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. Read more →
Becoming a ventriloquist isn’t hard, but there a few things you’ll need to learn. To create the illusion of life with your figure you have to be good at three things. Technique, material, and finding an interesting personality for your side-kick. If you master these three things you can entertain any audience.
The first thing you need to do is find a figure. Any figure that has a moving mouth will work for ventriloquism
You can choose a soft, foam puppet. These are available as people or as animals. If you’re working with preschool children, an animal is sometimes better. Shari Lewis started out with hard figures but switched to a simple sock puppet that we learned to love as Lambchop.
Another choice is the classic hard figure. This is what you think of when you remember Charlie McCarthy. Jeff Dunham uses a classic figure named Walter.
There was a time, not so long ago, that when people thought of ventriloquism they thought of Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen. If not them, it was Sheri Lewis and Lambchop. In other words, they thought ventriloquism was only in the past or for children only. Times have changed. If you’ve ever had an interest in ventriloquism now is the time to get in on the act.
Terry Fator recently won America’s Got Talent doing a unique ventriloquism act. His figure did imitations of performers such as Cher and Garth Brooks. There’s nothing like a turtle puppet named Winston singing “What a Wonderful World” in a dead on Kermit the Frog voice. Fator now has a million dollar contract for his Las Vegas show at the Mirage. Not bad for a “puppet act”. Terry’s act is family oriented and suitable for all ages.
You may have also heard of guy named Jeff Dunham. Dunham is known more as a comedian than a ventriloquist. He proves that you can do a comedy club act geared for adult audiences using ventriloquism. His most well-known side-kick, Walter, is a grouchy old man who’s liable to say anything.
Slappy is a fictional character created by R.L. Stine for the Goosebumps children’s series. He’s a ventriloquist dummy but he’s not your normal dummy. When the words, “Karru marri odonna loma molonu karrano”, are spoken he comes to life and wreaks havoc on all those around him. The words are written on a piece of paper that’s found in his jacket pocket. R.L. Stine, the author, has said, “I love writing Slappy because he is so rude.”
One thing is for sure, Slappy may be a ventriloquist figure, but he’s no dummy. He loves playing mean pranks and making it look like the child who owns him did it instead. Since no one else knows he’s alive everyone thinks it’s his owner making the rude comments. (This is usually the case with normal ventriloquist figures).
Slappy’s one of the most popular villains in the Goosebumps series. According to the books, he was carved from coffin wood by a sorcerer. In “Night of the Living Dummy” it’s revealed that the wood was cursed. Slappy also had a brother, Mr. Wood, who was carved from the same wood. When Mr. Wood was destroyed it made Slappy twice as evil and ruder than ever before. In another book, he had a brother named Wally, but this turned out to only be a dream. Read more →