Here’s this week’s advice from ventriloquist Bob Abdou:
I got an obscene phone call today. This is how it went:
Caller: (Heavy breathing) Is this Mr. Puppet?
Caller: (Heavy breathing) So what are you wearing?
Me: Great question! I’m glad you asked! Black shirt, black pants, silly socks, shined shoes, bright colored tie, Beatles watch.
So my question to all performers, “What are you wearing?”
It befuddles me when I see a ventriloquist spend good money on a dummy, more money on a trunk and stand, even more money on an expensive sound system, tons more on marketing promotions and business cards and when they walk on stage to perform they look like they’re going to Home Depot.
I remember eaves dropping on a conversation at a ventriloquist convention between some very top notch professionals about the performances in the show. All of them were praising the funny material, lip control and manipulation from the entertainers but when it came to their appearance, they knocked them down like bowling pins. They were disappointed about what they saw. I remember the exact words one of the professionals said about one of the performers: “he looked like he was going to the beach”. From that day on, I vowed to myself I would never have anyone say that about my show. I decided that my appearance would equal the quality of my show – top notch!
When I performed for the Ventriloquist Birthday Bash in October, I was on the bill with Ed Thomas and Mike Robinson. When they came into the room for the show both of them looked like they were ready to meet royalty. Both Ed and Mike were dressed to the nines. I felt special being with them even before they performed because of they way they were dressed.
I have written about this subject before but it needs repeating. One ventriloquist I will never forget is Nick Tomei. Nick was a ventriloquist from Chicago. Every day at the convention he was dressed in a suit and tie. Someone asked him “why do you always wear a suit and tie”? Nick said, “Because when folks see a man dressed in a suit and tie, they know that something special is going on.” I now believe that to be true too. I am very grateful that I learned this valuable lesson early in my career. I now pass on Nick’s words of advice to all. When you dress special, it makes your show special.
When you see a performer, the first thing everyone notices is how they look. The old advice is true: a performer should dress one up from the audience. If they’re wearing overalls, wear a tie. If they’re wearing a tie, wear a suit. If they’re wearing a suit, wear a vest and a hat. If they’re wearing a vest and a hat, then wear a tux. If they’re wearing a tux, wear two tuxes! (If you’re a woman, you’ll have to translate the equivalent for you!)
If you look like you just woke up from a nap, then it looks like a rehearsal. It’s almost disrespectful to the audience. There are some exceptions where you might dress more casually. But I think when you’re doing a professional show like a school show, corporate gig, senior performance and the like, there’s no excuse. If you’re getting the big bucks (or smaller bucks), you need to look the part.
Whatever you wear, put on clothes that will tell your audience “something special is about to happen”. If ventriloquists want to be taken seriously, then we should take our appearance seriously! There, I’ve said it.
The obscene phone call continues:
Caller: Is your refrigerator running?
Caller: Then you better go catch it! Click.
As always, 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: http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com
Copyright 2011 by Dan Willinger
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