Ask the Pro, Ventriloquist Bob Abdou – Walkarounds

ventriloquist central ask the pro with bob abdou

This week Bob writes about “walkarounds”.

Recently, there was a photo on Facebook of Mike Palma posing with his product “The Hipster”. and some people were asking me what I thought about it. The Hipster is a small ventriloquist performance table that attaches to your hip (hence the name) which is used for walk around gigs. That gave me the idea for this weeks topic: Walk around.

Some of my personal friends are masters at walk around: Chuck Field, Bob Shimer, Neale Bacon and Ron Scherer. You might be one of the masters yourself, or you know some others. Walk around entertainment can be fun, an easy moneymaker and a different kind of opportunity for the client. But it also has it’s challenges and drawbacks. Let’s discuss them, shall we?

What is so great about walk around is that you meet guests face-to-face and engage in a more personal conversations than a stage show. The conversations you have in walk around can give you lots of new material. You’ll be surprised what you and your puppet will come up with when you’re doing it! (Always remember to make sure you write down a funny bit whenever you get a second break in the show. You think you’ll remember, but it’s so easy to forget.) When you do enough walk around, you will learn how to ad-lib like the pros. And unlike a stage show, it’s ok repeat the same joke again and again at the same venue to different guests. Don’t think you have to come up with a new intro for every guest you meet.

When doing walk around, the puppet usually does all the talking for you which makes it more fun for everyone. Some people (remember, only ‘some’) love the personal attention they get. And when you find the people who do appreciate it, everyone can be entertained. You just have to show them you’re a pro by giving them the right amount of time and then move on to another guest. Walk around is also a great way to give your business card to people and actually make contact for getting future work.

Walk around is usually billed by the hour, so it is also a quick way to make some nice moolah. Walk around makes the time go fast at a party and the audience loves this new type of performing. Another great thing is that walk around can be done for almost any venue: Senior facilities, cocktail parties, banquet shows, store openings. You can either welcome people as they enter the room or walk around from table to table inside.

Some advice about doing walk around:

If a client is hesitant about having a stage show because they don’t want to stop a party, don’t have enough seats for an audience, etc., suggest walk around. Sometimes this will fit the bill and your clients will love you for it because it shows you want to make their party a success.

Whenever I do walk around I always let the client know that I will do about 20 minutes, take a short break, go back to performing, and then take another break during each hour. Performing walk around without a break for a full hour will take a toll on your feet, back and vocal cords. (It also gives the crowd a break.) This is important to remember because if you are booked for a three hour walk around, by the time the second hour arrives you will have no gas left to keep going. You will tire yourself out and it will show in your appearance, performance and manipulation.

In my opinion, it’s always best to have two or three puppets in your suitcase. That way you can walk around later with a different puppet and talk to the same folks again. They will usually welcome you just like they did the first time. (You will also know who to avoid.)

Back to the original topic, the Hipster works great for walk around. I love using it. It frees up my left arm to use and it’s not locked down holding up the dummy. And the audience doesn’t notice that the dummy is sitting on a level table connected to me. They’re usually too busy laughing at my jokes!

Walk around is a joy to do and it can be a great money maker if you have the guts to do it.If you think you are a shy person, walkaround will break you of this mold. Shyness and walkaround do not make a great couple.

Now for the ugly side of walk around:

If the crowd is small, walk around can be brutal. If the crowd doesn’t happen to be into the one-on-one attention and they ignore you when you approach them, walk around can be pathetic. If a child or adult screams “I don’t like puppets”, walk around can be embarrassing.

Walk around is best when it’s done in a large, noisy crowd where you can have short little interactions with a lot of different people. If there’s a small crowd, then everyone ends up listening to all the interactions and people are too self-conscious to interact much. Brutal.

If you approach a group that you want to entertain and none of them look at you, take this as a note that you are not wanted. If you try and force your puppet on a non-interested group, you will only make matters worse for you and them. Pathetic.

A lot of times a parent will try and force your puppet on their crying child. When this happens, just explain to the parent that you will come back later while the child catches their breath and then walk away. There’s nothing worse than a puppet forced in your face. I don’t like it myself and I’m the one working a puppet! Embarrassing.

The worst thing is that walk around can feel like an eternity if it goes wrong. If a walk around show is going bad, my advice is don’t even look at your watch cause time will stand still. Remember this: the client will get feedback from their guests, so don’t force yourself where you are not wanted.

Even though there can be some downsides, when walk around works it can be great and give you lots of good experience. Early in my career, I worked at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta as the greeter at the entrance door and inside the lobby which was the same work as walk around. I got great exposure there, I made connections for work and I got a lot of great material. This is where I became Mr. Puppet and established my persona as an entertainer.

Walk around can help you become the performer you want to be too. I would recommend it (and the Hipster) to everyone!

hipster
Mike Palma with the “hipster”

Now go take a walk

Peace,
Bob Abdou
www.mrpuppet.com

As always….thanks Bob!

Dan
www.ventriloquistcentral.com

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Dan Willinger is a ventriloquism enthusiast and ventriloquist figure collector. He has been collecting for over 25 years. He created the Ventriloquist Central Collection. It now has over 100 ventriloquist figures and over 50 of them are Frank Marshall figures. Because of his love for the art of ventriloquism, Mr. Willinger created the website Ventriloquist Central. For more information about the website, go to: http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com

Copyright 2011 by Dan Willinger

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4 Responses to Ask the Pro, Ventriloquist Bob Abdou – Walkarounds

  1. Ron says:

    Good information. Can you give us more info on the hipster? How much does it cost? Is there a link to buy them?

  2. Neale Bacon says:

    As a matter of fact, I was out last night doing walk around at a local place Burnaby Village Museum which is like our town (Burnaby British Columbia) but in 1925. The whole village is decorated for Christmas and we have non stop entertainment all day and evening. I will be back again on December 29th too.
    I love walk around. I took 2 characters – Horton Hogg who is my main star, and a Pavlov’s reindeer that I call Randy. He is Rudolph’s son.
    You do get to find new bits or adapt old ones.
    People often think Randy is Rudolph so he says “I look like my dad but smaller. We have the same red nose though. You know why?”
    “Why?”
    “Red noses run in our family ha ha ha ha”

    It is a great way to work on new material, strengthen you lip control, gain confidence and more. Try it!

  3. Mike Palma says:

    Hi all,

    If interested in the “Hipster” feel free to contact me at mpalma1@cfl.rr.com

    Best regards,

    Mike Palma

  4. Jimmy Smith says:

    On Christmas Eve morning my little vent partner, Hank Jones, and I did some walk around at a large senior center. We had a lot of fun with it, and the center’s residents seemed to really enjoyed it too. We brought along my 6 year old granddaughter who passed out sugar free hard candy to all the folks.

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