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Five Places to Find Ventriloquism Gigs

Learning ventriloquism is a fun, enjoyable hobby. But eventually you’ll want to find an audience.

It’s the only way to tell if your act is any good and to figure out ways you can improve.

Here are some ideas for places where you can share your love of ventriloquism with others.

  • Churches – If you already attend a church, this is a great way to get started. They’ll be thrilled for you to help with Sunday School, or Children’s Church. Make sure you find out what age you’ll be performing for.Churches will also pay for performers for special occasions. Your act obviously has to be squeaky clean in this venue. It’s also important to stay away from denominational differences. Stick with popular Bible stories or character building themes.
  • Preschools and daycares – When working with young children it’s sometimes better to use an animal style puppet. They’ll remember your fluffy bunny or silly puppy long after they’ve forgotten you. This age group has a short attention span so you’ll need to keep each skit short. Interactive things work well in this setting. Let them sing along with you and your puppet. Even better, have the puppet mess up the words so they can correct him. The love the chance to show off what they know.
  • Schools – To book programs in schools you have to have an educational theme show. It can involve reading, character building, or a particular subject such as math or history. It’s not easy to break into the school market but once you do you can make a full-time living at it if you’re willing to do two or three shows a day.
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history

A Brief History of Ventriloquism and the People Who Made a Living Talking to Themselves

There was a time when ventriloquism was considered evil. It was referred to as “belly talking”. People thought that the spirits of the dead were talking through the medium. Of course, it was really the medium using ventriloquism to fool others into believing in their “powers”. They were using what vents call the “distance voice” effect to make people believe they were hearing the voice of a departed loved one. Some people think the Witch of Endor in the Bible was actually a ventriloquist. From this interesting beginning the art of ventriloquism was born.

There are varied opinions as to when ventriloquism became an entertainment art.
Some say it started in Austria when Baron Von Mengen began using a small doll figure with a moving mouth. James Burns used vent to entertain crowds in the pubs of England.

Fred Russell is known as the “father of modern ventriloquism”. He and his figure, Joe, entertained in the theaters of London. His performances set the style for the ventriloquist acts we see today.

In 1900, L. Frank Baum published a book titled, “The Wizard of Oz”. The wizard was a ventriloquist. But since this was only mentioned in the book, not the movie, most people aren’t aware of this fact.

Vaudeville was the golden age of ventriloquism. Every theater in America had a vent with his wooden side-kick. The Great Lester and his side-kick Frank were vaudeville favorites.
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personality

Ventriloquism in Action – Creating a Personality for Your Dummy

The only way to successfully create the illusion of ventriloquism is to give your figure a distinct and interesting personality. To do this you’ll need to create a bio for your dummy.

Many ventriloquist side-kicks have been know for their smart-aleck attitudes. They can say things that their owners could never get away with. Walter, Jeff Dunham’s figure, is a grouchy old coot.

Here’s a list of things you need to know about your new side-kick.

  • Name:
  • Age:
  • What grade is he in?
  • If he’s an adult – what does he do?
  • Where is he from? This can make a big difference in how he talks. Does he have an accent?
  • Hobbies:
  • Likes:
  • Dislikes:
  • Family:

If you use a figure that’s a replica of a well know character, such as Slappy, you probably won’t want to try and make him a pleasant, sweet guy. It won’t seem believable.

But not all vent figures have to be wise-cracking dummies. Shari Lewis had great success with the sweet, mild-mannered, Lampchop. Jimmy Nelson and his dog puppet, Farfel, helped make Nestle a house-hold name.
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part1

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.
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part2

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

How to end your act.

Magicians have a rule – always end your show with your best trick or illusion. Singers do the same thing. If they’re known for a certain song they always save it for their big finale. You should make sure your act ends on your best joke. Try to always leave the audience laughing.

When you’re eventually doing a 30-minute show instead of just a 10 minute act, you’ll probably want to use more than one figure. For a 30-minute show you’ll need three or four different figures. It’s good to use a variety of characters. You might want to have one or two animal puppets as well as a child or older person puppet.

Be sure and vary the lengths of your acts. You might do a short five minute skit or song with an animal puppet. As we talked about above, use your best vent figure as your closing act. Your ending skit can be ten minutes or so with a few stories included.
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