American Television’s First Ventriloquist

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We all love to see Ventriloquists perform on TV and why not ? It is the art form that all of us love.

Today we have Jeff Dunham and Terry Fator giving us fantastic performances of both comedy and song. I have seen them both in person and love them both. Actually I can’t get enough of either of them. They are the creme de la creme. I also can’t forget the great Jay Johnson with his ventfull insights and perfect ventriloquial timing. Simply sublime.

Back up a bit and we had Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney with their great television shows that aired every Saturday morning. And there was also Jimmy Nelson entertaining every kid with his Nestle’s commercials and in the 50’s his appearances on Uncle Milty’s show. That was very early TV but it was not the earliest TV Ventriloquism.

OK I am going to tell you that the very first American TV ventriloquist was Bob Neller. His first Television appearance was June 9, 1939 over NBC on Station W2XBS Radio City, NY.

I know you are thinking hey then he was using Reggie but that is incorrect. He was using Dizzy Dugan, the figure which resides here in the Ventriloquist Central Collection (Click here to see Dizzy Dugan).

At that time Bob Neller had a great ability to do a double whistle effect and this was what he did as a performance on this show. He actually whistled the tune in harmony and Dizzy Dugan could pucker his lips to complete the effect.

So there you have it the very first TV ventriloquist performer.




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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2 Responses to American Television’s First Ventriloquist

  1. Gary Koepke says:

    I saw Neller at the 1975 Vent Haven convention. Did a great lecture, the brought out a tape player that had a mucical track for “Oh Johnny” and did the voice ventriloquially while it played. Had the “tinny” sound of a portable tape player from back then and matched the tape perfectly while Neller had his perfectly still lips and dead pan expression. Amazing technique!

  2. LC B says:

    Truth? or Fabrication . . .

    Charles Fredrick Roark – 7/28/1918-8/19/2011
    Obituary states:
    Charles got into show business at an early age, honing his skills as a magician and ventriloquist. He joined the Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus in 1938 performing at Madison Square Gardens in New York City and stayed with them for ten seasons, he subsequently worked for 16 different circuses throughout his career traveling from coast to coast. Charles had the distinction of being the first ventriloquist to appear on television in its infancy, a new medium at that time. He was later associated with the Internation Calvacade of Sports Troupe.

    In honor of his dedication, The Harold Roark and Charlie Tent # 128 on the Circus Fans Association was named for him.

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