Ventriloquist Jay Johnson's Blog

ventriloquist-jay-johnson
Ventriloquist Jay Johnson

If you’re like me, you read a few blogs. One such blog I read on a regular basis is ventriloquist Jay Johnson. I enjoy reading his thoughts and he has an interesting and unique writing style.

With all the talk about Jeff Dunham lately, I was especially interested to see Jay’s point of view.

Click here to see Jay Johnson’s blog

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 2009 by Dan Willinger

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9 Responses to Ventriloquist Jay Johnson's Blog

  1. bob abdou says:

    Hey Dan & Steve, it’s funny that it took Jay’s blog to acknowledge the pink elephant in the room.

  2. LeeDean says:

    I posted response on his blog as follows:

    I am an old guy now, but back in 1962 I believe it was did show at North Texas State on a bet from a magician worked with at first Six Flags in Arlington to see who got the most applause. I won and believe got a photo in college annual. Dropped out of the art in 1965 until 2003 when made a figure for grandchildren. I am old school vent, prior to comic vent becoming mainstream, and don’t like at all.

    You should appreciate my work at http://www.youtube.com/user/KriketPuppetShows

    I will tell you a story about me, LeeDean, and the magician, John Moehring. At Six Flags we shared an apartment, and performed the three or more shows on first campus review. One night after shows we investigated a car that had been parked middle of block a block away from apartment. There we stood by the car when all of a sudden two blocks away came lights flashing, sirens sounding, cops jumping out, drawing their guns, and our hand went up and held high. Cop shouted, “Who are you” Moehring said, “I’m a magician” and I replied, “And I’m a ventriloquist”. Turned out it was a stakeout on a stolen vehicle gone awry.

    Moehring was on Sullivan 1966, past editor Magic Magazine, M.U.M.

  3. LeeDean says:

    The reason I put up my response is because Dunham like myself went to Baylor, biggest Baptist university in world, and Johnson attended North Texas State. I was there before them both.

  4. Philip Grecian says:

    Well, here’s what I said over at the Magic Cafe about it, for what it’s worth:

    ——————————————————————————–
    Yeah, I read what Jay said.
    To my mind he and Dunham and Fator are a triumvirate, bringing vent back to the public after a period of some invisibilty, as well as a certain odd public disdain.
    I understand how he feels about the racism and the gay bashing, etc. It makes me wince, too.
    And everybody here who practices vent knows that, if you say a thing through a figure, then show your own disapproval, you can get away with much. In my own case, I remember as far back as grade school and junior high having my figure insult the school principals (both of whom I had issues with), who would laugh uproariously at the insult, and then laugh even harder at my “embarrassment” for what the figure had said. There’s some sort of lovely disconnect that we can use to our advantage.

    When Walter makes a racist comment, or Peanut makes a comment about someone being gay, and framing it as an insult, we laugh because (1.) it shocks us (2.) it makes us uncomfortable (3.) it appears to make Dunham unconfortable (4.) the fact that the creature saying it is both artificial and funny-looking and (5.) it may be funny. We get to number five as a last consideration, I think, because it only MAY be funny.
    Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s only surprising or shocking or any of the other four.

    We saw Dunham live recently, and my fiancee said It was the funniest show she’d ever seen…but some of that had to do with the above points, I think…and some of it may very well be because of the bad rap vents have gotten this last number of years.
    I don’t think she EXPECTED to be entertained.

    Since I spent a period of time doing only a very little vent after years of doing a lot of it, she’d not seen me perform, so she wasn’t familiar with the art in any way save for the popular anti-vent attitude which the triumvirate has begun to kill. It remains for someone to rehabilitate the reputation of mimes.

    And, hey, Walter is a stereotype grumpy old man. We’ve known Walters in our lives. We pretty much hold them in contempt. They’re almost all racists. They’re almost all clueless. They make us laugh.

    And where does a flamboyant creature like Peanut get off making gay jokes?

    Jose’ Jalapeno (on a stick) speaks in a Mexican accent, but it seems to me (and I would have to watch the videos again to be certain) that the humor explored with him is not so much race-baiting as it is Peanut giving him trouble for being a talking jalapeno on a stick. In fact, if memory serves, Jose’ always gets the upper hand by managing to put Peanut down. He may be the most intelligent of all of Dunham’s figures. His humor is certainly the dryest.

    Bubba J is a redneck. Rednecks are not a minority. Rednecks are a majority. They are, stereotypically speaking, mean, stupid, clueless, racist, anti-gay. I don’t have a lot of trouble with the idea of putting them down. Do you?

    Sweet Daddy Dee? I have a problem with him. He’s a flashy black pimp. Black folks have enough trouble without that stereotype being dragged out again. I don’t remember Dunham having even used him in the show we saw. Maybe he did. He’s a one-joke character. I think he will, eventually, disappear.

    Fator uses a black character, too. It’s better.

    Melvin the superhero? Superheroes are definitely a minority.

    Achmed the Dead Terrorist? I think it’s okay to make fun of terrorists. We often deal with things we fear by making fun of them. Consider all the Hitler jokes and songs that came from WWII (“Der Feuhrer’s Face” still turns up from time to time).
    Dunham doesn’t have a Christian Fundamentalist figure or a penurious Jew figure. I truly don’t think he’s comfortable making fun of religion. In fact, he insists Achmed is not a Muslim.
    That’s a tough one. How do you make fun of terrorists who are often Muslim without making fun of Muslims? Achmed points out that he’s not a Muslim because it says “Made in China” on his butt. This is clearly Dunham signaling his own discomfort with the religious element of this humor. But how do you make fun of this thing we fear without the Muslim aspect sneaking into your audience’s perceptions, whether you mention it or not?

    Mark David Chapman is a Born Again Christian. We hold him in contempt because he assassinated John Lennon, not because he is a Born Again. John Wilkes Booth was an Episcopalian. But their religions aren’t as visible as that of most of our modern day terrorists. Hm.

    It’s a tough call.

    And there is room to suggest that what Jeff Dunham does with his figures is not so far removed from what Don Rickles has always done. I’m not a big fan of Rickles’ shtick…but it made him popular, and no one seems to take him seriously as a racist or a gay basher.
    And the NYT article made it clear to me that even Dunham struggles with this.

    I haven’t seen Dunham’s television show, but I understand it’s in trouble. Some of that may be due to the fact that others are writing the material. They may not understand the shape of the humor yet. Some of it may also be that, from what I’ve heard, they’re trying to expand the stand up act to include sitcom-style sketches as well as adlib sessions with the public. The first doesn’t work so well, I think, with the shape of Dunham’s humor and the second is tough to pull off consistently and at length.

    I think Jay Johnson may be having trouble with the idea that Jeff Dunham is being compared to Bergen. Jay knew Bergen, I think, and Jeff did not. Jay is much more a scholar of the history of the art; Jeff lives more in the moment as an entertainer.
    Nothing wrong with that, of course…but Jay’s passion for the history (and people like Bergen and Winchell) makes him also somewhat protective of it.

    I could go on…but I’ve gone on long enough, I think.
    For my part, I am deeply grateful for the popularity of Jay Johnson, Jeff Dunham and Terry Fator…and I impatiently await Jay’s DVD of his “Two and Only.” It’s gonna be wonderful.

    -Philip

  5. bobbi says:

    I’m 51 & have been a “none moving lips” vent since 1969. Give Jeff a break. Edgar would B happy VENT. is back on Map. The back row of a club can only tell if U R funny and clear. Jeff has a different audience then Edgar. Come to P.V. AZ ride my horses, and meet my Dummy Semore, he thinks your the BEST!

  6. LeeDean says:

    So I guess the question devolves to do you give the people what they want or do you give them what you, as an artist, want them to have. Any student of Shakespeare knows that he did not create for the masses. Most creative artists are starving artists. Shakespeare, a member of the middle class, got by owning an interest in a theatre and plays written for a few kings. But then again, who is to say that Dunham is not presenting his art exactly as he is artistically driven, just as Shakespeare, not make a buck so much but a point.

  7. Philip Grecian says:

    Yeah, but Lee, Shakespeare wrote plays specifically for the common people. His subjects and his financial supporters were kings and lords…but his audience was composed largely of commoners…the groundlings. Look at the Globe Theatre! There were elevated boxes for the richer folks…and the very rich were even allowed to sit on the stage (Going to the theatre to be seen, don’tcha know), but the vast area in front and all the way back was for standing…and that’s where the common people were.

    If you give the people only what YOU want, unless your wants are the same as theirs, you might not get so many bookings.
    Give ’em what THEY want so you can put in some of what YOU want where they can see it and hear it.

    And have a helluva good time meanwhile!

  8. LeeDean says:

    It is my understanding that William Shakespeare did not care what the commoners thought of his plays. Shakespeare wrote for himself and just so happened commoners appreciated it. Well, if I’m wrong I’m still one of many starving artists who insists on making own statement, not appeal with a statement an audience wants to hear. I guess that’s why I am not in much demand, but that’s okay, as I don’t depend on the work anyway. I’m an old guy, away from the art 40 years, just recollecting what I learned from Berger, Lester and Marshall, big three of the IBV. Now then it may be Dunham, behind the facade of comic vent, is making moral statements as for example the terrorist character, teaching how dumb it is to be a body bomber.

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