Ask the Pro with Ventriloquist Bob Abdou – My First Paying Gig

ventriloquist central ask the pro with bob abdou

Here we go with some more great advice from ventriloquist Bob Abdou.

I finally got my first paying gig for a retirement home and now I’m really nervous, help me!
Matt T. from Georgia

First, congrats on the gig and double congrats on getting paid!

If you were not feeling nervous, I would think that something was wrong. Being nervous is normal and will actually make you step up your game and be the pro you want to be. Many a new pro have gone into their first show with a cocky attitude thinking that nothing could go wrong only to bomb. That being said, being too rehearsed can be a down fall. Worrying about getting each line right and doing everything perfect can make a performer look too mechanical. The audience will pick up on that and can easily lose interest.

With all my years of performing, I can recall one show where I was REALLY nervous. I was hired to perform on the all star show for the World Clown Association in Denver, Colorado. I invited my mentor Clinton Detweiler to the show with other Denver ventriloquists. Knowing Clinton was in the audience I wanted my show to be picture perfect and against my own advice, I rehearsed too much. I ended up being choppy on stage and I actually forgot to do a whole routine. I couldn’t believe it. I tried so hard to prove my professionalism, but what I needed to do was to relax on stage and do what I do best. The show was still a success and Clinton was pleased, that was my seal of approval.

The old suggestion is to think of your audience with no clothes on. That advice never helped me because that actually made me nauseas. Let’s face it, there are some folks you don’t want to see nude! What I do to relax and calm my nerves is to know my routines, know my puppets’ personalities, and know that all will be fine. I try to act like I’m doing the show again in my living room, enjoy myself and do the best show I can.

Before you walk on stage, take a deep breath. That will allow oxygen to enter your brain, it will relax your body and it will make you look and feel relaxed. If you look relaxed and like you’re having a good time, the audience will catch that spirit and have a good time too. If you say a line wrong, roll with it. You will usually be the only one who knows that a line is flubbed. If you mess up so much that the audience can tell, have a couple of funny lines just in case and get right back on track (I have my dummy tell me “You’re fired”.)

Performing for friends and family in the living room is a lot different than performing for an audience of strangers. But remember this, the audience is there to have a good time, they want to laugh and they want to see you as the winner you are. Audiences are usually more forgiving of flubbed lines or general mishaps if they see that you’re doing your best. Unless you have a drunk unruly audience, most folks watching a show will be very understanding. And retirement home residents are usually at the most kindest side of the audience spectrum.

You’ll do fine. Welcome to the world of professional entertainment and always remember to SMILE!

Bob Abdou/Mr.Puppet

Thanks Bob.



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:

Copyright 2011 by Dan Willinger

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4 Responses to Ask the Pro with Ventriloquist Bob Abdou – My First Paying Gig

  1. Ted Nunes says:

    I’ll add this small bit to Bob’s great advice. I’ve played a lot of senior centers/retirement homes with my ukulele band and they can be great crowds. The audiences we’ve had are always very warm and welcoming and are so glad to have someone come and entertain.

    If you’re obviously having fun up there, they will be right there with you. And if you can work some music into your show from their era, (maybe have your partner break into a song spontaneously) all the better. When we start into Ain’t She Sweet or Between the Devil and The Deep Blue Sea, I always see people chair dancing and singing along.

    I tried out a vent bit at one of our shows recently (my re-entry into the art) and when my little guy caught me pausing because I got lost and said, “did you forget what I was going to say, again?” they really got a kick out of it.

  2. Bill Smith says:

    GREAT advice from Bob & Ted, but i am wondering if Matt means retirement home, or if he means nursing home. I’ve heard nursing homes called both, but they are two totally different audiences. True retirement homes are a JOY to do, as they are elder, but still active folks, whereas nursing homes are sadly the last leg of the journey for folks who can no longer do for themselves. I’ve performed for both, but also worked in nursing homes for almost ten years, so thought i’d maybe give a heads up, just in case it was a nursing home Matt was talking about. This is not meant to scare you, but info that will help you realize what might happen during your show, & hopefully make you stay cool & collected, & not wonder what’s going on. Here goes. Alot of these folks are on meds, which have to be done on a schedule. So if, during your show, they leave, under their own power, or someone elses, don’t take it personal. It happens alot. Also, you may get some who scream, make noises, wander around, etc. Again, just remember it’s how life is for these poor folks, &, as my mom used to say, “There but for the grace of God go I”. And if you see ones just sort of staring off into space, not responding at all, it’s because they can’t. You may wonder “Why did they bring THEM to my show. They OBVIOUSLY can’t enjoy it” WRONG! Just remember. Just because they can’t applaud, laugh, or maybe even LOOK at you, doesn’t mean they’re not enjoying it to the HILT. They may be totally with it on the inside, & know exactly what’s going on. These can still be heart touching shows to do, & after a few nursing homes, you’ll see what i meant by all i’ve said. Best of luck. :)

  3. bob abdou says:

    Hey Bill, Matt’s question to me was edited for the question, he will be working an active retirement home, your response is well taken and I am sure he will learn his lesson as his career continues. I wanted him to worry less about himself not the condition of the audience. That is another topic, whether a nursing home, hospital, bar, comedy club, daycare, school, blue/gold dinner etc etc, these are different audiences that react in different ways. I too agree with you about no response from a nursing home crowd but still perform, no matter the outcome. thanks for your reply

  4. Barb Phoenix says:

    Hi Bob:
    Thanks for the great advice on Dan’s blog.
    I’ve finally learned to know my act and know my figure…. the puppet one that is….
    I also stopped beating myself up if I feel I’ve done a poor show.
    Key is if the customer is happy with it.
    Also If I don’t get the lines just right, I just go with the flow. No one is out there reading my script.
    And some of my best lines have come out of a misque on my part.
    Thanks again.
    Vent-y Tales

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