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A Crash Course in Ventriloquism – When Talking to Yourself is Okay Part One

Learning ventriloquism is not hard. It will take a little bit of time and practice, though. The good news is the practice can be lots of fun. And when you hear an audience laughing along with you and your figure it will be worth all the effort.

When you start practicing vent, it can be helpful to hold a pencil or popsicle stick in your mouth when you’re talking for your puppet. If you lips move – the pencil falls out. Then you know you’re not quite doing it right. With practice you’ll be able to speak for your puppet and keep your lips perfectly still. This is what forms the illusion of ventriloquism.

Ventriloquist use to sit with their figures seated on their lap. Today, most vents have a stand where their puppets stand or sit. This makes it easier for the audience to see your figure and his actions. It’s best if you can be on an eye to eye level with your puppet.

When you’re starting out it’s best to limit your practice sessions to 20 minutes or less. This will keep you from straining your voice. After you’ve practiced for a week or two you can lengthen the practice sessions.

Your figures mouth should move with each syllable he speaks. Practice to make sure his mouth movements always synchronize with his voice.

When you’re talking, your puppet should look at you. He can also look at the audience or do a double take at what you’re saying. Some of the biggest laughs you’ll get with your puppet are with his actions, not just his words.

How to choose your material.

When you’re ready to perform you need an act or skit. There are a lot of books you can buy with pre-written skits. You can use these as a starting point. You might also want to read some books on comedy writing.

Writing your own routine.

Most comedy duo’s have a straight man and the funny guy who gets to deliver the punch lines. Watch old Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis movies to learn how this works. Abbott and Costello, and Laurel and Hardy worked the same way.

This set-up is true in vent also. Usually the vent is the straight guy and the figure gets the funny lines.

Formatting your act.

Start your routine with a quick joke. You want your audience to quickly have something to laugh about. This joke can often be at the expense of the vent. Don’t make your figure too mean. But he can be quirky or grumpy. No one is more grouchy than Jeff Dunham’s Walter figure. But people love him because everyone has an uncle or grandpa who acts like Walter. They can relate to him. He sometime says what people might be thinking but resist saying.

Props can also be good for laughs. When you pull your figure out of his case have him wearing some wild sunglasses or a weird hat. You’ll naturally ask him what’s going on and you have the perfect opportunity for him to have a funny comeback explaining his wild attire.

After a quick joke or two, you might want to have a longer more elaborate story. It can have a few jokes or funny lines in the middle. But build to a bigger ending joke.

Go to Crash Course Part Two.

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