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Wednesday, January 14, 2009


N Jay,
Here is a short biography. I am working on the picture.
I am retired from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services. Now I can spend more time doing what I love best: ventriloquism.

I have been a fan of ventriloquism since childhood when I would sit in front of the television, mesmerized as I watched Paul Winchell work his magic with Jerry Mahoney. At age 10, my parents gave me “Ventriloquism for Fun and Profit” by Paul Winchell and a Jerry Mahoney dummy. I performed at school functions and banquets for civic clubs and other organizations.

After high school, I pretty much dropped ventriloquism. I attended Virginia Military Institute and then went into the Army, where I didn't have a lot of time to pursue performing. During one move while I was in the military, my wife, Margaret, backed over Jerry Mahoney's head with the car, apparently an accident. I tease her about it all the time. She says, “What kind of idiot would leave a dummy in the driveway in the first place?”

In 1999 my fascination with ventriloquism was rekindled. I bought dummies, started attending the Vent Haven Convention and worked on my act. In 2004 I donated a kidney to my brother-in-law. With some audiences, I include the serious subject of kidney donation in my act in a lighthearted way: My figure says to me, “I guess he thinks about you every time he goes to the bathroom!”

I perform for school kids and residents of retirement homes, as well as church and civic groups. There are several retirement homes that have me back over and over and each time the audience is bigger because more residents have heard about my shows. The worst experience I have had occurred at a county fair. I was hired to perform between two bands. Half way through my show, the second band began tuning their instruments and drowning me out. They had an uncanny knack of hitting the loudest notes on my punch lines.
John Byrd

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