot reach the bass voice a man can, likewise a man cannot reach a high voice as women can. There are exceptions.Wilma Swatrz has an unusual female range. You have to hear her in person to hear it. That is why in singing groups there are various singing ranges within the group. Right?

I started out at a very young age. You do know that a young person has a different vocal range than an older person. It changes in a boy around the teenage period. So my childhood vent was mostly with a boy dummy. When I was in mid life I got Elvira and developed a middle aged woman's voice a well as a young boy's voice. Milton Fried, try as he could, could not develop another voice other than his own. His boy scout did not REALLY have a boy scout voice. I tried to help him at the convention but to no avail.

I do hope to be able to come to the 2009 convention. We'll see.

Bob Ladd, Elvira Nosegay and Bobby Splinters
The Jordontown Hillbilly

I am agreeing with you... I am saying basically that anyone who wants to practice and work at being a vent can achive that goal, weather they achive it is intirely up to them, yes the voice must fit the character and if its something of being un vent worthy then that person is and was in your friends case un prepared, I don't like to criticise those who can't defend themselves....I have the Maher Course, as well as Winchells dvd and Book, Steve Taylors course, various tapes and many many books on vent but still coincider myself unprepeared, I am still a novice, I study vent like a course go to my BLOG and and enjoy all that I have included. I am over 61 with vent as a hobby for now, when I retire from working full time I will be able to dedicate more time and energy.. I will be attending Vent Haven conVENTion in 09 maybe we can discuss this more in detail then, always open to new and better ways to build a better mouse trap...
N J---
Milton Fried had a boy scout figure and the voice of the figure was Milton's not a boy. I don't call that a good ventriloquist my dear friend. A boy's voice is not that of a 40 year old man! Sorry! If you call that ventriloquism then you better get the Clinton Detweiler's course and practice up.

Suppose Edgar Bergen gave Charlie McCarthy or Mortimer Snerd a voice similar to his, would you consider that good? No sir! And he gave a female voice to Effie Klinker.

My Elvira Nosegay has a female voice, and Bobby Splinters a young boy's voice even though I am 80 years old. Not many can do that! (I don't like to brag so I do not...only privately to YOU)

No,not EVERYONE can be a ventriloquist! Likewise, not everyone can be a comedian. Some folks can sing and others are so flat that Nelson Eddy turns over in his grave!

Bob Ladd, Elvira Nosegay and Bobby Splinters
The Jordantown Hillbilly

Just go to a Vent Haven ConVENTion and you will see why I made that statement. One dear friend of mine, now dead, spoke in his voice and could not do another voice try as he might...period. His name, Milton Fried. Nice guy but no ventriloquist. There have been others who attempted but failed MISERABLY! I have been to about 28 conventions there so I have seen all kinds of attempts. Some very brutal and embarrassing. I saw Jeff Dunham when he was just in high school and I knew immediately that he would become a STAR!Bob Ladd, Elvira Nosegay and Bobby SplintersThe Jordantown HillbillyI will be there comming this July I am not the calaber of a Jeff or Terry, and 'maybe he didn't want to do another voice', mimicry is mimicry Vent is Vent. But at my age I don't strive to be more then i should be, I have done well in my life and have no complaints, but if I should put a smile on some kids faces once in a while that would be reward enough for me, I enjoy the world of Ventriloquism and I have a nice BLOG that people from all over the world has gone to visit, so I did what I set out to do with that as well, If in the short time that I can dabble in Vent, well then bravo for me. If you speak of the higher calaber of vent that is difficult for some one over the age of 60 to achive, well then I agree, but if you are saying not everyone with the desire can strive to achive well I beg to differ, again I say if you work at it anyone can become a vent. Practice Practice PracticeN J


Do we ever grow up, aren't we all still kids deep down inside, well the audience wants to believe in the illusion, so have the rest of your partner's body move, not just his or her head. Have him or her shift around while you speak. If your partner doesn't move, he or she will seem unrealistic to the audience.
Use a mirror while practicing to see what you're doing wrong or right. Ask your friends and family for feed back on your skit, the aud wants to laugh, so give them something to laugh at, the illusion should never be broken by either you or your character. Play smart.
One of the major ingredients in your cake mix should be lots of passion, determination, and optimism in order to create the illusion of life. so get ready on your mark , get set GO!!!!!


Ventriloquism is the art of making an inanimate object seem to come alive. For those on a budget who wish to learn the art of Vent, learning to speak without lip movement-
place your finger over your mouth like your trying to tell someone to sush. This will tell you when and if your lips move. recite the alphabet. Wait didn't you feel your lips move on some letters, yes you did, they were "b," "f," "m," "p," "q," "v," and "w" To assist you in preventing your lips from moving when saying words with these letters in them, you will have to substitue other letters. For "b," say "d" or "geh." For "f," say "th." For "m," say "n," "nah," or "neh." For "p," say "kl." For "q," say "koo." For "v," say "th." And for "w," say "ooh". This might seem funny to you when you first begin, because it just does, but by placing the emphasis, the stress on the words on the syllables that don't contain these letters, the words will begin to sound natural.
The tone of your voice should also be changed, does it change to fit the character or do you change the voice then get the character? That is up to you. My choice is to have the voice fit the character. A convincing "vent" voice must be very different from yours. Listen to yourself speak. Tape your voice, play it back, do you have a high pitched, low pitched, do you speak loudly or softly? Fast or slow? Work on making your characters voice contrast with your own. To change your voice, you must use different functions in you body. For example, notice that when you speak and pinch your nose, your voice changes.force air through your nose, not your mouth, or forcethe sound from deeper in your throat, or the diaphragm, pretend your gonna cough, your muscles tighten, now try to talk, you'll get a deeper raspier sound, depending on the sound and personality your trying to produce.
Is your character smart and witty, speak quickly, without stuttering. Is the character
unintelligent or slow, have him or her speak in a low, slow voice. The voice you select helps to amplify your characters personality and helps bring him or her to life.
Bring your new friend to life. Decide what kind of partner you want. You must always make sure that his or her personality is different from your own, to give the illusion that you are not the same person. If you are a kind, responsible person, make your partner a mischievous jokester. Just choose something that will contrast your personality.
Try to find a dummy that will fit that character. For example, if your imagined character is a young, energetic boy, don't pick a dummy that's an old man or a young lady. Make sure to pick the right partner for your needs.
Convince yourself that your partner is completely alive. Once you've done this, it will be easier to convince an audience. Try to make sure that, from the moment you pick him or her up (take him or her out of his case, bed, etc.) and grab the controls, he or she is totally alive. Have him or her tell you stories about what he or she has been up to, where he or she goes to school, etc. Even though you are technically making this up, it will help you believe that there is life in your partner.
Animate your partner properly. There are many different control, a good average one that is excellent for beginners is one with a moving head. The saying no string attached is very important here, they are toys.. you want one where you put your hand in the back, grab a stick attached to the head, or a soft puppet made of latex where your hand operates the head and mouth. When its your characters turn to talk be sure the mouth moves on each sylable ( Joey says'silly bull'). Keep your partner animated, that means moving, but becareful here to, you don't want the character moving needlesslyit looks silly, unless you want it to seem that way. Don't forget to keep him/her moving when you speak as well, its natural that when someone speaks and someone listens, they move. This will make the audience think that he or she is really listening. If he or she is young and energetic, have his or her head move quickly and shake while he or she is speaking. If he or she is an older person or a sleepy child, have his or her head move slowly and not very much. Be sure that the head isn't moving too much while he or she speaks, or this will distract the audience from the actual speech. Try to observe real people as they speak, and have your partner mimic those movements.
Have fun, a major factor in being a good ventriloquist is having passion.Practice..Practice.. practice the art. Practice every day and eventually you will be a fantastic ventriloquist. You don't just practice by sitting and speaking with your partner alone. Play games with your partner, watch TV with him or her, bring him or her to family get-togethers and have others meet him or her. Whether you are taking up ventriloquism for fun or for a career, make sure you are having fun with it. The illusion of life doesn't come easily, you must believe in your friend to bring him/her to life.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Now anybody with just a little common sense knows that you buy your skit from the skit salesman on the corner of lexington and 48th street, your lip control comes from the lip meister at the lip factory, the dummy manipulation comes from hanging around with hum hum hum other dummys, following me so far, sync'ing your lips comes from the sink or the bath tub, and syllables comes from silly bulls (ventrikolists) , I do agree that saying funny stuff takes some doing, first there must be more then just air rushing through your wind tunnel... all of this should take the average maniac some time to put together, but don't give up your full time career yet. Anyone can be a vent, ( not one that just blows air.) Good luck... but most of all this is fun so have fun and if your serious... STOP!!!!N J

Friday, November 7, 2008


Ventriloquist give away their best material to a hunk of wood, or a bag of rags and you, why you play second banana. Now and again we are blessed with the likes of a Jeff Dunham, or a Terry Fator, were lucky we have them both at the same time, which is best or is either one better then the other?

"Learning to speak without moving the lips is learning to speak an entirely new way," "Anyone can learn ventriloquism, and just like learning any skill, the dedication to accomplish the task is in direct correlation with the ability to learn. ... The more you practice, the better you are and the quicker you learn."
The sync'ing the mouth to every syllable, the manipulation of the dummy or the puppet has to be in accord to the topic. After you've learned all of that, the work has just begun.
you might speak using a red-haired, freckle-faced boy dummy named Jelly Bean Joey or an old story teller named Elliot.
You have to master the technique first, You've practiced many long hours, all fun hours, now it's time to take your open out to the public to introduce him to the people and the people to your puppet. But wait, you now have to find a voice that's going to be comfortable to both you and fit the character, is it going to be nasally, high tone, lower, goofy or falsetto among many others, its time to chooce the voice.There is one major advantage to being a ventriloquist, your character through you can say things that could land you in jail if you said it yourself. For example you could bring your figure to work and see your boss in a dress that looks like some one did it and ran, if you said something to her inregards to that you could be searching for a new job, but since your figure said it it would be laughed at and possibly shrugged off, as part of a funny routine. Remember people will always forgive the puppet, but not you.
She is also featured in "I'm No Dummy," a new documentary about the history of ventriloquism. Before there was Jeff and Terry, there were Edgar so who is or was the best, do some research and see for your self.
Ventriloquism dates back at least as far as the ancient Greeks. Read my article on the history of vent and where it origionally dates from It often was linked with the occult, and practiced by mediums and soothsayers who could enthrall audiences by carrying on a "dialogue" with a disembodied voice.
In 18th and 19th century America, ventriloquists on the vaudeville and medicine show circuits often promoted themselves as magicians who demonstrated their prowess by speaking in multiple voices. Edgar Bergan was the first to use comedy trading jokes between figure and ventriloquist around 1937, when ventriloquist Edgar Bergen got his own radio show with dummy Charlie McCarthy.
A ventriloquist achieves the desired effect of a talking dummy through the inability of the human ear to keep pace with the eye. Try to listen for the direction an ambulence is comming from the next time your at a light and hear it, our ears are not good receivers of sound, but when our eyes assist our ears we can at that time know the direction... same works with ventriloquism..."That's why, in your car, when you hear an ambulance, you have to look around.
There are at least five sounds that cannot be made with the lips closed, including the b and p. W in water -- if you're going to say the word water, it's a very visible movement of the lips. The vent would substitute an ooh ahh. He says o-ater very quickly so it sounds like water. As a substitute for the letter 'b,use a "distorted 'D' by flattening his tongue.
It's not enough to make a dummy talk. Both of you must be funny, charismatic and entertaining.
So get yourself a funny skit, learn your lip control and dummy manipulation, synch the lips to the sylables say some funy stuff and get out there and have some fun, really have some fun.

N Jay