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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.

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