What Is A Ventriloquist??

It seems to me that if you want to be a ventriloquist then you must be able to make your figure talk without moving your lips. At least that is the definition of a ventriloquist. Of course there is also polyphony which is the art of throwing your voice but I want to talk about ventriloquism.

There have been many discussions, for longer than all of us have been alive, about this subject but taking it to its purest form, for me, ventriloquism is making an inanimate object talk with the performer NOT moving his or her lips. I know everyone will jump and say but what about the control of the figures movement and the act that you do being funny etc etc.. I understand that but as I said in the purest sense of the term you just can’t move your lips or you are not a ventriloquist.

I have been to see ventriloquists live and the first thing you hear audience members say is “I can see his lips moving” which to them means he is not a good ventriloquist. Seems to me that the most important part of this art is lip control. Everything else is used as the misdirection to keep the lip control hidden. Now I can make the reference to those in the profession. Nina Conti, one of the best in the world of ventriloquism today, has again in my opinion, the best lip control. You never see her lips move. When you add her comedy and manipulation of her puppets, she is sublime.

Edgar Bergen was a master at timing and comedy and the movement of his figures giving them so much life that his faulty lip control is generally overlooked. I do believe that early in his career he had good control but having done radio broadcast for so many years I think you can say he lost control. He really didn’t have to practice any longer.

I know this will give many a lot to talk about but as I said, for me, lip control is what makes a ventriloquist. Everything else is secondary to the control of the lips!!

What are you thoughts???

Dan
www.ventriloquistcentral.com

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Ventriloquist Central is the brainchild of Dan Willinger and Steve Hurst. Dan 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. Steve is a ventriloquist as well as builder of ventriloquist figures. He also has a background in sales, marketing, building websites and computers. Because they both love the art of ventriloquism, the website Ventriloquist Central was born. For more information about the website, go to: http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com

Copyright 2013 by Dan Willinger and Steve Hurst

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6 Responses to What Is A Ventriloquist??

  1. Gary Koepke says:

    I have to agree Dan. There have been many talented puppeteers who have been funny and excellent manipulators. The difference in them and a ventriloquist is the lip control. If you don’t want to bother with lip control, there’s no shame in calling yourself a puppeteer. Just finished Ken Grove’s book “Creating A Character” where he talks about this very thing in regards to building your puppets character.

  2. Ben Veenkamp says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more.

    If you want to be a comedian be a comedian. If you want to be funny with a puppet be a puppeteer. If you want to be a ventriloquist be both these things, but don’t move your lips.

  3. Les Lamborn says:

    As a person who works in Radio I think I understand what happened to Mr. Bergen. The vent voice is a “little off mic” in sound. Which gives separation between the vent figure and the performer. So Charlie’s voice would always sound off mic to the engineer in the booth. Believe me being “off mic”, is not a desirable sound. The only way to satisfy the radio audio engineer was for Mr. Bergen to drive the voice of Charlie further forward in his mouth and use his lips to articulate the sounds. Interesting that we all still talk about Mr. Bergen – we can learn a lot from him about “Characterizations”.

  4. Jim Maurer says:

    Couldn’t agree with each of the comments (including yours Dan) more.
    Lip control as the measuring stick of one’s talent is even tougher today, in a world where EVERYTHING is recorded and played back.

  5. sean molloy says:

    your johnny mains archy 2 looks alot like danny o’day

  6. Austin Phillips says:

    Agreed! Lip control really separates the good performers from the greats. a performance without good lip control is very distracting, when performing as a ventriloquist. Not to say you can’t be entertaining. However, once an audience becomes distracted, the magic is lost and they sort of loose interest. ESPECIALLY people who have never seen ventriloquists before. The first thing they look for is lips moving. They don’t care about the puppet’s animation if they see any weakness in the performer. Bergen knew exactly how to use misdirection in his favor. Not just with the animation of his characters, but with his animation and body language too. We can learn a lot from Bergen!

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